April 29, 2008

Take charge of your event

In order for you to make your speaking engagement the best it can be, you're going to have to take charge of your room.

I've mentioned checking your venue in advance, for one thing. But what happens if there's something wrong with the room that needs to be fixed? For example, the tables are too far away from the stage, there's a blinding white building across the street, the projection screen is in the wrong place?

This is where you explain to the organizer why the room needs to be a certain way. Ideally, you have already asked for certain features when you booked the speaking engagement, but checking the venue also brings issues to the forefront that you couldn't anticipate.

Be polite and respectful, but also assertive in asking for what you want. Make it clear that it's about the audience having the best experience, not about you being a prima donna. If something should be moved, but there's no one available to move it, roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

Another example is that your "room monitor" or introducer may stay in the room to thank you and move the audience to their next session with closing remarks. If your Q&A comes before your closing (as it should!), make sure to let the person know, so she doesn't assume you're done once Q&A is finished. You don't need someone walking up to the mic to thank you for your presentation while you're getting ready to wrap up yourself.

These are just two examples of why it's important to make the room your own and take charge of your gig. Don't sit back and assume everything will be the way you want it, especially if you never ask for what you want.

Don't be shy -- you want to give the audience the best value you can, and that means you have to be the set designer, choreographer, conductor, costume designer, cast AND crew, if necessary.

What else do you like to be in charge of as a speaker?

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5 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Good point Lisa. As the presenter, it is your job to create the best environment for your audience to have a good experience, so taking charge of the space is crucial. If you need to move something, move it. If you need to write something on the flip chart or white board, do so.

If you become too deferential, it can be seen as a lack of confidence , which will undermine your authority and thereby your presentation as a whole!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

just wanted to let you know that this article has a date in 2009. The same is true for your article "How do public speaking skills advance your career?". This might be irritating for some feed readers.

Anyway, thanks for the continuous flow of insight.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for the reminder, Michael. I save my drafts with 2009 dates so that they stay at the top of my post list. But sometimes I forget to change it to the current date when I publish.

SpeakerSue said...

Hi Lisa, This is so important! So often the meeting room is set for the convenience of the venue rather than the effectiveness of the presentation. I can even understand if, for instance, lunch is served before you speak. Then, it could make sense to keep the tables in some sort of exacting order. But the other day I was speaking for a group of about 50, with no meal function, and the rounds were set like soldiers. I pointed it out to the planner, she called for staff help, and then she and I started moving tables. The room felt like a living room (good thing!) by the time we were done, instead of a military operation. Thanks for your kind comments to my post, too!
SpeakerSue SpeakerSueSays.com

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I have a client I'm working with right now who feels that it's too pushy to ask for things the way he wants them.

I'm trying to help him recognize that what he's doing is creating an environment for the most effective presentation to provide the most value to his audience.

But I can see that he feels intimidated about asking the organizer to change anything. As you mentioned, Sue, often the convenience of the venue comes first. We have an uphill battle here.

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