Hello! This morning I am going to be speaking to about 600 people at the Restaurant Facility Management Association, and everything is going to go great. Which is usually the case. I deliver somewhere between 50 and 80 keynote addresses every year, and most of them go off without a hitch.
But as most professional meeting planners know, successful events are boring events. Seriously, who wants to go to a wedding where everything happens the way it’s supposed to? Those aren’t the ones you remember, are they? Of course not! You remember the weddings where the dress caught on fire and the groom had to be bailed out of jail in time to make it to the ceremony. They make movies about that kind of thing.
So if you want them to someday make a movie about your next conference, awards banquet, corporate retreat, or teambuilding super-session, here are a few things for you to keep in mind.
Don’t Schedule a Conference Call with Your Speakers Before the Event! Your speakers are busy people and should not be pestered with a 30-minute phone call to learn more about your organization or their role at your event, and you definitely should not ask them to tailor their presentation to your particular needs. In fact, you should expect your speakers to make your event indistinguishable from every other event they speak at. For example (true story), I recently attended an event where the keynote speaker told everyone how excited she was to be in Miami, when in fact the event she was speaking at was in Wisconsin. That’s the kind of disconnect that every meeting planner should be proud of!
Don’t Bother with a Sound Check! Everything is going to be perfectly, so there is no reason to bother people by making them show up just to see if the microphones work or their Powerpoints load properly into your main computer. Besides, just because they do dress rehearsals for weddings, and concerts, and theater offerings, and pretty much every other live event imaginable, that’s no reason for you to jump on the bandwagon. You don’t need to follow other people’s example for everything. After all, if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?
Ask for Fewer Chairs Than the Number of Your Attendees! We all know that if you invite 1,000 people to a conference, only 700 of them are actually going to show up and attend things. The rest of them will be shopping, or sleeping, or showering off a monstrous hangover while they’re supposed to be attending stuff. You can probably save some money, then, by ordering fewer chairs (and ideally smaller meeting rooms) than you would need if everyone showed up to everything. That will make things extra fun whenever everyone actually does show up for things! People love being hot and crowded – just ask passengers on a broken-down subway car in New York City. There’s no place they’d rather be! So that should get you started.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a presentation to deliver. The good people of (fill in organization name) at (say name of hotel or wherever we’re at right now) can’t be kept waiting. Talk to you soon!