They snooze, you lose
Ok, let’s start with a bit of honesty here. You’re reading the thoughts of a guy who once actually fell asleep at a conference event. Perhaps I’d better explain myself - or rather begin by listing my excuses …
It had been a very early start after a very late night and …and …well the presenter did have a rather monotone delivery and the power point display was a long, long way from my seat and …and …the figures on it were tiny and the room was nice and warm and … (Get to the point! – Ed.). Ok, the first thing I knew about it was the sound of a very loud snore and people turning round to look at me accusingly. I tried to disguise it as a cough but I’m afraid no-one was fooled.
A shameful, embarrassing and unfortunately entirely true story, but if we’re doing honesty here, how many of you reading this have had similar near misses? I bet there are a few.
But rather than dwell on unengaging conference inputs from the past, how’s about we share half a dozen tips to help your conference go with a swing, rather than a snore …
1. Keep your theme right at the forefront so no one can miss it. As they leave, everyone should be able if asked to relay exactly what the event was all about in simple terms.
2. Rotate your presenters. In this age of short attention spans, unless you have a proven great speaker, try to keep them to short, punchy spells.
3. Try to involve your audience. We know letting a large audience ‘off the leash’ can be like herding cats (I know, I know - mixed metaphors and all that) but the more active they are, the more they’ll take away.
4. Use Power Point sparingly. Get your messages across effectively but don’t be a slave to it.
5. Be positive and confident. Make sure everyone speaks like they believe the common aim is not just possible but WILL happen. Audiences respond to positivity, not its opposite.
6. Keep it light. Where possible and appropriate, use humour. People like speakers who are able to carry audiences with them using a smile or a laugh.
And the best thing about the above tips is that they also apply if you’re one of the speakers, rather than the organiser.
My personal favourite is no. 5. Confidence is a magic ingredient and one that you can definitely fake. Walk the stage like you own it is and you’re halfway there. It doesn’t mean adopting some kind of swagger, it just means taking the time beforehand to prepare, know your stuff and (this is the hard bit for some) relax. Breathe. Picture yourself as a calm, confident being…..and then go and do it.
Take it from me, leaving a stage to rapturous applause is a great feeling - and it’s addictive! So prepare, learn to relax and then, in the words of many an old trooper (including our very own Mr Shaun Curry on a previous blog entry), ‘Fake It Til You Make It’.
Harry Gallagher specialises in Behavioural Safety, you can get in touch with him via email@example.com