Imagine how you might do your job differently if your performance and compensation were evaluated based on overall session attendance and industry presenter ratings at your annual conference.
While this notion may seem a bit extreme, conference education systems need increased accountability, which in turn leads to a competitive advantage. We all need improved systems for:
- Programming thought-provoking and relevant content.
- Recruiting or selecting industry presenters who will draw a crowd.
- Prepping and coaching presenters to effectively design and deliver engaging sessions.
- Having a feedback plan for measurement and improvement.
Make the Most of Your Speaker Prep Calls
Let’s focus on the third bullet point above, speaker prep. Other than one-on-one coaching (which we’ll delve into in an upcoming blog), session-planning calls can be the most effective way to prepare speakers. Many organizers treat these as tactical calls: The education staff communicates speaker deadlines/requirements, venue, room setup, AV equipment, audience overview, registration details and onsite speaker resources.
All of these details can be provided in consumable methods on a speaker portal, via FAQs, emails, or instructional video. Instead, the session-planning calls should be much more interactive where you learn and assess the presenter’s commitment to delivering a top-notch session, understanding of your audience and overarching theme, ideas for making the session content relevant and provocative, preliminary plan for using activities and exercises to ensure an engaging session for the participants and input for how they can help fill the room.
When possible, you will be able to improve your conversation and assessment best by conducting the calls via a video platform, like Skype or Zoom. If you have a conference committee, consider asking one or two members to participate in all of the advance calls for a given track. When this is done well, the presenter will do most of the talking, and not staff or committee member/s.
Improving Your Speaker Portal
In addition to having presenter FAQs and deadlines published on your speaker portal, curate and/or create resources that will help your presenters elevate their game. Here are some of the best practices used by some of our clients:
- Designate one person the “Speaker Concierge.” Having someone that is there to help sends a strong message.
- Schedule at least two presenter webinars four to six weeks before the conference.
- Choose facilitators who will provide tips for designing an effective presentation, an engaging panel, or developing activities for audience participation.
- Curate or create short videos or links to resources that cover such topics as writing winning session proposals, PowerPoint and image best practices, copyrights do’s and don’ts, attracting attendance to your session, live-streaming presentation tips, and incorporating audience response systems (ARS).
One Size Does Not Fit All
For your industry presenter improvement plan it’s best to create a few categories for internal use only that represent the level of trust the presenter has earned with your organization. The categories might look something like this:
- Seasoned – has presented numerous times for us with high attendance/ratings
- Emerging – has presented once or twice with good attendance/ratings
- Rookie – first-timer
Develop a communications plan for each category. For your most trusted presenters, you may have a brief conference call and be soft on deadlines. Conversely, rookie speakers would require that you schedule several calls and be more of a stickler on deadlines.
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2019.
What improvements can you make to your speaker prep calls? What elements and resources can be moved to your speaker portal?
Levi Armstrong says
I find it incredibly helpful that you said session-planning calls are an excellent way to prepare your chosen speaker and assess their commitment. My aunt plans to hire a customer service training speaker soon, so I’ll pass on this advice to her. We’ll be seeing each other this coming Thanksgiving, so this would be extremely helpful to her. Thanks!