A conference facilitator helps to engage and inspire change!

It’s that time of year again when people are filled with anticipation about the year ahead and their new year’s resolutions are still ringing in their ears.… Yes it’s conference season – so here’s a few pointers on how an expert conference facilitator helps to engage, motivate and inspire change!

Our MD Paul Richmond has just been out on the road as a conference facilitator and delivering keynote speeches at employee and leadership team conferences for clients located across the UK. Visiting towns such as Brighton and Newcastle, Paul has facilitated and delivered workshops and acted as MC and host for a number of our clients. The feedback has been tremendous as people have been inspired with the level of energy and enthusiasm that their conferences have created – and that’s not all about us. It’s all about the way your conference programme is put together, so if you want to know how to get it right, take a look at some of these simple ideas.

What’s the point?

Just as your company or organisation wants to have a really clear idea of its vision it’s a good idea to give your conference a theme, because that makes it all the more memorable and everybody involved can focus their sessions within the confines of the theme. It’s good for the speakers and it’s good for the audience and allows the conference organiser to arrange everything into a logical flow.

Getting engaged!

The top 800 favourite slides… Never really made it to the top of anybody’s favourite session in any conference. Yet so many people ask their audience to sit there and be interested for what can be hours during the day without any engagement.

Engagement is easy… Even if you are going through last year’s results or next year’s budget, or an update on the quality control system, you can ask your audience to spend some time during your presentation chatting to their neighbour, answering a poll with a show of hands, or working in small groups when they are seated in cabaret tables on one particular topic.

Make the roving Mic work the room and make sure you build it into your presentation. As a rule of thumb you will need twice as long to do the feedback as you do for the exercise, so five minutes exercise and 10 minutes feedback breaks up any presentation and makes it much more enjoyable for the audience.

Practice

In our experience over the last 20 years we have seen some great presenters, and solid subject matter – only for it all to go horribly wrong because people have not bothered to rehearse.

If you are going to stand up on the stage and present to your entire organisation, or your management team or anyone who is valuable to the success of the business (and your career) then it is important that you rehearse and ensure you do your very best job.

Go digital!

Last week at the #JTL conference, (who train more apprentices than anyone else in the building services engineering sector) they used a platform called #Sli.do.

Slido is an audience interaction tool for meetings, events and conferences. It offers interactive Q&A, live polls and insights about your audience and with almost 300 people in the audience, it was a fantastic success.

The software enabled JTL to get immediate responses from 300 people and meant that every session had the opportunity of engaging with every single person in the room, who had a voice, could be heard and whose vote counted!

It also meant for some very lively questions when it came to the final session of the first day – ‘Ask the Exec’.

There were over 50 questions posted and the system allowed the entire audience to vote them up or down with the most popular questions getting over 50 votes. The exec team were able to answer questions that were important to their staff there and then – topics included everything from going digital, holidays, working hours, pensions, learning and development and strategy. Slido enabled these questions to be asked and answered in a very short space of time. Giving management immediate feedback on the issues most at the heart of their team.

Shake it up and have fun!

The best conferences will balance ‘tell’ presentations, with facilitated discussions in roundtable groups, where information can be fed back by the business to the management, that otherwise they will never have a chance to get in such a collaborative environment.

Make the breaks longer. Moving 200-300 people out for coffee, realistically means you will never restart in less than 30 minutes. It’s also worth giving them a bit longer for lunch because it allows people time to network and they feel as if they’ll getting something back.

Coffee and tea for the masses

Let’s be clear if you were in a queue of more than 10 people in Starbucks… you would go somewhere else wouldn’t you?

So when you plan the layout,  always make sure you have enough coffee points and tea points and indeed lunch serving points, so that you don’t end up with people still queueing for their lunch after an hour or still waiting for a coffee while the next session is starting.

We have seen some conferences that allow for sports competitions in the summer and these are arranged on a semi formal basis for various teams to play.

Certainly the consumption of a couple of bottles of wine or beer over dinner is more than likely to happen – so being clear about a reasonable start time in the morning means that when people do go to the bar for an evening‘s entertainment – they know they are expected back by 9 o’clock – bright eyed and bushy tailed!

Who’s who?

If you want to create a sense of one team, then you really do need to have a clear seating plan. Day one being different to day two, being different to the dinnertime seating plan. This allows every individual to sit with up to 30 different people over a two day conference and that’s quite special.

Last week we had examples of people sitting next to individuals they had spoken to on the phone for many years but had never met in person!

Do we really need a master of ceremonies or a conference facilitator?

Yes you do.

The independence, time management, the introductions and thank you’s for every speaker, contributes towards making the whole thing incredibly professional. It also allows the management team to relax and focus on their specific piece of the jigsaw when they’re presenting.

Plus it means that you can get someone on board as the conference facilitator who will have the energy and enthusiasm throughout then entire conference who can carry a room and help ensure is engaged and wanting more.

If you are planning your company conference and want to ensure it is brilliant – give us a call and see how a conference facilitator from the Grogroup can help ensure your next event is the best yet. And click here to hear what our clients have had to say.