I have been in the conference and events industry for almost 15 years and our company supplies services to 100+ meetings or conferences a year. I’ve had the fortune of sitting through some very well engineered meetings coupled with powerful presentations offering a superb experience.
I have also had the misfortune of sitting through many disorganised meetings with predictable meeting agendas, death-by-PowerPoint content dump presentations, coupled with average audio visual setups and lousy food makes for an unfortunate waste of time and money.
Achieve better impact and offer a more meaningful and memorable event experience for your business and your audience by integrating these 3 simple steps;
1. Deliver the right content in the right fashion!
Most meetings are faced with the same predicament; too much content to share and too little time to do so. The challenge then is what to present and how to deliver it effectively.
In preparation consider these 2 points;
- The core objective should be communicating and connecting key messages with your audience.
- A lack of engagement during a meeting will occur when content is not delivered effectively or simply doesn’t strike the audience interests.
To be more effective, consider the audience first. What would be most interesting to them, what would they consider as valuable information? We are all aware of the studies on human attention spans and that most audiences are inattentive after 35 minutes, so use that as your benchmark.
I advise the 30:20:10 principle which I was introduced to by my friend John Quinn, the chief ‘Presentologist’ from Satellite Visual Communication. 30 minutes, 20 slides, 10 points.
We live in a world of information overload, so don’t do that in your presentation! They say images speak 1000 words, it is true, so be visual!
Rather than have slides of detailed text, use imagery and tell a story. A visual slide deck with less text accompanied by a good story is guaranteed to be far more effective than a text rich presentation where the audience is distracted trying to read your slides while you are trying to present.
2. Set the Stage
Everything counts when you’re setting the stage for a truly engaging meeting. You want to instantly capture and retain the audience’s attention throughout the experience. Creating a conversational atmosphere can help spark strong, sustainable engagement from beginning to end.
Set the mood with coloured lighting, consider appropriate music for introductions and interludes, alternative seating arrangements to the normal school room style. The front, mid and back portions of the room could be set differently to allow the audience the freedom to determine where they want to participate from and engage you.
The point being you want an atmosphere that is memorable and different which will better connect the attendees to your presentation through a much more memorable engagement.
3. Incorporate Distractions
We know that no one actually turns their smartphone off during a meeting or presentation. Audiences are continuously faced with tempting distractions in the form of email, texting, social media and various apps.
My recommendation is rather than attempting to limit distractions by asking attendees to “Please silence all cell phones!” is to embrace it in a way that you can leverage it.
Go viral and use social media if appropriate, create a #hashtag for your event and get your audience involved before the start date, create excitement, tweet about the program, invite people to submit questions to speakers, ask speakers to tweet about their sessions.
Incorporate mobile at the event to further create engagement, consider using a mobile event application which will drive audience’s attention to the content of your event.
Use Audience Response Technology (ART) to engage with the audience. This will not only lengthen attention spans but keep the focus on the presentations as the audience will be expecting to respond to questions.
Testing and gaining audience insights during presentations and offering an opportunity to contribute using ART can prove highly valuable in creating and delivering on your key objectives in more meaningful ways for attendees.
For organizations that are on strict budgets, gaining audience insight and feedback may be even more important in realizing meeting objectives.
About the author:
David Wilson is the Managing Director of Participate Technologies; a well-respected small business in South Africa, specialising in Interactive Engagement Technology for conferences, events and learning environments. Twitter @davewsa / @participateSA