During the past eighteen years I’ve keynoted more than 1,200 events in every state, province and in 82 countries around the world. I’ve seen a whole lot of conferences including the good, the bad and yep…even the ugly!
Last week, I spoke to about 1,000 people in Phoenix, Arizona and the moment I walked off the stage I called my Speaking Manager, the agent who booked the speech and anyone else I thought I’d be able to reach to excitedly tell them that I’d just been part of one of the most magical events in my life.
At first, I thought it was about me and that I’d just been on fire that morning but on the airplane ride home I closed my eyes and started making a mental list of what actually made the event such an incredible success. Every meeting and conference would be better if the following rules were followed.
Maybe you’ll find a few of my observations to be simple common sense but as we all know, the most common thing about common sense is how uncommon common sense actually is.
Make an incredible first impression – The staging was so well designed and executed that it would have been impossible for any attendee to walk into the ballroom and not be blown away, filled with anticipation, proud to work for the company and know how much the company values them. I asked the production director how much the staging cost and his answer was perfect. He said, “$100 per person.” That’s a small amount of money to make an impression that will last a lifetime.
Use professionals – I stood at the side of the foyer and silently observed the process of checking in. Registration took mere moments, there were areas for charging devices, an IT desk if people needed help getting online, healthy refreshments (along with a few indulgences), clear and accurate signage all over the property. Trying to handle registration in-house is almost always a confusing nightmare. Everything went flawlessly and smoothly because of a great event management company who does this all the time.
Make rehearsal compulsory – Everyone who is going to be on stage needs to rehearse to become familiar with the stage, their graphics and even what the sound of their voice echoing through a huge space sounds like. The macho type who says, “I don’t need a rehearsal; I’ll just wing it,” must be told that the goal is to deliver a seamless experience and exceed the expectations of everyone and that everybody on the team is committed to making them look and sound great.
Make sure everyone sings off the same page – The company I was speaking to is in the middle of being acquired. Generally, those are trying times for people filled with a lot of uncertainty but every speech, every message – silent or spoken aloud – was positive, excited and enthusiastic. Concerns about uncertainty weren’t glossed over but were handled honestly and with transparency. Everyone came away from the meeting feeling like they’d been leveled with and told the truth. When a company is planning a meeting they need to answer the question, “what are the three to four takeaways we want to communicate to everyone,” and the event should be built around making that happen.
Stay on schedule and be real about breaks – I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been scheduled for a 3:30 closing keynote speech and had it start at 4:15, 4:30 or even later or have seen other speakers and hundreds of attendees scrambling to make new flight arrangements because of PPP. The first rule of any meeting of more than 100 people is that there’s no such things as a fifteen minute break and anyone who schedules one and believes it’ll be fifteen minutes is delusional. The acts of using a bathroom, grabbing something to drink, responding to an urgent call or two and spending a few moments in fellowship with colleagues requires that breaks be a realistic 25-30 minutes in length. A couple of breaks that go long and a few long winded presenters who didn’t rehearse can set a meeting back an hour or two.
Record the event and use it in the company’s training – One of the biggest wastes of resources is when a company or organization invests big money to put on an event and fails to properly record it for use inside the company as a training tool, a way to cascade information downward throughout the organization and/or as an aspirational tool (an in-house commercial) that makes everyone want to do better, produce and sell more so they can be in attendance the next time. But, today, virtually everyone is a sophisticated video consumer and there’s no way any of those things will happen or be successful if there’s a single camera locked down in the back of the room. If you want to use the content of a conference it requires three cameras (wide shot, close-up of what’s happening on stage and audience reaction) with the footage of each camera being recorded separately so that a professionally edited piece can be created.
Any company that follows these six simply steps is on their way to having a hugely successful event!