Hosting a Conference: Pt. 3 – Showtime!
The pre-event prep is done … the intros written …the agenda learnt – now to deliver! Here are some considerations.
1) Who to make friends with: on arrival – after greeting the client and PCO (Professional Conference Organiser) I always make a bee line for the a/v crew, introduce myself and learn their names. They are your allies and are a crucial part of delivering a great event! I then check and test the sound and lighting, discuss links, walk-on and walk-off music “stings”, and rehearse the use of any technology being used – such as Audience Response Systems (ARS) for real time feedback via handheld remote controls which are often used to heighten audience involvement.
The other people to make friends with are the venue staff – especially the banqueting manager to check meal arrangements and timings – especially when there are large numbers of delegates to move between the meeting room and the dining areas. (This can be facilitated by asking event staff to act as “people movers” to chivvy dawdlers!) It also helps if the assembly and refreshment areas have loudspeakers for VOG (Voice of God) announcements – usually for giving 10, 5 and 1 minute countdown warnings to the commencement of the next session.
2) Own the venue! As host you need to take charge and assume responsibility for everything as if you were in your own home! Part of the settling in process is to familiarise myself with the stage, check the access points for entrances and exits, the lectern and height of microphones (see why in (3) below), and tour the venue so I am familiar with the lay-out – such as the rooms for break-out sessions, the catering areas – and yes the loos! It helps when giving announcements if you can actually point out locations – not only that but delegates will come up to you and ask which room they are supposed to be in – so you need to know “everytheeng”!
3) Greet Speakers: I will usually have spoken to most of the speakers prior to the event – but it is important to meet them, make them welcome, check their intro and see if everything is “OK”. (Just as I would if I were welcoming them to my own home as their “host”!) I also make sure there is water available by the lectern – and importantly – I note if they are tall or short so that the microphone is set for their height so they don’t need to stoop – or stretch to be heard! It is also sometimes necessary to give a short demo of basic “microphone technique” – sometimes they forget to speak into the mic – or turn away losing the sound completely! This happens with almost all corporate employees who are not accustomed to presenting – resulting in most of their content being lost on the audience as they cannot be heard properly.
3) Welcome and Preamble: This is where you set an upbeat tone and establish yourself as the “boss”! If abroad I will learn an simple introductory sentence in the language of the country – such as “Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs – bienvenu a Paris – et pour les Anglais – Good morning and welcome to Paris!”. (While I can do this easily in French … I struggled a bit when doing it in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Lisbon! In each case I rehearsed with a “local” and wrote it out phonetically!) If appropriate I include a few brief remarks about the location and anything it is famous for, such as cultural, historic or sporting links, before giving a brief synopsis of the conference aims and what the event programme includes. Speaker Paul Sloane shared some good advice regarding ways to personalise your delivery – see Six Tips.PaulSloane
Before social media became a part of business life it was customary for a host to ask audiences to turn off their mobile devices. However they are now often encouraged to interact and live tweet comments during the day – so switching phones to “silent” has replaced switching them “off”. (Personally – I still feel this is a distraction – as they may be doing office tweets and emails instead!)
After any other “parish notices” I remind speakers and delegates about the importance of timing so the programme is adhered to …. and then it’s on with the show.
Here’s a “panoramic” Host pic showing “the view from the stage” – which I tweeted using the event hashtag in the interval!
In my next post I will discuss “Introductions” – and explain why “A CV is not an Intro”!
If you are looking for a conference host to ensure the success of your next event – please get in touch!
Are you an event host? If you have any tips on what you include in your preamble or introductions I’d love to hear them – and maybe adopt them! Please post a comment below!