Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

Most conferences consist of a series of presentations, often with cluttered, unreadable slides with no clear message, followed by a short question and answer session. Even if every speaker at the conference is a great presenter with concise and compelling content, by the time the later speakers get their turn, the audience is bored with the format. Many people may even have left.

If you are responsible for organising or speaking at conferences, is your default to prepare a presentation? For most people it is, so let’s take a look at a few alternatives that will ensure your audience stay engaged and interested in what you have to say from beginning to end.


Rather than talk about asset allocation and the investment process we encouraged a team of investment specialists to conduct one of their meetings in front of the audience. This was presented to the audience as a rare, fly-on-the-wall opportunity to see how investment decisions are made. The conference MC was also trained to facilitate the review. Likewise, we’ve encouraged lawyers to ditch their fifty-slide presentation in favour of staging a live mediation.  If you were attending a conference wouldn’t you agree that these would be more interesting ways of gaining insight into these types of situations?


A recent example was during an Allied Health Professionals conference where delegates witnessed a live feed of a non-intrusive heart operation from a theatre. The speaker at the conference gave commentary.


Here, a panel of experts are invited to answer questions from the MC, audience or both. This is a particularly good option when there are opposing views on a subject.


It is often a welcome change for the audience to tune in to a Parkinson-style interview. A relaxed, informal set-up works well here.


Multiple choice quizzes will gain audience participation. This is how we present our ‘Pitching To Win’ programme when we are asked to present this at conferences.


Give audience members a subject to discuss with their neighbour for a few minutes. You will hear the room ‘buzz’ and quickly get a feel for when they are finished. You can then elicit views and ideas from the audience.

Using videos and other media can also be a welcome break for conference delegates. The above is not an exhaustive list but will give you some alternatives to think about before you reach for that slide deck. Irrespective of what intervention you choose, careful planning, preparation and rehearsal is key.

More and more clients are engaging with us early in the planning process of their conferences. This means that we can look at the event as a whole, the sequence of interventions, type of communication and media, overall messaging and then help provide creative solutions.

When you add variety to your conferences and the execution is slick, your delegates will learn more, remember more, enjoy it more and be inclined to take favourable action.







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