How to get the most from your event speaker

If you've organised a conference, the speakers leading the event will be key to capturing and holding your audience's attention, getting messages across and encouraging debate. To get the most from your speakers and ensure your conference is as effective as possible, keep reading for some top tips.

Introduce the audience

To ensure your speakers give a relevant and compelling delivery, preparation before the event can be vital. To this end, make sure your speaker knows about the audience - demographic information and details about specific leanings or tastes can ensure presentations are appropriate for the specific audience.

You can gather information about your audience in a number of ways, such as via the event's online registration system. Give attendees the opportunity to specify any requirements and use analytics software to learn more about the delegates attending your event. Alternatively, organise interviews with a few audience members so that the speaker can better understand who he or she will be addressing.

Organise the logistics

Physical aspects of the event can enhance delegates' and speakers' experiences, so spending some time thinking about this before the event can be worthwhile. Keep the logistics simple for speakers, ensuring they have time to work with any technology they plan to use before the event to encourage a problem-free presentation.

It's also useful to consider seating arrangements; some layouts are ideally suited to conferences with speakers while some aren't. Arranging tables in rounds is common at conferences but not the best option, as many audience members will have their backs to the speaker. It also means the audience is often seated at quite a distance from the speaker, which is not ideal. A U-shaped layout can be better in ensuring everyone can see the speaker, with the square layout being conducive to discussion.

Encourage audience interaction

To add interest and value to the experience, discuss ways in which the speaker can interact with the audience, keeping their attention. This might be something as simple as shows of hands or question and answer sessions, but could also include extra elements that allow audience members to have a more personal experience, such as use of flipcharts throughout, product signings or encouraging the speakers to mingle with the crowd during refreshment breaks.

Audience interaction can make a difference to delegates' overall experience, and it can be beneficial to encourage participation throughout the event when it's most pertinent rather than leaving questions until the end of the presentation when attendees might be keen to stretch their legs rather than get involved.

Treat speakers well

In order for a speaker to give a good presentation and enhance the experience for delegates, they'll need to be ready to deliver their message; you can ensure they're well prepared by treating them well from the outset and ensuring their needs are met. Assign someone on the team the job of liaising with speakers to ensure their requirements are provided for and that there is somebody to greet them when they arrive at the venue.

Keep speakers informed about any changes to the programme and ensure they have somewhere suitable to park, or that transport costs will be covered. As a minimum, speakers should receive complimentary refreshments and you might want to arrange for some dedicated space they can prepare in, such as a hotel room or somewhere behind the scenes.

Generate interest and maintain it

Your speaker can help with your event's promotion before the occasion is due to take place; ask for some quotes for a press release, organise a live question and answer session via your event's social media platforms or consider holding a press conference if your speaker is famous and you want to generate interest.

In a similar vein, your speaker can also help post-event by extending interest and debate. Consider following up with an interview after the event, or invite the speaker to recap on the event via their social media pages. You could also arrange a live webinar during which interested parties could pose questions or ask for the speaker's opinion on relevant topics

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