Programming an industry conference with quality speakers, relevant keynotes and bantering panelists is no easy task.

The event’s producer must balance commerce and quality by allowing sponsors to buy their way into marque forums while also programming the event with diversity, rising stars, innovators and thoughtful opinion-makers. 

Ultimately, a well-programmed conference is both profitable for the producer and vastly informative for the attendees.

In some cases sponsors are asked to give time to participate on stage. This presence on stage and in the show’s promotional materials certainly has inherent advertising benefits for the company.

However, as panelists, sponsors and guest speakers, what is their responsibility to the show? To be compelling.

Below are some personal experiences and tips that will help you avoid the consequences of being boring and allow you to make the most of your next industry conference:

When paneling, don’t wing it

Your charisma and charm might have got you there, but don’t take the responsibility lightly by ignoring your duty to prepare. 

Prep work should start with learning about your fellow panelists and moderator, or perhaps getting questions from the moderator in advance. 

When preparing to speak on a panel, learn the panelists names and businesses, conduct research online to better understand their points-of-view and personalities, and particularly learn where they may have a competing perspective or popular/unpopular opinions. 

If they write a blog, read up. If they Tweet, follow them. It’s both kind and respectful to do and will make your conversation more friendly, relevant and topical. 

Meeting other participants before the events or calling them on the phone makes a great ice-breaker. You will be more comfortable on stage and able to lead a more compelling discussion.

Be thought provoking, but considerate

The announcement before every panel event that I have spoken at is this: “Everyone please silence their cell phone and close their laptops out of respect to the panelists.” 

That never happens, of course, some will always choose to type or tweet during the event. On stage, you will always fight for your audience’s undivided attention. 

Making sharp, controversial remarks will command their attention; maybe even earn a laugh or agreeing nod.  

However, thought-provoking remarks may also get live-Tweeted by the audience, perhaps taken out of context.  

This comes with great responsibility as you could easily be discredited by sound bites that dilute the thoughtfulness of your message. Controversy is good, but think before you open your mouth on stage. 

The audience wants compelling content and lively discussion. If your comments attempt to sensationalize or trivialize the quality of the event, you’re not being thoughtful. 

In the minutes prior to the event, I find a quiet place and think of a few brief remarks that are applicable to my message – perhaps outrageous, timely or funny, and mark them on a notebook or cocktail napkin.

Avoid ‘stop’ words

If taking questions from an audience or bantering with fellow panelists, nothing kills good conversation than two people agreeing with each other. 

“I agree” are stop words, sure to kill any good conversation. Avoid stop words by always looking to build on the conversation. 

Someone might say, “Programmatic has taken creativity away from media buyers.” I might respond by saying, “I Agree, however the time saved can be used creatively in other ways, such as...”  

This tactic avoids stop words and allows the conversation to continue to flourish and grow.

Don’t simply be the messenger

When giving any business lecture, don’t fall into the trap of simply being the messenger of your presentation or repeating talking points. 

The most meaningful thing you can do on stage is to convey a little piece of you: your personality, your uniqueness or charisma. 

I find that couching your message in a compelling or funny story will transcend your message and make your points more compelling. 

Bring visual aids such as props, posters or slides that are lively with information and are written large (so the people in the back row can read them). 

Most of all, show your personality. Open with a joke or big statement and close with resolution that brings all of your thoughts together with meaning.

Join us at our the award-winning Festival of Marketing, a two day event where marketers, brands and agencies meet to celebrate, discover and shape the future of marketing, along with 200 fantastic speakers from the biggest brands and agencies spread across 12 themed stages.

Lori Goldberg

Published 13 August, 2015 by Lori Goldberg

Lori Goldberg is CEO at Silverlight Digital and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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