I had 20 minutes to set up, but I was still worried about the logistics of my presentation. You see there was a sponsor for my session who wanted to show a video which meant not only an application change but possibly a computer change too. Much to my relief, within minutes of my arrival, an AV professional strolled into the room. He asked both of us about our needs and immediately went to work. He embedded the video in my presentation, so all I would have to do is click through to make it play and click one more time at the end of the video to get back to my title slide. What a relief! I imagined an awkward silence while I flipped from one application to another or even worse, while I switched computers.
Inevitably when speakers are left on their own to figure out the AV something goes wrong. The computer does not ‘talk’ to the projector. The slide advancer runs out of batteries. The microphone disconnects and stops working. Most long-time speakers have learned to roll with these quirks of technology but, even for the most seasoned of us, a tech surprise can throw us off our game.
Later during the conference, I took the opportunity to thank my new-found AV friend for all of his help. He said, the staff at his company purposely stations someone in each room pre-session to reduce speaker anxiety. A not nervous speaker, he said, delivers a better presentation.
He is right. A speaker that feels confident that the technology is going to work makes a better presentation. A speaker that knows what to expect is a better speaker. This analogy works the same for each participant type at your conference. Participants who know what to expect, know what to do, and are not nervous have a better time themselves, and they help to build a better experience for everyone else.
- The exhibitor who had an easy setup and received answers to their questions quickly, and correctly is calmer and can be more welcoming to attendees.
- The volunteer who knows where to stand, what to do and the purpose of their job can dive right in and fulfill their duties and may even add a little welcoming flair along the way!
- The attendee who gets emails ahead of the conference letting them know what to expect, how to select their sessions, what to wear, where to go, does not have to worry about the small stuff and instead can open themselves to enjoying the experience.
From board members to the conference committee to speakers to exhibitors and volunteers, tell them what to expect, set expectations, make their jobs more manageable, and eliminate surprises. Prework like this can go a long way toward reducing nervousness thereby creating a more welcoming and engaging environment for everyone.