Leveraging Professional Speakers For Conference Impact

Seesaw SumoMost conference expense budgets are tight and limiting.

Technology innovations, including Skype, Snagit, DIY screen capture and affordable video editing tools, can help you bring more thought leaders to your conference experience.

Increasing Conference Value With Professional Speakers

Professional speakers are often the most remembered, valued and polished elements of a conference. Typically they are reserved for general sessions.

What if you could add a dose of their thought leadership to conference breakouts or facilitated small group discussions in addition to their keynotes? Wouldn’t that help increase the value for your conference participants? You betcha!

Enter The F2F Really Live Chat Rooms

Remember when the first really live chat rooms debuted on the Internet? Many of us were drawn to the ability to chat simultaneously with groups of individuals across the globe in real time. Really live chat rooms were the first polylogues – multiple people having multiple conversations at the same time.

Well Jeff Hurt and I reinvented the Really Live Chat Room for the face to face (F2F) experience and added a dose of value with professional speakers. This was another innovative element of PCMA’s 2012 annual meeting, Convening Leaders.

The Really Live Chat Rooms were part of the Learning Lounge, a large space divided into cluster theaters for small-group sessions. We recorded Skype interviews with 15 global thought leaders. Many of these individuals are New York Times best-selling authors and are frequently hired as keynoters. In all, we created 22 video interviews around three main themes for only $299–the cost of the video editing software!

We played the amateur-edited videos in the Really Live Chat theaters of the Learning Lounge. The average video was about 10 minutes in length. Volunteer facilitators paused, rewound or fast-forwarded the videos based on the audience’s direction. They also facilitated discussions on the speakers’ concepts and how to apply them.

Basically, the Really Live Chat Rooms were small group discussions on professional speakers’ big ideas as applied to the meetings industry.

To see an example of these videos, check out Marcia Connor’s video for the PCMA 2012 Convening Leader’s Learning Lounge on creating a conference culture of learning.

Convincing Speakers To Play

Most professional speakers and authors command speaker fees of $10,000 or more. Speaking gigs often take two to four days of commitment considering travel, customization of the presentation and preparation. You can reduce the speakers’ commitment to less than 30 minutes by asking them to participate in a Skype-style interview.

To get their buy-in, you have to consider what’s in it for them including incentives. For example, agreeing to purchase a number of copies of their book to sell in your bookstore, or offering some other promotional value may be all you need to get them on board.

Obviously, Convening Leaders had a pretty compelling value proposition because the participants either hire or recommend professional speakers. But conferences with audiences of all kinds can attract this kind of talent.

Embedding The Interview In The Conference Experience

Recorded Skype interviews are not typically of a polished quality like slick produced ones. Audiences are ok with that as long as the content rocks!

Short videos are best for the conference environment. The work well when they supplement the content of a longer session.

Attendees come to your conference to solve their most pressing problems. When concepts or ideas come from a leading authority on the topic, they tend to get an attendee’s attention.

What tips do you have to share about using recorded video clips or live Skype presentations? What are some other ways to use recorded videos for conference experiences?

Adapted from Dave’s People & Processes column in PCMA’s March 2012 edition of Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2012.

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