I was recently at a conference, Destination Northeast, and listened to a presentation given by Shawna Suckow of SPIN Senior Planners Industry Network. She talked about ways in which you could lose your audience, and I wanted to share some of her thoughts with you below. Then, of course, I had to throw my own “spin” into the mix, so some of these points are mine.
It’s important. Meeting planners work way too hard to lose their audience! And because you have so much to do, and are often so very close to your event, it sometimes takes an outsider to provide a fresh perspective on things. I present to How to Lose Your Audience in 10 Ways; read and apply, as needed.
1) No collaboration: Collaboration is in! It is one of the main reasons why social media was so quickly embraced. Nothing should be created in a vacuum; your meeting is a collaboration between you and your audience. They do not want to be just “seats in seats,” they want to be a part of it all (and expect to be!).
2) Speakers speaking: This ties into collaboration. If your audience goes from one presentation after another, where their only participation is to sit tight and listen, you will lose them. Make sure your audience is allowed to be an interactive part of the meeting.
3) Theater seating (again): If your room allows, simply changing up the seating arrangement alone can help your audience stay engaged. Arrange chairs in a circle, for example. Or just have the chairs at the entrance of the room and allow people to place their chair wherever they choose – now that could be interesting!
4) Death by Powerpoint: Yes, it still happens, the speaker that reads the slide to the audience, slides filled to the brim with words and sentences and then there are those that still use clipart from the 90s. Follow the Guy Kawasaki 10-20-30 rule; 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 font size. And consider having a professional design slides for your presenters, it is worth the investment.
5) No White Space: Your audience shows up to learn AND to connect. If you overschedule them, and leave them little time to meet with old and new colleagues, they will feel as if they missed out on an important part of their experience. Steer clear of overscheduling.
6) Awards Gala on Parade: Unless you are receiving an award, these galas can be monotonous; watching one award winner after another parade to the stage. Follow the Oscar schedule; present a few awards, nosh on a bit of food, do some more awards, have some entertainment, rinse and repeat.
7) Palette Boredom: If your audience never gets the opportunity to try a new treat, they will become bored and possibly leave during mealtime to seek something more exciting. Keep them engaged with trendy foods. Have you tried ice cream made with liquid nitrogen? This could be made tableside; entertainment and palette-pow all in one!
8) Local Flavor: This does not only apply to food, but also to speakers and entertainment. Your audience welcomes the opportunity to enjoy that which they cannot get at home. Make sure to bring local flavor into your event!
9) Zero Follow Up: Your audience is not only looking for opportunities to let you know what they think, they actually expect you to ask. This can be anything from surveys provided at or after the event, to simply asking for their thoughts during networking sessions.
10) Event Only Engagement: Your event never has to officially end. Today’s events are like waves, sometimes the waves are high and mighty (right before, during and after the actual event) and other times the waves are more quiet and calm (the in-between time). Do not miss out on the in-between time. Use event specific hashtags, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more to allow your audience to be a part of your plans, keep them informed with the latest updates and ask for their opinions and ideas. Ask them to weigh in on a theme, presentation topic, or dessert choice, then inform them that their answer will be revealed at the actual event. This can leave them in a state of anticipation and ever engaged!
How do you NOT lose your audience? Tell me on Facebook!