Always Prep Your Speakers…Or Else

Source14 Panel

There was a lot of buzz around the Women’s Leadership Summit sessions at Dreamforce this year. Specifically, the Women’s Innovation Panel with Gayle King (who I watch every morning on CBS Morning Show) interviewing Susan Wojcicki, CEO at YouTube, and Jessica Alba, CEO at The Honest Company. This session had huge potential to discuss the success and struggles both CEOs have faced in growing their companies. Both are mothers, yes, but they are also two CEOs who work hard to encourage success, manage teams and make important day-to-day decisions, all the while in the public eye.

Unfortunately, King chose to focus on a different area. When Wojcicki mentioned that her children range in age from 8 months to 16 years old, King asked, “by the same husband?” King again drew negative attention to the female CEOs when addressing Alba’s desire to start The Honest Company, “people seem to think there’s a beginning and an end to a Hollywood career. Were you thinking ahead about that? Your Hollywood career is by no means over,” insinuating that Alba eventually couldn’t do both.

As an event producer, it’s sessions like this that evoke anxiety and horror, but also drive me to constantly refine my management style. The lack of prep with the panel at Dreamforce isn’t totally the panelists fault. The event producer is partially responsible for ensuring that everyone is on the same page before walking out on stage. This unfortunate example drives home two points from my #50Tips to Hosting Badass Events presentation.

Prep your speakers

Tip 15: Prep your speakers

As a producer, it’s up to you to ensure everyone who walks out on stage is adequately prepared. You’re responsible for the content and it shouldn’t matter who the speaker is–CEO, celebrity, hackathon participant–it all comes down to your guarantee that only excellence is being shared from the stage. At Reinventing Events, we schedule prep calls with speakers and panels that usually last 20 minutes. The first 10 minutes are spent reviewing the content and allowing our client to discuss details with the speaker. Beforehand, we mention to the client that this is the time for them to make suggestions to the speaker for what will be best received by attendees. The last 10 minutes of the call are to cover logistics like where to check-in, details for reimbursements/travel and reminders about the VIP reception or lounge. Super quick! Speakers thank us for these calls!

Panel Facilitator

Tip 17: Don’t make your panel facilitator do all the work

Some people think panels are easy–line up the panelists, appoint a moderator and you’re done. Absolutely NOT TRUE! So many panels managed this way don’t incorporate proper preparation tactics. Many panelists don’t meet each other until they’re in the green room, which is way too late. Good moderators will want to connect with their panelists in advance. When we manage panels, we start the conversation with an introductory email, asking everyone to contribute something they’re interested in. We try to make sure the conversations steer clear of areas of self-promotion and make that known. We work to get panels on a call together, with our client, so the direction of the conversation is streamlined on stage. Arranging panelists for a call takes additional work to coordinate, but it’s well worth the extra effort!

Bottom line–even though it may seem labor-intensive, event producers must review items being presented, no matter the speaker, facilitator or panelist. Don’t expect them to know what’s best for your audience. That’s your job!


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About the author

Karen Hartline Karen’s passion is creating experiences that are engaging and unique, always thinking of what attendees will find interesting. For her, events are about the ultimate experience, starting with attendee registration through the post-event wrap-up email and everything in between. She prides herself on event design and strategy to make an unforgettable event.

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