9 essential pre-conference questions
Why are you having the event?
There’s a reason for it; either it’s an annual gathering, or it’s a particular and specific reason such as perhaps starting off a new sales year, a change of key personnel, a town hall feedback session, or even a celebration. Speakers need to know this in order to establish the feel of their content in their presentation, which should be crafted to suit.
How will the venue be set up for the delegates, and speakers?
Audience size determines the nature of every event and how speakers can best fully engage with the audience. Are the speakers going to be up close and personal, or separated by being on a raised deck, or stage? Will the seating be schoolroom, round table or cinema style?
Who’s handling the technical requirements and management?
With anything over 50 people in the room, microphones are essential (and preferably not hand-held). Professional speakers prefer a headset (think ‘Madonna’ mic) or a lapel microphone pinned to a jacket. How many screens will be used for projection and will there be a technician in the room at all times to control lighting and sound? Is there a comfort monitor on the floor of the stage (where presenters can see their slides in front of the audience) as opposed to the old school style of a laptop on a lectern? (Lecterns are now very passé). Are speakers expected to work from a central PC (and how is it intended to handle Apple Mac devices?) What resolution are the projectors in respect to the PC’s and are they projecting in 16:9 or 4:3 ratio? As a general rule hotel supplied AV equipment tends to be worn out or ineffective for purpose and it makes sense when looking to create a good impression to have a professional audio video company involved in larger events.
What is the overall event theme?
All speakers should weave in this theme (or messaging) into their materials to ensure a seamless event for the delegates.
What communication style and tone do you want to set?
Is this a collaborative conference, or a celebratory one? The mood and tone of the event should be mirrored and carefully matched by the presenters.
What underlying message does the CEO most wish to get across?
Invariably the CEO and other senior management have a key message or series of messages to convey. All speakers need to be aware of this, and to prepare their own presentations accordingly.
What are the key things going on inside the business right now?
This is really the essence of the ‘coffee corner discussions’ in your business. By suiting their material to mirror the real world of the company, speakers can quickly establish more credibility and are better able to cut straight to the chase of the core issues at hand in their presentations.
What is the audience’s attitude coming into the event?
Surprisingly, most audiences come to conference events either negatively or neutrally disposed at best. Great speakers are able to read their audience, and provide the necessary stimuli to uplift and involve the delegates. By discussing the current status quo, or vibe, upfront at the brief, the speaker is then fully forearmed as to the desired level of messaging to impart.
What do you want the audience walking away thinking, feeling and doing?
My favourite question of all, as a speaker, during the brief is to capture the desired audience ‘walk away’. This is then best encapsulated in all my materials to ensure the very heart of message is carried through the event; appropriately and clearly.