April 2, 2007

Gimme a break!

No, really. I mean give me a break. Or two or three.

At the conference I attended this weekend, there were opening remarks by the founders of the organization, four speakers, a fashion show, a State Farm presentation, a panel of incubator members, and an introduction of incubator leaders. There would have been one more speaker, but she was unable to make it.

The official program began at 10:00, with speakers straight through until lunch (which started around 12:20 or so). After lunch was the fashion show and one more speaker, which altogether took about an hour.

This was a day packed with information and fun, and frankly, I needed a break. About halfway through Arianna Huffington's interview, to be exact. And wouldn't you know it? I left my seat to use the restroom, and when I came back I found out that she had made some comments related to public speaking. Darn!

When there are no breaks between speakers, it forces audience members to take care of their needs during the speakers' presentations. This is a bad idea for two reasons:

1) The audience misses important or interesting parts of the talk

2) The speaker doesn't get the audience's full attention

When the audience is being distracted and drawn away by "nature," or voice mail messages from children, or the craving for a cigarette, it's important for event organizers to acknowledge those needs and build short breaks into the day.

I understand the desire to pack as much as possible into a one-day conference, but at the same time, I always come back to this: meeting the needs of the audience should be at the top of the list.

Many of my needs were met for information, entertainment, shopping, inspiration and oxytocin (more on this later).

But I really wish I had heard what Arianna Huffington had to say about public speaking.

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