One Speaker Tip That Will Transform Your Meeting
For the love of God, make it stop!

How many of us have sat through a 9-hour presentation?

OK…a slight exaggeration, but when a meeting is just one speaker after another with no time built in for Q&A or peer interaction, that “captive” audience can feel, well, just plain trapped.

In a recent interview with Success Magazine, author Adrian Segar (Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love), shared his thoughts on what makes a successful meeting, including this tip that can transform your checked-out attendees into a fully-engaged group:

Use speakers strategically.

This means internal and external presenters.  Replace those one-sided, 45-mintue death by PowerPoint (or Keynote – pretty pictures can’t save a boring talk), with shorter speaker segments – say 20 minutes – followed by peer- or facilitator-led roundtable discussions. This provides your audience with just enough information to get their internal juices going without overwhelming them. And, it’s a great springboard for quality interaction between your attendees.

Segar provides other helpful insights, like creating a community and finding ways to provide value.  Read the entire article here.

Getting the Most From External Presenters

As valuable as the external perspective is, unless this voice is prepared to connect with your audience, their presentation can be a huge waste of time – and money. Let’s face it. External speakers aren’t cheap, and you want to make sure you are getting the most audience bang for your corporate buck.

How can you prep speakers to deliver the goods?

Follow the following guidelines for pre-production, onsite, and post-show success.

Before you reach out the speakers, create a one-page cheat sheet about your organization or division. This isn’t a term paper, just an overview of your audience demographics and content expectations. While it’s true many speakers have prepared remarks that they use no matter where they go, the good ones tailor each appearance to the audience.

Your one-sheet should have the following:

  • Name of the organization
  • Audience Size
  • Audience Demographics
  • Audience Interest/Pain Points
  • Reason for Invitation
  • Presentation Date and Time
  • Presentation Length
  • Opportunities for Interaction (e.g. Book signing, Q&A, etc)
  • Additional Information (anything else that you think would be helpful for your speaker to know)

Next, schedule a 30-minute phone call with your speaker. The purpose of this call is to go over the presenter’s content and identify how it will connect with your audience. Remember that this is a dialogue, so be mindful not to dominate the conversation, especially if it involves rehashing what has already been provided to them in the overview document. Expect to answer as many questions as you ask.

Finally, have the producer follow-up – either directly with the speaker or through their representative – with appearance specifics, such as equipment needs, rehearsal schedule, and confirmation of any rider details. The producer will also set a deadline for the speaker to send their content prior to arrival onsite.

Identify a single point of contact for your speaker once they arrive onsite. Exchange contact information (email and cell phone), then walk the presenter through their portion of the event. Some may also ask for an agenda, so have it ready because it helps them understand the context in which their remarks will be taken.

During rehearsal, encourage the presenter to actually walk the stage, meet the crew, and review any media. Let the presenter know where water will be onstage – dry mouth happens to the best of them, as well as stage entrances and exits. This is also the time to clarify the speaker’s introduction (hint: the shorter the better), any sound or light cues, mic preferences, call time and green room location.

Always follow-up with a thank you and ask if there were any opportunities to improve their interactions with your group. Word-of-mouth travels fast for clients as well as presenters, and you want to make sure you’ve done everything possible to make sure your organization’s reputation stay intact.

If you have recorded the presentation, providing a video is a nice touch. Speakers are grateful for the content. And finally, hold a debrief with your team about the presenter and your preparation process. Your notes will come in handy for other departments or organizations that may want to hire the same speaker.

With a little internal prep, your external presenter will be one of the most memorable parts of your event.

Read more about the value external speakers bring in this article.