You’ve finally secured the speakers you want for your event. You’ve briefed them and set their expectations. You’re excited about the presentations they’ve put together and sent them everything they need in the run-up to the event. But even when things seem on track, there are a number of things that can go wrong on the day.
We take a look at some top public speaking tips given by TEDx and Futurist Keynote Speaker, Andrew Gill (original article published here). With extensive experience speaking at events all over the world, he shares with us what he does as a speaker to ensure a great keynote/session from the perspective of the organiser and the attendee.
Gill believes there are some things any speaker can do that will take them from being a good speaker to a great public speaker. And this doesn’t have anything to do with their speaking delivery or style. It comes down to how they approach each event and their attitude towards the teams that supports them. And this is where event planners can help.
Have a look at what you can do to get the most out of your speakers on the day of your event:
1. Arrive Early at the Venue
This may be obvious but knowing your guest speaker/keynote presenter is actually in the building early reduces stress levels considerably. Being early also means that you can spend a bit of time with your speaker surveying the venue and checking out the stage, sight lines, lighting and acoustics. If they need to modify their delivery because of any of these things, then being there early will give them the chance to do this.
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2. Befriend the Tech team
Gill recommends that your speakers meet the tech team on-site as soon as they arrive at the venue. The tech team will be their partners before and during their talk and they need to understand your speaker’s technical requirements well before they step onto the stage. Getting them to arrive early means they’ll have the exclusive time to fine tune their AV needs with your on-site tech teams. Familiarising themselves like this also helps when things go wrong (and they inevitably do). Your tech team will more likely have their back when a personal connection has been made.
3. Speak to the Event Photographer
Similarly, it helps to introduce your event photographer to your main/keynote speakers. Photographers love to take exciting photos and if there are parallel streams running at your event, they are more likely to stop by your session (and stay) because they have built a rapport and know there will be great shots. Gill shares his experience when he was presenting at an event in New York and a photographer gave him a very valuable tip: “When you pace the stage, stop and pause at the end of your travel so I can capture a great shot when you are standing still.” Since then, whenever he paces on stage, he pauses before turning so that event photographers capture a great shot.
4. Play All Media Files Offline
If your speaker is using video and sound files in their presentation, make sure they embed all their video and sounds files locally on the laptop they’re using. Gill recommends not to rely on the venue WiFi to play a video – it will fail (and your speaker will look super unprofessional).
All recent versions of PowerPoint allow you to embed and play videos locally, from your PC or Mac. Make sure you spend a bit of time with your speaker to ensure all media files play locally from the laptop they’re using. Make it seamless too (no finding the mouse on the screen to click the play button while presenting). Ask them to set the video to “play automatically” from the PowerPoint video settings. There are also a number of programmes that let you download YouTube files so you can have a local copy of the mp4 video on your laptop too.
Related article: 8 Important WiFi Considerations for Event Planners
5. Stick to Time
Again, this may seem completely obvious, but how many times has one of your speakers gone way overtime? And everything suffers as a result. Make sure your presenters know exactly what time slot has been allocated to them and remind them gently to stick to it. Gill takes his laptop on stage and runs a countdown timer app called pClock (short for Presenter Clock) to ensure he is always exactly on time. When he nears the end of his allotted time, he can speed up or slow down as required.
6. Don’t Forget to Rehearse!
Gill suggests this point can’t be stressed enough. If your speaker doesn’t rehearse his presentation, then it will show that he doesn’t care about his message, his audience or his personal brand – which isn’t going to do you any favours. Nailing that first 90 seconds is key to grab the audience. And though you can’t force your speakers to rehearse prior to the event, it would do good to run through it together on the day. Don’t forget to time it too when you do. Gill adds: “Before my 3rd TEDx at Royal Holloway London, I locked myself in a lecture theatre and rehearsed my talk over and over around 17 times.” Practice does make perfect.
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