The answer to the question in the title (above) is simple and yet just about every company conference organising group repeats the same mistake every single year and every single time: Virtually NO speaker rehearsal.
One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result
‘Hey…just a mo !’
“Hold on”, you may be saying, “when we ask for feedback on our conferences everybody says they are great!!” Well of course they tell you that. It is well known in the restaurant trade that the biggest lie told by customers is their answer to the question: ‘Did you enjoy your meal?’.
Most of us lie at this point because we don’t want to get into any hassles or arguments- we’re too nice. The fact is once we’ve departed from a restaurant that gave us crappy service we subsequently vote with our feet and never go back.
In the case of company conferences they (the delegates) don’t want to upset you and they don’t want their name linked to ‘being negative’ if your after-conference-report (derived from the ‘smile-sheets’, left on the chairs at the end), goes up to the bosses.
Next time that you organise a conference, take a moment, sometime mid-morning, to slip away and stand at the back. And instead of congratulating yourself on the wonderful lighting, the amplification and the ‘stage-set’, look at the audience. How many are texting in ‘silent’ mode? How many are whispering to their neighbours? How many doodling on their pads? Playing tic-tac-toe? fiddling with their peppermints? asleep?
This isn’t a punishable offence (you having flown them out to this expensive exotic location) actually this is all your fault. Because you should have rehearsed every single speaker.
What a drag it is
We all need practice (and feedback) in just about every field of endeavour Rehearsal is a bind… a real pain in the arse BUT first (from the speaker POV) it gets rid of 75% of their nerves !!! and second (from your POV) it gives you a chance to see the slides and other parafinalia they intend to use. You don’t need a diploma in audience psychology or stage-direction to do this. You know when something is being delivered in a wooden monotone with vast complicated bullet-point slides. Tell the presenter during the rehearsal what you liked about the intended presentation (very important- there must be something??!!) then what didn’t work so well that needs changing [or eliminating].
What should be in each presentation I’ll cover next time.