I have attended and spoke at nine different conferences in the last 63 days. That’s one conference for every seven days. In reality, I spoke more than nine times because sometimes I had two or three presentations at each event.
Seeing Your Speakers As Partners
As a meeting professional, I’ve always considered my speakers as my partners in creating a great conference experience. They are the ones that will help my attendees learn something new.
I want my speakers to focus on the attendees. On their needs and experience.
Not on my silly, self-imposed planning deadlines or unnecessary barriers I’ve created. That’s the wrong focus.
Things Presenters Don’t Like About Your Conference
During the past 15 months of conference presentations, here are some of the things I really dislike about your conference.
Remember, I’ve been on both sides of this issue as conference organizer and presenter.
1. Self-imposed unrealistic speaker deadlines.
When you send me a long list of unrealistic speaker deadlines, I balk. I question if you care about your attendees. How does meeting these silly deadlines help the attendees’ experience?
For example, I have a hard time believing that you need my PPT presentation 30 days or more before the event. Why? What are you going to do with my PPT one month before the event? Upload it to your conference website? Send it to your archive vendor?
Solution: Let me upload my PPT to your conference website hours before I present. Or better yet, let me upload it to my Slideshare site and let people download it if they want.
2. Your Conference CD delivered at registration containing all the presentations.
You’ve got to be kidding.
Why aren’t you distributing a USB flash drive? Why aren’t you uploading the PPTs to a conference website or Slideshare and letting the attendees decide which presentations to download. Step into the 21st century.
Solution: Ditch the CD and move to a Slideshare Conference page. Or provide USB flash drives and kiosks, and let attendees download the presentations they want.
3. Your market-ese, corporate-speak rewrite of my session description.
Wow, I didn’t know that your marketing department knew my presentation better than I did. How did that happen? (Said with the sarcasm!)
A marketing department should not trump education!
And if your marketing department must rewrite my session description, pick up the phone and talk to me about it. Don’t surprise me with it in print or online.
Solution: Ask your editors to review my description and edit for grammar. People want authenticity and clarity with session descriptions. Let me say it the way I know resonates best.
4. My learning objectives (LOs) clash with your conference copywriting style.
When did your copywriting style trump education learning objectives?
Most of the learning objectives that I’ve seen are nothing but pie-in-the-sky dreams. They do not specifically describe what the learner should know or be able to do at the end of the presentation.
Solution: Get rid of your style guide for conference education and help the speaker craft the right LOs.
5. Your branded PPT template.
Your graphics department does not understand how important it is that I have a full slide for visuals and text. Nor do they understand how the mind works and that a repetitive image causes attendees to get bored. The branded PPT template is a nuisance and interferes with my visuals.
Your branded PPT template is based on broadcast, interruption, push-based marketing. Get a grip! Your audience knows the name of your conference and your brand without it being thrust on them in every education session.
Solution: Stop doing them! They are a waste of time, attention and energy.
6. Bright lights, tethered microphones and idiotic stages.
You secured me as a speaker to engage your audience. Right?
Then why do you blind my eyes with bright lights so I can’t see the audience? Why do you chain me to the front of the room with a wired lavaliere? Why do you limit where I can walk and interact due to a small stage?
If you really care about the audience, ditch the bright lights, give me a wireless microphone and dump the stage unless it’s a large opening general session. If you need the bright lights for live streaming, you’ve picked the wrong venue. Bright overhead light for live streaming should be on your site selection RFP!
Solution: Get an AV vendor that charges the same for wired or wireless lavalieres.
7. Making me register for your conference.
You already have my contact information in the database. Why can’t you just dump that information into your registration system via an Excel spreadsheet?
8. Using theater layout as your default seating.
If you want me to engage an audience, your default should be rounds!
9. Giving me a list of learner objectives to present that is compiled by a committee that are not subject matter experts.
That’s like asking students to give the teacher a list of items to teach. How dumb is that?
Suprise Surprise ambushed sponsor marketing messages disguised as presenter introductions.
What a great way to start my presentation with a three-minute commercial because your development department demanded it. NOT! Let me thank the sponsor at the end. Then we can let them give the commercial.
Efficiency Or Effectiveness: Which Do You Want?
When conference organizers focus on these things, they send presenters a message that efficiency is the focus. Not people! You care more about checking off tasks on your list.
It’s time for you to reevaluate these items and find new ways that focus more on conference effectiveness.
What other items would you add to my list of dislikes? As an industry presenter, what are some of the things conference planners do that seem silly or unnecessary?