Keeping the Audience Awake

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It’s every event planner’s worst fear: learning that there is to be a whole bunch of speeches at an event along with the expectation that the audience is going to stay engaged.

Everybody knows that nobody likes speeches, and yet many companies still insist on giving them. What’s an event planning professional to do when an event’s success or failure is on the line and dependant on keeping an audience actively engaged?

First, you can make sure the scheduled speeches are short and interesting—but good luck with that!Keeping the Audience Awake

Alternately, you can implement a few tried-and-true tricks to help keep the audience awake, and maybe even engaged.

Thoroughly Investigate the Space

There is no shortage of event locations in Toronto. That means there is no reason to pay to host an off-site event in a venue that makes your attendees lose their will to live!

Good lighting and temperature controls and comfortable seating are the minimum standard that needs to be set. You should also test the AV equipment to make sure the sound is as clear at the back of the room as it is at the front. If you’re being choosy - and you absolutely should be – the catering options should be varied to appeal to a broad audience.

Set the Pace  

In a perfect world, every speaker would be lively and engaging. They would stick to their notes and to the point. Alas, we live in this world, not a perfect one.

You can coach speakers a little, but you can’t control who they are or what they say. While you may have a carefully crafted event schedule, you have to know when it’s time to deviate from it.

For example, the time right after a particularly dry or technical presentation is the right time to call for a break to let the audience freshen up before coming back for more.

Ensure Question and Answer Periods

The Q&A portion of speeches does more than make people feel like they have to pay attention because there will be a quiz at the end. It engages the audience, it provides a distraction and it gives the speaker much needed feedback about the information in their presentation. It has to be a little more strategic than pausing every once in a while to ask "Are there any questions?" because that puts the audience on the spot.

Though nobody likes to admit it, virtually all of the Q’s from a Q&A session during a speech come from planted questions. Ever been sitting there awkwardly as a speaker waits entirely too long to see if there are any questions? That’s what happens when you don’t use plants, so plan accordingly…

It looks like speeches are here to stay, so as an event planner the best you can hope for is an audience that at least appears to be entertained. Do your best to keep things moving along and make sure the catering is fantastic. It’s all people will talk about later anyway, and that will make you look like a superstar!