Get­ting on the front foot

An­drew Klein, pro­fes­sional MC and pre­sen­ta­tion skills speaker and di­rec­tor of SPIKE Pre­sen­ta­tions, presents his front line ob­ser­va­tions on con­fer­ences in a reg­u­lar fea­ture in BEN.

Business Events News - - News - If you are look­ing for an MC for your next con­fer­ence or a speaker/trainer on pre­sen­ta­tion skills or pitch­ing skills, email an­drew@lunch.com.au or visit his web­site at www.an­drewk­lein.com.au.

WE ARE all school-kids at heart. Yes, we are a lit­tle older, some of us a lit­tle greyer (or balder) and we might have real jobs, fam­ily com­mit­ments and maybe rent or a mort­gage to pay. But when it comes to en­ter­ing a con­fer­ence room, most peo­ple in­stantly be­come school-chil­dren again.

By which I mean we sit up the back of the room, leav­ing the front rows empty. We do this for the same rea­sons as when we were at school. It is eas­ier to hide and be in­con­spic­u­ous. We can slip in and out of the con­fer­ence room eas­ily. We can check our mo­biles with­out any­one notic­ing. The pre­sen­ter prone to in­ter­ac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties or ques­tion ask­ing or…… yikes…. bring­ing an au­di­ence mem­ber up on stage, sim­ply isn’t go­ing to pick on the naughty kids up the back. Bot­tom line, it al­lows us to a bit of breath­ing space, away from the lime­light (or at least the stage lights).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not crit­i­ciz­ing you. If I weren’t the guy up on stage speak­ing or MC’ing the con­fer­ence, I’d be up the back with you, send­ing a few sur­rep­ti­tious emails. So I get it.

But here’s the thing. As a speaker, it sucks when no one is sit­ting up the front, or just as bad, when there’s only 200 peo­ple in a room set for 300, mean­ing the del­e­gates are sit­ting in small clumps of 1’s and 2’s, with co­pi­ous empty seats and rows.

This makes it hard for the speaker to en­gage the room, to get peo­ple to laugh or con­fer with each other and well, the at­mos­phere in the room just isn’t the same as a room where ev­ery­one is close to the front, packed in tight, with peo­ple on ei­ther side of them, cre­at­ing en­ergy, en­gage­ment, con­ver­sa­tion and ‘buzz’.

Sim­ple so­lu­tion. Apart from set­ting up roped bar­ri­ers like at a con­cert, con­fer­ence or­gan­is­ers or con­fer­ence com­mit­tee mem­bers or staff should stand at the back of the room like se­cu­rity guards (smil­ing though, we don’t want to this to be­come too hard­line) and gen­tly and in good hu­mour re­quest and usher peo­ple to­wards the front. Of­fer fun in­cen­tives for peo­ple to fill the front rows (choco­lates on their seats?) or of­fer your arm to es­cort them to the front. Some del­e­gates will smile po­litely and refuse to move for­wards, but I am al­ways sur­prised at how com­pli­ant del­e­gates are if they are asked (which more of­ten than not, they aren’t).

So for the sake of a bet­ter con­fer­ence, let’s get on the front foot and head to the front.

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