June 12, 2007

World Tea Expo, part 1



In addition to my experience as a presenter, I sat in on several seminars over the three days of the World Tea Expo, and listened to a variety of speakers. There were highlights and lowlights, as there always are at conferences. Highlights first.

The Expo organizers got a lot of things right and a few things wrong. One thing they got right was to align the speaker with the center of the space, and put the screen to the side. The speaker should always be the center of attention, but oftentimes the screen is fixed in place in the middle of the wall and the speaker is relegated to the corner. One thing they fixed as soon as they realized it was a problem was taping the door latches on the meeting rooms so that people could go in and out without making any noise.

They also made sure that each speaker was greeted by a staff person, escorted to their room, set up with all necessary equipment, and properly introduced at the beginning of each seminar. This person was also responsible for keeping speakers to their time limit which, for the most part, was effective.

One of the speakers I wish I had seen was the man dressing up in several layers of costumes in the speaker "ready room." Our seminars were at the same time, otherwise, I would have loved to attend. The title of Dan Robertson's seminar was "Romancing the Leaf - Using Tea Culture and Folklore to Increase Sales." Apparently, he was going to peel off layers as he moved through his presentation. Talk about a clever use of props!

Pearl Dexter, who gave the seminar on tea and chocolate pairing was clearly experienced, well-prepared and enjoyed her topic.

At each of our seats was a handout with a complex layout for each chocolate we would taste, spaces to write our findings, and even a circle at the top for the tea-tasting cups.

The well-rehearsed choreography of this seminar was tight and required many helpers - each new pot of tea delivered to each table while the speaker prepped us for the next pairing. As we tasted and discussed, pots were whisked away and new pots placed with no interruptions or delays. There were six chocolates and six teas, and all of this took place within the hour-long seminar - without going over.

The speaker used poetry, metaphor and creative imagery to show the synergy between tea and chocolate. Her PowerPoint wasn't perfect, but it was, for the most part, simple and clear and enhanced her message.

Another seminar that I enjoyed was the leasing and location strategies presentation. Okay, I'm biased - Andrew Hetzel is my client; I helped him develop the presentation and I designed his PowerPoint. His energy, voice, and engagement with the audience were good, and he used his PowerPoint effectively to enhance his message. His content was practical information that attendees can put to use immediately.

However, I did make note of how I could have improved the PowerPoint, and I will remember those errors for future reference. :-)

More tomorrow on speaker/seminar disappointments. . .

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