5 Practices for Improving Concurrent Sessions

Conference organizers know that the “main course” of their education offering and value proposition is in the concurrent education sessions. These learning experiences are primarily guided and selected by committee members who have little to no training or experience in adult learning principles. This model can be very risky. What happens in those rooms will make or break their overall satisfaction and future decisions to attend.

Don’t Leave Education to Chance

Imagine what could happen if you invested in developing your conference committee members and speakers to increase the quality of their delivery and session design? Imagine that every session had a 50/50 balance of presenting and interaction. WorldatWork stopped imagining and actually did it. Their results speak for themselves as outlined in this recent article by MeetingsNet.

Providing speaker support does not have to be a costly investment. Here are five ideas you can implement to improve the session planning, presentation and facilitation skills of your presenters.

  1. Curate & Post Tip Sheets.

    Create one-page tip sheets for Session Design, Moderating Panels, Being a Great Panelist, Designing for Audience Interaction and PowerPoint Best Practices. Post the tip sheets on your speaker management platform, or on a dedicated page on your conference website.

  2. Offer Webinar Trainings.

    Partner with a speaker coach or recruit members/staff who have great reviews for their presentation skills to develop and lead a series of webinars. Make sure the webinars model participatory education. After each 10 minutes of content, the facilitator should have the participants discuss and apply that content either in chat or small group discussion.

  3. Conduct Session Planning Calls.

    Leverage your conference committee members to participate in planning calls with your speakers. Create a worksheet that will guide the discussion. Make sure you’re helping the speakers think about their overall session design and have a solid plan for audience activities and participation.

  4. Offer Peer-to-Peer Support

    Host Zoom or Teams “office hours” where speakers/panelists can drop in to ask questions, get feedback on their session design or get support on adding an interactive element to their session.

  5. Share Evaluation Results.

    Take a page from WorldatWork’s playbook and offer incentives to your speakers to get attendees in their session to complete evaluations. Then share their results with each one of them. Offer speakers with the highest ratings a slot for next year and offer additional coaching to those that need to improve. This is how you will grow your speaker pipeline and member loyalty.

There has never been a better time to invest in the quality of your education offering to attract and retain next-gen presenters than now. The payoff will be huge.

If you want to talk about how we can help you with a speaker development plan, reach out to a member of the Velvet Chainsaw Team.

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