9 critical ways to transform meeting uncertainty into event success

By Andrea Driessen

The new year often fosters lots of possibility—and plenty of uncertainty.

One area where none of us want to experience uncertainty is our speaker line up.

So I’ve codified 9 critical steps we at No More Boring Meetings use to eliminate as many elements of uncertainty as possible. While we can’t control the weather or the actions of global political leaders, we can and I believe must do the following to control the controllable and ensure our events sizzle.

1-Offer up: When you’re making offers to speakers, do you ask for everything you need? A content conference call, media interview(s), social media posts, post-event follow up? You’ll avoid disappointment and gain conference buzz when these points are covered in the offer and therefore are part of your planning and execution. Better to over-ask than to forget a key request, as you may be out of luck if you inquire after the contract’s been signed.

2-Easy strategy: On the conference call, discuss: why was this particular speaker chosen? How does he or she fit into meeting goals and the organizational mission? Better to over-communicate here than leave out key info.

3-Do you know who I am? Be sure your speakers—internal AND external—know exactly who’s in the audience. For example: age ranges, cultural backgrounds, roles, and whether they know one another or are meeting for the first time. Only then may they effectively tailor their remarks so they’re at their most relevant.

4-Shift happens: But only if you plan for it. Do your speakers know what you want your audiences to think, feel, believe and/or do as a result of their programs? Always start with the end in mind, and the seeds for positive shifts in learning can be planted.

5-Like the plague: What topics, terms, political hot buttons, or moments in history shall your presenter avoid?

6-What’s in a name? Have those introducing your speakers practiced the intro’s? When people who tee up presenters fumble on words and names, not only do they look foolish, but you also create an irrevocable bad first impression of the speaker you’ve worked so hard to invite and prep. On a related note, never edit speakers’ intros without their permission. These are carefully scripted for a reason, and if you change ‘em, you may inadvertently distract presenters just as they walk on.

7-Incoming! Save yourself some aspirin by asking all your presenters to call or text you when they’ve arrived at the venue or their hotel rooms. On a related note, note in your contracts that out-of-town presenters must book incoming flights with at least one back up option in case of flight delay or cancellation.

8-The question of Q&A: Here’s where most groups fail to maximize the potential of Q&A. Click here for details on how to make Q&A unquestionably better, and on a related post that busts the myth that Q&A equals engagement.

9-Teach men & women to fish…Your audiences have learned, explored, noodled, networked, eaten, clapped, roared. Now what? From the very first moment you start considering your content, it’s up to you to plan how you’ll continue the learning once people return to work. Just a few of the options: webinars, book clubs, graphic recording, short follow on lessons via video, peer-to-peer accountability groups, and quizzes. If you’re not baking these into your meeting and event curriculum, you’re leaving a pile of money on the table, and only giving your people a fish—not teaching them to fish for themselves. Click here for a related post on maximizing investments in all your speakers.