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Next time you get offered the chance to be a session leader of a group speaking slot, stop and think about the amount of time and effort it is going to involve. Are you ready to be the event planner of your speaking slot?
Everyone likes to think that all events go off without a hitch, but we know the truth. The last minute changes, cancelations, budget overage, and annoyed sponsors, everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
The final product though, perfection! The attendees will never know the difference. Now this is the same situation that happens with group speaking slots: the event within your event. If you are given the role of session leader, you will be responsible for organizing your entire speaking slot: the fellow speakers, the content and the presentation. Bottom line, you are now the event planner of that speaking slot.
When it comes to managing those three sections you will come across different problems in each instance. The key is knowing how to solve these problems. Get ready for a crash course in event planning for your group speaking slot.
Managing Your Speakers
Now that you are in charge of the rest of the speakers, make sure that they deliver on this speaking slot. After all, it’s not only the reputation of the event you have to worry about, but your own if this goes bad! Make sure you set yourself up for success by realizing the problems you could face ahead of time and coming up with solutions.
Problem: Your speakers are spread out across the world.
Solution: Get in that event planner mind, do you think that when you attend a conference overseas that everyone who worked on that conference lives right in that very city? No way! As a matter of fact EIBTM that just took place in Barcelona this past November was organized by Reed who is headquartered in the United States.
If you are running a speaking slot for four other people with each in a different country you need to work around their schedules. In this industry we work long hours because we know in the end it will pay off. Same can be said for speaking slots. Start a group email and try and find a time that is decent enough for everyone. Someone is going to be getting up early and yes someone is going to be staying up late, but in the end it will be worth it.
If everyone can’t get on the call at the same time, make it a point to reach out to them individually after to catch them up and pick their brain for ideas.
Problem: You have an unresponsive speaker.
Solution: Would you ever give up on your top location for an event just because the sales person hasn’t called you back after you left two messages? No, you would be persistent and find any way to get them on the phone. The same will work with getting an unresponsive speaker to talk to you. Get creative if you can’t reach them by phone or email, find them on social media and send them a message. Yes, being persistent can be annoying but it also gets the job done.
Managing Your Content
Now that you have your speakers’ attention, it is time to decide on the content. You need to start by giving your speakers a few speaking tips on how to best deliver the presentation. Then find everyone’s strengths and divide up the presentation. However, there are some problems that could arise here as well.
Problem: Everyone has a different route they want to take with the session.
Solution: Remember you are the session leader here! When you get on the call with everyone, start with your idea first and then ask to hear from everyone else. People can be reluctant to get the ball rolling and spout out their idea if they don’t think it will work. Once you have heard from everyone, put it up to a vote. Find a solution that works for everyone where their strengths are shown and they are able to present the audience with their knowledge.
Problem: No content ahead of time from speakers.
Solution: This is always a touchy topic, as Julius just covered sharing slides on EMB a few weeks ago. If you are a planner asking one of their contracted speakers to send over slides only to criticize them – then are you in the wrong here. As a speaker, I would let them sweat it out. They hired me for a reason so they know my content is going to be good if they did their homework. On the other hand, as a session leader you were not one of the people who hired or reached out to these speakers.
You may know some of them, but some could be new to the industry. You need to trust your gut, you don’t want to be left in a situation where one of the speakers has a bad taste in their mouth from you. When it comes down to it they don’t want to look like an idiot on stage either, so they are going to do their part. The problem is that they could have sneaked some content in there that may not be so on topic and a little more promotional. We will tackle this in a second.
Managing the Presentation
You have made it through all of the pre-event logistics. Now it is time to deliver. Depending on how long the show is and what day you are speaking, you may have time to meet up with your speaking slot counterparts. If you have the opportunity to do this, absolutely take it. It is important to make in person introductions ahead of time so that you have a better dynamic when presenting. If you can’t no worries, if you did planning ahead of time you shouldn’t have any issues. But like we all know, there are always a few hiccups that could happen…
Problem: You have a missing presenter
Solution: The show must go on. If you have an audience expecting a session to start at a certain time, don’t keep them waiting too long. They have busy schedules and it isn’t good to keep them longer than expected. This happened to me once and the person that was late was the first presenter. We did a little creative maneuver with the slides and the rest of the speakers were ready to roll with the punches.
We started the session and low and behold 20 minutes into the session, the missing speaker showed up (he was told the wrong start time). Just like an event organizer wouldn’t let a connectivity problem stop them from checking people in at a registration desk – don’t let one person hold you back you’re your presentation.
Problem: You have a promotional presenter
Solution: No matter how hard you try to avoid this, some people just can’t help but mention their company in detail. These are usually the people who try and steal the show as well and make it all about them. As the session leader this is your time to take charge. Interject when they are speaking trying to bring the point back to the topic at hand. You can’t let them go off on a tangent because it isn’t fair to the other presenters or the audience who is there to learn not to buy a product.
Speaking slots can be a tough thing to manage with speakers, content and the overall presentation. Add on top of that each speaker being in a different country or a no show on the day of and you have your hands full. Like an event planner, it is important to look at the big picture ahead of time by planning things out, setting goals and deadlines. If you use this post as a guide, you should be ready for anything.
What other problems have you seen arise during group speaking slots and what are your solutions?