Have you tried turning your meeting upside down? You know, where you distribute all information in advance (written, as videos, or podcasts) as to use the actual meeting or conference to give the participants an opportunity to discuss, reflect, and ask questions.
If so: Good for you! You’re certainly a front runner that we can all learn from. And if we ask you, you’ll probably say that it has changed your own way of working too, because you now need to prep your speakers even more. So, once the program has been fully set with speakers, your work is not done yet.
ask not what you can do
Changing meeting formats will of course have an impact on the speakers as a standard presentation of 132 slides for an hour-long presentation will no longer do, and your speakers should be willing to adjust to your ‘rules’. This means that they cannot just add your logo to their usual slide deck and give the same presentation they do for every conference because “that’s how I do it”.
It is OK to make requirements when it comes to your speakers. After all, it is your event. You focus on the meeting objectives, and your choice of speakers support these objectives. You are the one who knows your audience and their preferences the best – matching speakers with conferences is a big task, and it can make or break a program if it is not done well.
Make it clear from the first contact to a potential speaker that you are not on the lookout for a standard presentation. He/she should have the possibility to politely decline your invitation if he/she does not feel like taking on a new approach (or have not tried it before and do not have the time to prepare … or …).
Sometimes, I meet people who are afraid of making demands to an expensive speaker … because “we pay him a lot of money to be here”. Well, exactly! It is your event, and he is just one speaker out of a bunch. He should fit in the format.
still room for presentations
Even if you have distributed the material beforehand, you may need a few presentations once you have gathered all the participants – maybe to highlight a few points or add information that was not available before the event – and to support the changed format of the event, you really do not want those presentations to be ‘same old’.
Instead, you could ask the speakers to present in the form of Pecha Kucha (the speaker gets 6 minutes and 40 seconds to show/speak for 20 slides that are on the screen for 20 seconds each) or Ignite (20 slides that are shown for 15 seconds each – it gives the speaker 5 minutes to present). However, that might leave some speakers asking for a little ‘moral’ support.
Or maybe you ask a somewhat adventurous speaker to present his knowledge in the form of a game of Jeopardy where you can use the answers as a driver for discussion … especially for those questions that get wrong answers.
Now, you need to work with your speakers on the format. Continue your contact with the speaker all the way up until your event. If you leave them all to themselves, they might give up on preparing for an untested format and bring their standard presentation … and then you are back to square 1.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I am not sure that you can book Bono or Dalai Lama to give a 5 minute Ignite presentation, but if you get either of these personalities to speak at your event, I bow in your honor, no matter the form of their presentation.