How to Make Conference Speakers Love You

By Deane Barker

I spoke today at the Social Intranet Summit in Vancouver, which was put on by the good folks at Thought Farmer. Great conference, all-around, but I was especially struck by how well it worked for conference speakers. I speak at 3-4 conferences a year, and there were just so many little things they did right which I don’t see often.

For example:

  • They had me dry run my presentation. No one has ever asked me to do this before. So, prior to flying out to Vancouver, I had to run through the presentation on the phone for Gordon Ross. This forced me to get the presentation in shape early, which goes against my procrastinating nature. Additionally, since Gordon had seen the other presentations, when he told me mine was good, it was a huge confidence boost – my talk was better because I had a good idea in advance how it was going to be received.
  • My deck was pre-loaded on a central laptop. I didn’t have to mess around getting my machine connected or swapped out. They had all the presentations queued up, and when I took the stage, it was ready to roll (they were even kind enough to install a custom font for me).
  • They had a great remote clicker. It had excellent range and had two big buttons – forward and backwards. It was super-responsive and had great tactile feedback, which is weirdly important when you’re up in front of a hundred people or so.
  • They pre-miked us all with a headset, so we didn’t have to worry about a handheld microphone or stand behind a lectern. I was mobile, so I could move back and forth across the stage, and my hands were empty, so I could…gesticulate (which I do a lot when I talk).
  • They had a woman sitting in the front row that discretely held up signs telling me how much time I had left. My slot was only 20 minutes, so halfway through, she held up a sign that said “10 minutes remaining.” She had similar signs at the five, two, and one minute marks. Extremely helpful.
  • They had a huge, bright monitor at my feet acting as a secondary monitor to the main one behind me. So, when PowerPoint was in presenter view, it showed me what slide was coming up next, and what the current slide behind me looked like. I referred to this monitor constantly as animation played out and I moved through the slides.

All of these things came together to make for a really great experience, from a speaker’s standpoint. My talk was demonstrably better because of it. And speakers like to give good talks, which means I really want to come back to SISV next year and talk again.

If you put on a conference, I hope you find this list as compelling to read as I felt compelled to write it.

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