Standing Out from the Crowd: The Secrets of Interactive Meetings

The Saturday meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association featured two interactive sessions that helped professional speakers stand out from the crowd.

Sarah Michel: How to be The Session Everyone is Talking About!

Sarah MichelSarah Michel, CSP is a meetings architect with over 15 years of experience designing one-of-a-kind meetings that matter. Sarah showed us you how to collaborate directly with audiences to generate deep meaning. She built on many of excellent suggestions in the report she helped author: Conference Connexity: Delivering on your Networking Promise.

From taking charge of the seating to allow conference attendees to interact freely, to chunking down content into shorter segments so that attendees have plenty of time for small group discussions, Sarah walked the audience through a number of ways to deliver on the promise of networking time (the main reason many people attend live events).

She used a model of how the brain learns and retains information. We start by receiving information (from the presenter) and then integrate it by reflecting and making connections. More powerful integration occurs when we make sense of the content and finally we gain maximum benefit if we test ideas by speaking or writing about it.

She had us discuss how we can encourage attendees to develop their own ideas about the content. I worked with my table mate Rick Gilbert who shared that middle managers at his executive presentation courses brainstorm and role play solutions to engage C-Level audiences.

Sarah shared a useful report that her consulting company has written for conference organizers on ways to improve the experience of attendees’ networking experience.

Sarah is a believer in really scaling back the amount of content in presentations to allow for a third- to two-thirds of the total time to allow for interaction between audience members to connect and discuss content instead of just listening and note taking.

Jim Carrillo: Innovative Video Skills

Jim CarrilloPast Chapter President Jim Carrillo led a hands-on workshop which demonstrated some basic, powerful and effective video skills. As speakers, we are all able to articulate our message. Video is the easiest way to amplify this message to the world: on social media, our own blog or website, as training aids for our presentations.

Jim forcefully made the point that we have reached the point in time when video captured on the smart phone is available to anyone. Gone are the days when formats had to be translated, cables hooked up from camera to projector or any of the other large or small barriers to getting video done. Now it is a simple matter of point, shoot and post.

He encouraged us to take simple, low-cost, steps to produce effective video. This includes:

  • Always hold the phone in landscape mode so that the video fills the screen on YouTube.
  • Lighting matters, but a simple lamp with paper clipped over it as a diffuser works.
  • Sound can be captured close up with a built-in mic. For distance, invest in something better.
  • A simple web-around backdrop or cloth held by willing assistants cuts the clutter in any room.

Jim demonstrated all this with a few volunteers and created a compelling video on the spot in minutes.

Jim Carrillo video

Jim has made resources available on his website. Check it out and you’ll see the results from his training session as well as find a host of useful tips and tricks. I recommend it!

Thanks to Sarah and Jim for one of the most useful Saturday mornings I’ve spent in a good while.

2 Comments so far
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Ian, you do a great job of summarizing lessons learned. Thanks for the kind words. Your speech writing skills are well demonstrated in the way you use words to describe the event.

An impassioned plea to switch from presenting to interactive learning by Sarah’s colleague Jeff Hurt.

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