Speakers are the backbone of any conference. They have the power to make or break your event. More often than not, your line-up is the main reason why your delegates pay big bucks for the ticket and fly hundreds of kilometers to the venue. They want to see their ‘heroes’ live. They want to get awed and inspired.
What a horrific disappointment when your attendees, instead of getting involved, are forced to suffer through 60-minute monotonous bloviation and cluttered slides.
No doubt. For event organizers, managing presenters is a real challenge. Rarely do event professionals have full control over the final presentations.
To make things worse, many conferences can’t afford to pay professional speakers who have their performances recorded. And therefore they can’t check them beforehand. Sure, there are personal recommendations but still…
How do you ensure that your speakers’ presentations will engage the audience and your entire event will come out successfully?
Try to give them tips on how to make their presentations really interactive!
1. Have your speakers break the ice
Ice-breakers are one of the most effective ways your speakers can kick off the presentation. Each of your audience members comes to the presentation in a completely different mood. A simple ice-breaker can put everyone on the same level and energize them for the rest of the presentation.
For the start, let your speakers try these super simple icebreakers:
- Ask people to stand up and introduce themselves to their neighbors and identify two or three questions they would like to hear addressed during the presentation. By starting with an ice-breaker like this, the speakers show event participants that they really count on their participation.
- This one might be a bit bold but always cracks people up. Even the senior executives. Have your delegates stand up, turn to their right, and massage the person standing in front of them. Stop them after 30 seconds, and tell them to turn to their left, and massage again.
For more inspiration on the ice-breakers for your speakers, check out this article.
2. Advise telling stories
Storytelling is the most universal way to captivate your audience’s attention, no matter where they are from or what they do for a living. Encourage your speakers to narrate personal anecdotes and share experiences during their presentations.
The delegates automatically tune in when your speakers start telling your story as they want to know what happens next.
Not all conference speakers might be familiar with the storytelling principles. Recommend they take a look at Nancy Duarte’s storytelling technique that she introduced after analyzing hundreds of TED talks. She advises presenting the status quo first and then revealing the path to a better way. By following this formula, presenters can set up a conflict that needs to be resolved.
3. Encourage your presenters to use videos
With over 6 billion hours of video being watched each month on YouTube alone, it’s hard to believe that still, so few speakers use them in their presentations. Videos are incredibly effective in evoking emotions in the audience that could be otherwise really difficult to elicit.
4. Insist on creating interludes
The research has shown that the audience’s attention drops to zero within the first 10 minutes! In order to regain their attention, speakers need to create soft breaks – mental pauses that allow the mind to relax and refocus on the talk. Soft breaks come in many forms – videos, songs, simple physical exercises, candid questions, live polls, or anything else that lets attendees breathe out for a moment.
In the case of longer presentations (30-90 minutes long), encourage your speakers to space out the interludes every 10 minutes to re-engage the delegates.
As an event planner, you can easily assist your presenters in creating the soft breaks by implementing Q&A and polling platforms at your event. You’ll give your presenters a powerful tool for (re)engaging your delegates with real-time polling (see 5.) and live questions (see 6.).
5. Implement live polling
Live polling is an incredibly effective tool for instantly engaging attendees and creating soft breaks. Unlike rhetorical questions, polls encourage participants to think not only about the posed questions but also about their answers. By including everyone in answering the question, speakers can create a strong group experience that leaves the audience feeling like they all have been a part of their presentation.
In case you decide to use a Q&A platform at your event, make sure you let speakers know beforehand so they can prepare the polls and integrate them in their talk. A brief email or a call will perfectly do.
The following poll types always work well.
Which superhero power would you like to possess?
Get the general opinion on your topic
What is the most important driver for securing the venture investment?
Get the audience’s predictions
Which digital marketing trend will dominate events marketing this year?
Do the fun quiz
Which football player took a selfie with Chancellor Angela Markell at the World Cup?
Which point I presented today was the most helpful to you?
6. Run a mid-presentation Q&A
Roy Peter Clark, an American writer and public speaker, identified the top three lies of public speakers.
- “You can interrupt me at any time.”
- “I want this to be a conversation.”
- “There will be plenty of time in the end for questions.”
And then the whole hell of endless monologue breaks loose.
Don’t wait until the end of the session for questions and discussions. If your speakers have an hour-long presentation, recommend them to structure it into 3-5 main points. After each point, urge them to have a brief Q&A to tackle audience questions and remarks.
You can use the Q&A platform to allow the participants to submit questions for your speakers during the talk. When the Q&A time comes, the presenters will already have a stack of great questions ready to respond to.
7. Suggest using props
Your speakers don’t need to be giving a product demo to use props during the talk. Demonstrating the point with the use of props is a powerful way to help the attendees visualize what is being described verbally. Don’t hesitate to suggest the presenters bring their own props on stage and show them at the right point to enforce their story.
Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor brought a real human brain on stage during her emotional TED talk to explain what happened to her when she got a stroke. She touched the audience with this demonstration and left the audience in complete awe.
8. Bring external ‘help’
Steve Jobs never pulled off the entire presentation by himself; he always invited several speakers, including designers, partners, and other executives, to help him introduce their latest product. Support sharing the stage among several presenters to bring in various angles on the discussed topic and make the whole session much more exciting.
You can also try to bring someone from the audience onstage and get them to do something relevant or fun. However, this technique should always be arranged with the volunteer in advance!
9. Get your delegates to do something
It’s marvelously engaging to get the audience eventually do something. Brainstorm with your speakers what activity they could give to your delegates during their session.
Roy Peter Clark suggests getting audience members to discuss a quick case study with a neighbor, brainstorm ideas on the given topic, or do some physical exercise.
Make sure to leave time for debriefing these exercises.
How do you work with your speakers to make sure that their presentations engage your audience? Share your tips in the comments below. I’ll be thrilled.