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Monday
Oct062008

Preparing your Speakers for the Stage

Before your speakers take the stage, there are a few things you want to cover off to ensure you set them up for success.  Ideally you have several hours before the show to prep your speakers, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.  

One conference I was producing was set to start in three hours when I got a call from the car service that the company president, our second speaker on the printed agenda, was no where to be found at the airport.  I called his cell to hear, “Oh yeah, I’m catching a ride on a friend’s jet. Oh and I invited Jeff to join me. "  Ah, yes Jeff, our third speaker.  I say, “You know you’re on at 1pm?”  “Yes, we’re taking off in a few minutes, it's a fast plane."

And wouldn’t you know, they arrived two minutes before the host took the stage. Long enough for me to give her the thumbs up, call the first sequence of the show and pull them backstage for a quick briefing.   Even if you have three minutes, you’ll do your speakers and show a great service by covering these important details:
  • Monitor: Show the speaker where the down monitor is located.
  • Clock: Review how much time the speaker has allocated and where the countdown clock will be placed.
  • Mics: Test the wireless microphones and emphasize you do not want the speaker to turn “off” the switch while they wait to go on stage – very common habit.  
  • Position: Ask if the speaker plans to walk or stay in one place (important for the camera and lighting operators).
  • Entry: Remind the speaker who is introducing them, who the host is and the music they will hear as they enter the stage.
  • Closing: Explain the closing sequence such as, “You will introduce James, shake his hand, then exit to the right.”
  • Remotes: Show the speaker the remote slide advancer – best to keep an extra backstage for this purpose.   
  • Q&A: Confirm that there will not be a Q&A section (or will be).
  • Name Tag: Remove the speaker’s name tag before they enter stage.
Hopefully your speakers arrive early enough to be fully briefed.  Ideally all speakers are in the hotel the night before. If not, think about the poor planners behind the presidential debate that was on/off/on and be glad that wasn't you.  I wonder how early McCain actually arrived.

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