Thoughts on conferences
Show up early…. yes, you. Everyone needs to show up early. Depending on the amount of work that needs to be done, staff members should be on-site and setting things up AT LEAST an hour before people start showing up. Registration tables, video demos, installations, presentations… everything takes time to get ready. WHY: Because it looks silly to be dinking around with technology and paperwork while people are showing up. Have you ever gone to a great hotel and had the concierge tucking in her shirt, the computers getting installed, and the bellhop tying his shoes in the middle of the lobby? Look like you know what the heck you’re doing and be ON POINT well before the people show up.
If you’re presenting, have some kind of back-up in case everything blows up. Have another story, have a riff on-deck, have a prop… have SOMETHING to keep that energy going. Presentations stop, internet access breaks, and wireless mouse batteries run out; be ready for it. Distract attention from the control panel windows that are going on and tell an embarrassing story about yourself. Don’t slam your OS or your software or your IT department or yourself – that gets awkward. Don’t walk people what you’re doing, multi-task. WHY: Though every great (and many good) speaker(s) can recover from a screeching halt, not everyone knows what to do DURING the screeching. If you’re lucky, there’s an IT person around who can fix the problem on the fly but you still need to keep that attention (if you even had it in the first place). Technical problems will always happen and usually at the worst times. No one is rolling their eyes at you as long as you don’t make it worse on yourself.
Have excellent IT staff on hand. Actually, this rule is for everyone at all times. Find someone, hire someone, pay them well, treat them like they are all-important (because they are), let them work the way they want to, make sure they understand security and privacy, make sure they’re not painfully anti-social, and befriend them. WHY: There is no work-around for having a great IT guy/gal. Having someone who can quickly (and correctly) fix problems instills massive confidence. Most people (I’m talking 90% [conservatively]) don’t know how to fix fairly basic computer problems. Having someone to help these folks is very valuable. Having someone that can fix everything else as well is priceless. The IT Admin for the company I’m contracted with is smart, capable, cool, calm, collected, patient, and knows it all. It’s a pleasure to watch him work his magic.
- Does your audience need files? Documents? Installs? Data? Databases? Put all this stuff on a cheap USB and give it to them with instructions. Not possible? Sensitive data? Put all this stuff on several USBs and train your staff on how to implement. WHY: The more people armed and capable (actually capable) to help your audience, the quicker that problems will be solved and the better the conference will run.
- Give each of your staff members a pack of sugar-free gum. Tell the ones presenting that if they chew gum during the presentation that they will be fired. Then say, “Just kidding… but seriously.”
- Just saw this – if your projector isn’t fitting the whole screen on the big screen, adjust the resolution on the computer running the presentation. In Windows XP, right-click the desktop, select Properties, select the Settings tab, and drop the screen resolution down (try 800×600).
- Drink less sleep more, even if you’re having fun. WHY: Sounds ridiculous, I know, but just go with it.