Do prepare your speakers with all the information you can about the conference, including theme, size and organizational expectations. Don’t let speakers assume it’s business as usual. Sometimes, those of us who speak or train need reminders that we shouldn’t assume too much either.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a conference, and I was the one who did the assuming. I have no excuse. It was a last minute affair and I admit the occasion was most important for me as a visibility opportunity. As a speaker who talks about communicating–and a trainer, too, the process seemed a no-brainer. No insult intended for the organization. I caught myself assuming way too much. Normally, I address subjects on presenting, on training, on getting an audience to listen, on the “how-tos” and “why-fors” of communication in general so I should have known better.
As anyone–trainer, seminar leader, facilitator should expect when invited to present at a workshop or conference, there are some basic logistical details to begin with and then more details, those about your audience, for example, once you know. This was a group I thought I knew. As a trainer, I was sure I could handle any situation that might arise from not having a microphone or projector or screen, but what I had not counted on were audience expectations in how I would present that material. This particular workshop was for coaches, trainers and training developers, sales managers, etc–so pretty much communicators themselves. While it seemed to me I was to be speaking on the topic of the workshop–communicating credibility, which I did, I hadn’t thought I’d be expected to “walk the walk” of the trainer to demonstrate my own credibility by using icebreakers, activities and discussion. Apparently, my slide show didn’t reflect the latest trend in slide preparation and my talk, although engaging, was not what was expected…from me anyway.
While all the other speakers and presenters who were speaking on similar topics at the conference took the standard route of interactive speech and presentation as I did, I was expected to use all the training tools in my arsenal instead of just talk. Had I known the expectation ahead of time, that I would be viewed as the speaker/trainer extraordinaire by the audience, I could have given the audience more of what it expected. Granted, it was my fault, but now I will remind myself and others that, when it comes to training and planning training, there is always something we can’t know unless we ask.
For more resources about training, see the Training library.