Tips to avoid the five most common speaker mistakes

Tips to avoid the five most common speaker mistakes

Avoid the five most common speaker mistakes that often happen in the first few seconds of a presentation. If you know what they are, you can learn the right skills for success. 

Recently I spoke at an event for women’s event. It was positive, upbeat and filled with useful information and new insights. The presenters had been briefed about what to do on stage. While some people were seasoned speakers and some weren’t, the tips were useful for all the presenters. However, I noticed that on the day, nerves took over at the start of most of the talks. In spite of our good intentions, almost every speaker made at least one of the common speaker mistakes in the first few seconds of her presentation.

I made a note of the five most common speaker mistakes in order to avoid them

Yesterday I used my list to prepare speakers for an upcoming event where I am the ‘event facilitator’ or MC. The tips were particularly for those in a line-up of presenters. They are also particularly aimed at women speakers, as a lack of confidence in some women make it more likely that these mistakes can happen. The challenge is to keep a balance between you as the speaker, the needs of the audience and the content.

Here are tips to avoid the five most common speaker mistakes

1. DON’T START WITH AN APOLOGY.

Read that again slowly. More women speakers than I can count start their presentations with an apology of some kind – from what they are wearing to what they are thinking to what they are saying. Just don’t do it.

Here are some real examples of what I’ve heard women say at recent events: 

‘I’m sorry, I’m crying. They are happy tears, really.’

‘I don’t have a very loud voice. I hope you can hear me.’

‘I’m not used to speaking in front of audiences. Please excuse me.’

While it’s ok to be authentic, you really don’t need to apologise for who you are or how you appear. Just start. Take a deep breath and start. 

2. DON’T PUT YOURSELF DOWN. 

This is a common speaker mistake many women speakers make. Start on the front foot. Don’t apologise for being there. 

Don’t say (and these are all recent real examples):

‘I’m a bit of a Luddite. I’m not sure how to use this clicky thingy.’ 

‘I should be moving the slide forward now, shouldn’t I? Ah, there we go, I moved it backwards again. I told you I’m no good with this technology stuff.’

This is a learnt behaviour. Put yourself down and say what everyone might be thinking. It’s a self-protection strategy, but not a good one. Just breath, take your time, do what needs to be done. 

3. DON’T LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON FOR YOU; JUST GET ON WITH IT. 

Here’s an example. At a recent presentation, I had re-written my talk on a few pages. One had most of the words, one just had headings, and one had a diagram that reminded me of what I wanted to say. When I got up on stage, I couldn’t find the page on the lectern. I paged forward, I paged back, and finally I stopped somewhere (was it the diagram page maybe?) and just took a deep breath and started. The temptation was to say:

‘I’ve lost my page; can you believe it?’

But the audience wasn’t there to learn about my issues. They were there to learn about my content. I was amazed – my voice came out deep and strong and clear and on point. I hadn’t distracted them with what was going on for me. 

4. DON’T SAY ‘IS THIS MIKE WORKING’?

Argh. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that at the start of someone speaking… 

Just start. Trust the technology. If it’s not working, someone will let you know. 

5. DON’T BLAME THE TIME LIMIT YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN FOR RUSHING.

You’ve heard it too often: ‘I’ve only been given 20 minutes, so I’ll rush through this’ or ‘I haven’t been given much time so I’ll skip this part’. The audience doesn’t need to know. YOU manage your time. YOU prepare what is needed. You’ve agreed to your timeslot. Be a team player and use the time available, even if you have to shorten it a bit to help the event organisers stick to their plans. 

You will have been briefed about the available time before the event. There is very little excuse for hogging the time, or not filling the available time. If you need help to stick to it, let the event facilitator or MC know beforehand. You can be given a ‘two minutes to go’ alert. Or if you finish early, the event facilitator can have a question ready to ask you so that you expand on what you have said.

Remember, you are speaking to meet the needs of the people in the audience.

You need to know that they get what’s in it for them. Don’t distract them by being caught up with yourself. Breathe, get back into the centre of the presenter’s triangle where you are balancing your needs as a speaker with their needs as the audience and your commitment to covering the content. 

Do let me know how you go using the tips to avoid the five most common speaker mistakes.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Small business owners can be part of a groundswell of powerful change

Small business owners can be part of a groundswell of powerful change

As a Small Business owner, you can be part of the groundswell of powerful change. You might even draw your niche clients closer.

When the Climate Strike was called a few weeks ago, I wondered whether I, as a small business owner, should go on strike or not. Who would notice whether I participated or not? I wondered whether I should just stay at my desk and get on with the day’s work. Was it strange to go on strike when you are your own boss? 

But strike we did. As co-directors at Triple Win Enterprises, the decision was easy for both my husband and me. We saw the Triple Win in it. By striking we could stand for what we believed in, we could support all those calling for change and be part of the community, and we could join the global groundswell of powerful change that school goers are calling for. Young Greta Thunberg has led the charge in a way no adult can ignore. She has done more in her short life of activism than most large organisations will get done in their lifespan.

“Thunberg is right – change is coming. There are leaders of countries and businesses making commitments to tackle the climate crisis. ”  Michael H Fuchs in The Guardian, 25 September 2019

Change is indeed coming, and we wanted to be part of the groundswell. We headed to the city with thousands of others, accompanied by our child. Throngs of people converged in the city of Sydney and moved peacefully towards the Domain. Thousands had already amassed on the field when we arrived.

Some people marched on their own.

There were people on their own. They came to stand for what they believed in, with their signs. Sometimes with their walking sticks. A little old lady waited patiently for her turn to sit down on the big tree root I was resting on. She needed help to sit down and to stand up, but this hadn’t stopped her. She wanted to be part of the movement for change. 

Family groups stood up for what they believed in.

There were children and grandparents, people born in Australia and those from overseas. There were all age groups and all backgrounds, taking a stand as families. 

Teams from large corporations were part of the groundswell.

People had taken off work to show their support. They came in teams, some in suits, some in Friday casual wear. But they were there, egging one another along, and showing that even the big end of town knows this is important. 

Small business took to the streets that day.

Like us, other small business owners had taken to the streets to make a stand. Our social media feeds confirmed that plenty of our small business colleagues had made the same decision. Even though there would be an economic price to pay, ethics had come first for small businesses too.

As a small business owner, it can be tempting to stay in one’s bubble, but being part of the groundswell for powerful change is both uplifting and the right thing to do. We’d do it again. In a Smallville article I once asked what the world would be like if we didn’t need the change-makers. I said:

What if every business worked to make the world a better place, every leader held the principles of justice and fairness close to their hearts? What if every action was a triple win – a win for the person, for the people around them and the world? Imagine if we were driven by the goal of creating wins for everyone?

This will only happen if each of us thinks about how we can show where we stand on issues that are important to us and our business. It’s likely that those who like what you stand for will feel more aligned to you, which is good.

It is also likely you’ll sleep easy knowing that you are part of the groundswell of powerful change

Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

Reframe, Refocus and Re-energise – Embrace the port of pause

Reframe, Refocus and Re-energise – Embrace the port of pause

If seventeen years of running my own business have taught me anything, it is the necessity of stopping to embrace the power of the pause. I have to dedicate time regularly to reflect and adjust my course of action. 

As I sit and write on a balcony high above the Mediterranean, I’m noticing how regenerative this moment to stop is. It’s quiet time in Crete, but no one told the crickets. Apart from their deafening chorus in the shimmering heat, and the water bubbling in the pool, everything is still. People are resting, and with island-wide collaboration, it’s quite possible to come to a complete standstill every afternoon. In Crete, it’s a ritual that is widely respected and plays a bit part in the appeal of the island. 

In this contemplative mood, it strikes me that while we rest, nature isn’t taking a break. The sea continues to roll onto the shore, and the breeze blows gently. Butterflies flit from white oleander to shocking pink Bougainvillea, and out in the far distance yachts play the wind and dance the tide.  

If I hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have noticed.

It’s a great lesson for those of us who run our own businesses. The world doesn’t stop when we stop, but we won’t notice what’s going on around us (and within us) if we don’t stop to take note. Taking time out allows us the space to notice and to stop being busy for busy sake, perhaps making mistakes or moving in a direction that doesn’t benefit ourselves, the people around us and the world.  

I’ve built three rituals into my diary to stop and reframe, refocus and re-energise: 

1. WALK EARLY

Every morning I walk at the same time. Sometimes I walk fast, sometimes I walk slowly, but every day is a chance for reflection and restoration. The early morning washes away my cares and builds resilience for the day. I relax, and then I’m ready to focus. Yes, I am moving, so the ‘stop’ is more of a moving meditation to embrace the power of the pause. It’s not the only exercise for my body; it’s time for my mind and my soul. 

2. WEEKLY REVIEW

Each week I have a Management Meeting with Self. It’s my time to prioritise me so that I can check that I am continuing to create Triple Wins in my business: wins for me, those around me and the world. I check that there are benefits and contributions for everyone involved with the work we do, and I extend the agenda to all aspects of my life. This moment to stop saves me time and energy and helps to adjust the course of my work. 

3. ANNUAL RETREAT FOR ONE

Once a year, I stop, alone, for one day. I think back on the previous ‘Retreat for One’ and check if my life is on track and whether I am sticking to the promises I made to myself a year back. I review the Life Design I wrote based on Gill McLaren’s book Think.Plan.Live. Before I read her book, I created my own agenda and plan, but have found that reviewing my strengths and values, and what she calls my ‘Gifts’ regularly has helped to keep me on course of what is most important to me.

Every now and then I’ll add a holiday to the mix, providing an extended time to stop.

My experience is that when I have stuck to the discipline of the three rituals of stopping, a holiday can be just that. A time to relax and unwind, without the pressure of thinking through everything in my business. Holidays can then be a time of complete rejuvenation, helping me to stay healthy, and a contributor to reaching the goals I have set for myself. 

We don’t need the Mediterranean or Crete to notice the beauty around us; we can refocus, reframe, and re-energise regularly. It’s only possible, though, if we commit to the ritual of stopping like happens every day on the island of Crete. 

Now excuse me, I have an appointment with the pool. And you have an appointment with your diary to schedule your rituals to embrace the power of the pause.

Photo by M. Monk on Unsplash

Give yourself the gift of a weekly management meeting with self

Give yourself the gift of a weekly management meeting with self

Whether I’m stressed at work or not depends on one thing: whether I have had my management meeting with self or not that week. It is a powerful ritual to spend quiet time alone, managing your work and your life.

I started this ritual a long time ago and have learned some useful tips which I will share. When I first wrote about becoming your own best manager by having a ‘management meeting with self’, I had seen the success of my clients including this weekly meeting into their diaries, and I had seen how strongly it influenced how I managed to juggle my responsibilities and grow in the process. But it was since then that I have noticed some patterns that make the ‘management meeting with self’ work well, and I’ll share them here.

Before you start, decide whether the regular time is 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour and stick to it. Then remind yourself what your goals are (at work and in other aspects of your life) and get going.

Your Management Meetings with Self are likely to be successful if you do these ten things. 

1. DIARISE

Put the meeting in your diary each week. 

2. NO EXCUSES

Don’t let anything get in the way of having your meeting

3. AGENDA

Create an agenda and stick to time.

4. LOOK BACK AND LOOK FORWARD

Do a retrospective and a plan, but no tasks. Instead, plan those tasks and diarise them. 

5. START WITH PEN AND PAPER

Switch off all devices for the first half. Allow yourself to write and to think and to doodle. 

6. DON’T BE DISTRACTED BY DEVICES

By all means, use your electronic diary or task board for the second half of the meeting but don’t allow yourself to wander off into distractions.  

7. BE KIND BUT FIRM

Imagine you are your own best manager, and that you are expecting your highest game, but with understanding. 

8. REFER TO PLANS

Your management meeting with self is to move you closer to goals and to allow you to alter your path and actions as needed. 

9. BE AGILE

The best agile practices help you to be flexible and make real-time decisions, shifting direction if needed. The Management Meeting with Self is similar to a Sprint team meeting in Agile methodology. 

10. ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY

Get someone to hold you to account that you’ve had the meeting. No details, just yes or no to whether you did it. 

There’s something reassuring about knowing that you’ve spent a bit of time in review each week, and there is no doubt it has a great impact on reaching your goals. Perhaps the real win, though, is the element of self-care. No Management Meeting with Self is complete unless it has taken into account all your life goals – for health, wealth, connection, collaboration, education and service.

By the end of each meeting, you should leave feeling that the time was well spent and that you’ve put yourself back together through the most important ritual of the week – your time with yourself.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Curate your retreat group for the best outcomes – Part 2

Curate your retreat group for the best outcomes – Part two

How do you ensure a great return on investment for all attendees of your retreat group?

If you run Retreats, you need to know it’s not all about you. It’s about each person who attends. They have chosen to spend the time and money, and it’s up to you to make it worthwhile for them. Super-worthwhile. 

As I said in part one of this article, I need to know there will be a mix of learning from the experts, amplifying my own skills, and sharing of group experience. I want to know before I get there that it will be engaging and productive. Mostly I’d like to know I will be taking away a ‘thing’: I will have completed some of my workloads or be ready to do it and be supported on my return. But only if I was planning to do that thing anyway.

It goes without saying that you need to be an expert in your field and a great facilitator.

You need to be able to marry your own needs with those of the attendees and the content (what I call the Facilitator’s Triangle). You are a key factor in the success of the retreat, but there are at least nine factors that play a powerful part. Ten, if you include the food. Good food is pretty important. 

Those nine factors are about the people, the environment, the ethics, the knowledge, skills and experience of the group. They include timing and support systems. And they are about the follow-up processes.

You’ll need engagement before, during and after the Retreat, and an honest matching of your offering to the needs of the curated group of attendees. 

Prepare well

1. The right people in your retreat group.

A touch of curation goes a long way. Do your pre-work to make sure that those who are attending can collaborate as much as is needed, and that they understand that you are aiming for triple wins. That’s wins for each of them, wins for the group, and wins for the world.

It’s a wonderful experience to turn up and know that you’ve landed in a well thought out group.Don’t be shy to down sell to those who aren’t ready or who won’t suit the group you’ve curated for this group. Balance that with an absolute commitment to diversity and inclusion. A tough balance but an important one.

2. The right environment for the retreat.

We are spoilt for choice for Retreat venues. Try the venue out, read reviews, and make sure that what you need is on offer, without fuss and with delight. It makes all the difference to the success of the retreat. 

3. The right ethics.

Having choice means that we can support environmental sustainability, fair wages, locally sourced food – whatever it is that matches your ethics. A place that feels like a partner in the Retreat process will create a much better outcome. 

Run it well

4. A celebration of the knowledge, skills and experience in the room.

Remember, it’s not all about you – it’s about your curation of the outcomes. You’ve chosen the people who are there, now choose to draw out their knowledge, skills and experience to generate even better outcomes. Co-learning and support make a Retreat rich and memorable

5. The right mix of time on and time off. 

You’ve chosen the environment, now use it. Whether it’s a short walk down to the beach to discuss one person’s agenda on the way down and their chat partner’s agenda on the way back (a technique I use frequently) or whether it’s time to journal in the outdoors, you can use the environment in the Retreat process. But you can also use it to rejuvenate and refresh, with no set agenda. Be brave. 

6. Strong support during the retreat.

Life-changing moments are often challenging. The Retreat leader is responsible for ensuring the right support is available as people make the life-decisions that retreats draw out. 

Follow up well

7. A tangible outcome.

Be sure that the expectations that were set at the start of the Retreat are met for each person. This should include a tangible outcome to create a strong return on investment. Be sure to check if this has happened as you close the retreat and if it’s not quite there, create something after the retreat that fills in the gaps.

8. The best Triple Wins for your retreat group.

The best outcomes are those that create wins for everyone. There is an opportunity for you to grow and learn with your group, for the people to achieve what they set out to achieve, and for you all to make a positive impact on the world as you re-join the real world. Set this up as an expectation early in the process and follow it through after the retreat.

9. Useful follow-up with some accountability structures. 

Big changes will have happened for your attendees. Offer them support and an accountability structure (accountability buddies, a 30-day challenge, follow up online meetings or whatever works best) to slow down the natural drop-off that happens after the high of a retreat.

A bit of preparation goes a long way, and some attention to detail during and after the Retreat is essential. Imagine, then, if you’ve also made sure you’ve got the right people in the group. What a great recipe for the best outcomes. 

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

How to get the right people to hit the yes button for your retreat – Part 1

How to get the right people to hit the yes button for your retreat – Part 1

Does your retreat offer a return on investment?

So many people I know are running business retreats. There are Retreats to unwind or to speed up. Retreats to connect with a group or to disconnect with the world. Retreats to write a book or create a blog. Podcasting Retreats, create-a-course Retreats, website Retreats, and train the trainer Retreats.

There are also Retreats to plan your life, and other Retreats to chuck your life plan away. And our very own Mayor of Smallville runs, amongst his many offerings, a Retreat to learn how to run the best Retreats.  

Any one of these Retreats might be the one I need. They’re certainly all tempting. Yet I haven’t signed up for a business Retreat for a while, and I’ve been asking myself why.

DON’T GET ME WRONG, I LOVE A GOOD RETREAT, AND I’VE RUN MY FAIR SHARE OVER THE YEARS.

Recently, though, I’ve run more ‘Retreats for One’ than group retreats to make sure I am answering the needs of that person in that moment.

The question is, how we can run group retreats that feel as if they are so bespoke and useful that they answer the needs of each person as if they are a ‘Retreat for One’?

The answer is engagement before, during and after the Retreat, and an honest matching of needs to your offering. 

If you run retreats, check that your Retreat will answer each person’s needs. You want the right people to make the right group. A touch of curation of your group can go a very long way. 

The main reasons I don’t sign up might be the very clues to filling your retreats with the right people.  

There are just four main reasons I don’t usually sign up. 

1. I think I don’t need it. 

2. If I think I need it, I believe I don’t have the money. 

3. If I think I need it and can find the money, I believe I don’t have the time. 

4. I am not convinced of the return on investment. 

(There are a few other reasons. I’ll cover them in part two of this article)

So, convince me. This is how.

1. ASK ME WHAT WAKES ME UP AT NIGHT. THEN SOLVE MY PROBLEMS WITH YOUR RETREAT. 

Really, the first step is to check what I’m having difficulty with and show me how your retreat will solve those problems. You can do that in a webinar, a survey or a chat. Chats are best.

Once you’ve asked, be sure the solutions to my problems will be found at the Retreat. If they won’t be, encourage me not to go. It will be better for everyone.  

2. CONVINCE ME IT’S WORTH THE FINANCIAL OUTLAY. 

Everyone judges how worthwhile it will be based on their own money mindset. Find out what mine is and help me to understand how the spend will pay itself off in clarity, confidence and commitment. Show me the savings that will result from the spending. 

3. CONVINCE ME IT’S WORTH MY TIME.

Show me how my time will be well spent. Explain how it will save time in the long run and that instead of running around in circles doing things that are not really worthwhile on my own, you, as the Retreat leader, will make every minute I spend a contribution worthwhile. You will create a triple win – for me, for those in the Retreat group, and for the outcomes. 

4. SHOW ME THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT.  

I need to know there will be a mix of learning from the experts, amplifying my own skills, and sharing of group experience. I want to know before I get there that it will be engaging and productive.

Mostly I’d like to know I will be taking away a ‘thing’: I will have completed some of my workload or be ready to do it and be supported on my return. I’d love a book outline, a plan for my podcast series, a speaker kit, my next retreat planned and ready, or a set of facilitation tools that I can apply the very next time I face a group. But only if I was planning to do that thing anyway.  

Once you’ve helped me work out if it is right for me, you’ll want me there, I’ll want to be there, and the group will benefit from me being part of the cohort.  If I have the need and you have the solution, yours will be the next Retreat I sign up for.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Your local coffee shop is a great place to sell your book

Your local coffee shop is a great place to sell your book

Sometimes a great partnership is right under your nose and can be the perfect way to sell your book.

Writing and coffee go together, and if you’re an author, you probably have a special table at your favourite coffee shop where you like to write. 

I wrote the lion’s share of my book, The Mentor Within, at the little table on the left just outside the door of my favourite local café.

The waitrons would often ask what I was writing. ‘A book’, I’d say, to their polite interest and slightly raised eyebrows.

I remember the day that I was working through the final edits with a red pen when the café owner, Jack, came to check on me. ‘I’ll bring you the book when it’s done,’ I said. He was keen to see it. 

Four weeks later, I arrived with Jack’s copy hot off the press in hand with it’s glossy blue and white cover and my author picture on the back.

I gave him his signed copy and thanked him for providing a wonderful space to write and coffee that had fueled my thoughts at that little table on the left. He was thrilled and showed everyone in the café. He took it home with the task of finding the one mention of Café Dolce buried deep in its pages.  

Jack and his wife attended the book launch in a funky downtown club, and the next day offered to follow up with a local launch at his café.

He’d provide the coffee, he said, and his famous home-baked biscuits. I just needed to name the date. The launch would be the start of him selling the book in his café.

And so began the great book partnership.

The café where I had written so much of the book became one of my most enduring partners.

When Jack sold his café a year or two later, this partnership was amongst those things he handed over to the new owner. He asked Ashbir to continue to support me and the book. He told me he believes the book was also useful to the local community.

While there was no monetary return for the cafe from selling my book (even though I have repeatedly offered) Ashbir confirmed that she would be delighted to keep up the partnership and could see the Triple Win it created.

Can you make a great partnership with your favourite coffee shop to promote your book? And if so, can you build in some Triple Win thinking? You need:

1. A BOOK LAUNCH.

Create a local book launch event, celebrating you as a local author, and bring regulars and new people into the café. The principal of the local school was the speaker at my launch, and a portion of each book sale in the first year was donated to the school. 

2. FREE COFFEE WITH A BOOK PURCHASE.

At my launch, every person who purchased a book received a free coffee. This was a gift from the café, along with their delicious home-made biscuits.

If they hadn’t offered, I would have covered that cost, and a few times in the past three years I have run a promotion of a free coffee for anyone who buys my book at the café. They track this and bill me later.  

3. SELL YOUR BOOK BY PLACING IT ON A CAFÉ SHELF.

I wrap each copy of the book on the café shelf to protect it, and I leave a ‘café copy’ out for people to thumb through at their table. Sometimes I pop a post-it note, brochure or book-branded pen into the wrapping.

The café may or may not want commission (my café is generous and don’t) but either way, they get kudos from selling a local author’s book, you get more sales, and the local community has easy access to purchasing your book.

4. SHARED SOCIAL MEDIA.

I give the café publicity through social media, thanking them for supporting the sale of the book, and recommending the café as a place to write.

Whenever possible, I have client meetings in the cafe, sometimes leading to more social media. The café gives me publicity when there are book-related events there. It’s a win-win. 

It is possible to sell your book through shared social media.

5. A TRIPLE WIN IN ACTION.

The partnership between my coffee shop, my book and my local community is a Triple Win in action. Free coffee, effortless promotion of the book and a little edge for the café that stocks the book.

There are plenty of ways to up the ante on this triple win. One way is to make sure everyone in the café feels loved and thanked.

The other day I presented a signed copy of the book to every person who works at Dolce. They loved the recognition, and they’re more interested in the book and its promotion than before.

I remain grateful for the ongoing support I am getting and pleased that a good number of people I might never have reached have either read the café copy or bought my book there.

It’s easier to turn your coffee and writing sessions into a great book partnership than you think.

I’d love to know if you create a great book partnership and arrange to sell your book though your local café. Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

Clarity, Action and Traction for your Conference

Clarity, Action and Traction for your Conference

Do you know that feeling when you leave a conference totally hyped?

If you do, you probably also know the feeling of waking up a week later realising that you’ve done nothing to implement what you learnt and contact the people you met at the conference. Life gets in the way, and your good intentions so often count for nothing.

It’s not unusual for me to leave a conference with a smorgasbord of ideas to follow up on, people I want to follow up with, changes I want to make, changes I want to make in my work, and ideas I want to pass on to clients and colleagues.

While I’m at the event, I make sure I make the most of it because I want to feel my time and money are well spent, but unless I make an accountability plan, it is far too easy to break the promises I make to myself. 

Here’s the thing: those of us who are conference organisers owe it to our attendees to help them to avoid ‘conference fizzle’. 

We need to put as much energy into the run-up and follow-through as we put into making a great event. 

I’ve recently consulted to several events and have tested how to avoid ‘conference fizzle’.  

Here’s how to help our conference attendees get the most out of the conference and get great traction afterwards.  Think in Threes. 

Think ‘Clarity, Action and Traction’.

Then think ‘Before, During and After’

Draw a table with ‘before, during and after’ on the Y-axis, and ‘clarity, action and traction’ on the X-axis. Then populate it with ideas to help with your planning.

1. BEFORE THE CONFERENCE.

The three things you need to think about before the conference are:

Intentions.

Help attendees set their intentions well before the conference, gaining clarity about what they want out of it. 

Preparation.

Suggest actions they can take to prepare for the conference. They might want to look up and contact speakers before the event or make connections with people they are going to meet there. 

Potential.

A pre-conference survey works wonders to get people thinking before they arrive and realising the potential of what can emerge from the conference. The survey can assist organisers in massaging the content to ensure it will meet the expectations of the participants. 

2. DURING THE CONFERENCE.

When people arrive with clarity about what they want, the organisers have a better chance of succeeding. You need to help attendees to remain clear about what they want and move towards action they will take after the conference. 

Detailed expectations

Even if you have done a pre-conference survey, you need to check in on expectations so that the group feels a joint responsibility to achieve what the chohort at the conference wants to achieve.

A simple version is to get people to find someone they haven’t met before and to discuss their expectations. They contribute a summary to the facilitators, who document and summarise expectations so that everyone knows what the audience wants. Done well, this can contribute to the outcome. 

Small groups to refer to.

The conference outcomes will be richer for everyone if attendees have a small group that they regularly connect with briefly throughout the conference. 

Themed ‘scraping’ of information.

From the expectations list, a number of themes will emerge. Each participant can choose one theme that is important to them and ‘scrape’ all the information at the conference (or look for that theme in everything that happens). They compile a list of tips and ideas on their theme which they share with the organisers so that it can be redistributed to the attendees during or after the conference. This ‘layered learning’ technique is powerful and useful to everyone.

3. AFTER THE CONFERENCE.

These suggestions start in the last few minutes of the conference and continue for two to four weeks afterwards. 

Letters to self.

Each person writes a ‘letter to self’ to be sent to them a month later. The letter reminds them of their intentions in the heat of the moment at the end of the conference. 

Accountability buddies.

Each person gets an accountability buddy to check in within the last five minutes of the conference and weekly for four weeks, to help them stick to the promises they make to themselves. 

A four-week challenge.

Once a week for four weeks send the participants an email reminding them to look out for something that was key to the conference. This reduces the speed of drop off of attention to the learning and excitement of the conference.

Here’s a final tip: if you implement just some of these suggestions your conference attendance will experience more clarity, action and traction than most attendees at conferences. Try it. I’d love to know how you go.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash