Let's Make This Easy: 10 Ways Event Staff and Speakers Can Support Each Other

This week, I turn the blog over to my friend and colleague Randy Ford. Randy is a storytelling strategist who has partnered with me on workshops as well as coaching. If you’re planning an event, or speaking at one, you’ll want to read this. Take it away, Randy…

Summer can be a busy conference season. I myself hit several of them over the course of a few weeks this year, not just as an attendee but also as a presenter and event support staff. It was a great chance to see how event planners and speakers can make each other’s lives easier and create a memorable moment for their audiences. 

Randy Ford is a conference planner’s dream.

Randy Ford is a conference planner’s dream.

Speakers Love When Event Hosts Do This 

1. Assign them a contact. Every speaker should know who to contact from the day their session is booked. Make sure it’s a staff member or volunteer who will have the time, resources and knowledge to help with anything that comes up before or during the event.

2. Overshare. You can ease your presenters’ anxiety by telling them far in advance what to expect. Do they need to go somewhere special when they first arrive? Is the event open to the media? Can they advance their own slides? Should they plan for Q&A? If so, how will that work? Will there be a clock to help them stay on time – and can they see it through bright lights? Consider assembling a digital handbook with everything they need to know.

3. Edit the intro. You can pull any speaker’s bio from the web, but avoid the temptation to simply cut, paste, print and read. It’s awkward for everyone when the emcee has to muddle through a long introduction that was originally written for the eye, not the ear. To keep the energy up, cut the CV and scrap the pet names. Write a simple, two-sentence intro with the basics. Attendees can find the rest online or in their conference materials.

4. Help them spread the word. Speakers can help fill seats. Give them custom graphics for social media and templates to post about their appearance. Hopefully, your speakers will put a great deal of energy into their presentations, handouts and slide decks. Capitalize on that by adapting the material in future publications and at other events – with their permission and always giving attribution, of course. Also be sure to share any video and photos of their session with the speaker.

5. Ask for feedback. When you send event evaluation surveys to your attendees, remember that your presenters also have valuable feedback about what worked and didn’t. 

Event Staff Love Speakers Who Do This

1. Get right to it. Unless you are the conference kickoff speaker, your audience will have already been told good morning (or afternoon). They already feel welcome and know how important an event like this is. The biggest thing you can do for your audience and the event team is to keep the show moving. 

2. Respect the time. Jumping right into your presentation also means you can wrap up on time. Running over by five minutes may seem harmless enough, but an event schedule is carefully choreographed, and the delay could ripple through the rest of the day for everybody, including the caterers. Hungry attendees will remember being late for their afternoon coffee break.

3. Trust the AV crew. Yes, you may have a booming voice, but you were given a mic for a reason. Some people might have a hard time hearing, especially if there’s noise nearby that you can’t hear from the front of the room. The session audio may be recorded for future use. Sometimes a foreign language interpreter is set up in a different room, relying on your feed to translate.

4. Ask questions. You may be curious about details the event staff hasn’t thought to share. Check out Mare’s great recent article, “Before You Present: 12 Questions to Ask About an Audience (And The Room)” to get some ideas.

5. Limit the last-minute changes. Respect the established deadlines for submitting presentations or suggesting format changes. If every speaker shows up holding a thumb drive with yet another update to their PowerPoint presentation, the event staff will have to neglect other parts of the attendee experience to change logistics they already lost sleep to troubleshoot.

Randy Ford is a writer and storytelling strategist in Chicago. He runs First Story Strategies.