Event Wisdom: Simple things that make a difference

Gail Davis, 06 November 2009

This past week, I was at an event where 90 % of the presenters were African American and they were projected on the IMAG screen against black pipe and drape. Most men wear dark suits when they present. So consider grey pipe and drape. It is a clean look.

I know you need to consider many elements in making this decision but don’t forget the speakers. Make it routine to share the color of the pipe and drape with them – whether they are internal or external.

I remember years ago working on an event with Elizabeth Dole. Her office called and, as a part of the pre-event check list, they asked the color of the pipe and drape. She showed up in the perfect suit.

Step for vertically challenged speakers- Nothing is worse than a speaker getting behind the podium, pulling the microphone down … and then you can’t see them. Almost every A/V department has a step that can be placed inside the bottom part of the podium. If you have a speaker that is less than 5’ 5, just coach them to use the step. Then they won’t be playing around with the microphone and you will get a much better image from the audience both when looking at the speaker direct or on an IMAG projection.

Sight lines- When you are doing site inspections be wary of rooms with posts or columns. No one wants to listen to a speaker while peering around a post trying to get a view. Same is true for large floral. They can make a room look dynamic, but often block the view of the speaker.

Table stanchions- These are the silver holders for table numbers. There is no need for them once everyone has found their table. Make it a request in your BEO (Banquet Event Order) that the wait staff removes them once they begin serving the first course.

Book signings- Attendees LOVE to have their books signed by an author. And a few simple steps make it smoother for everyone.

Have several black fine-tip Sharpies for the author- Have lots of yellow Post-it notes. Ask the author where they like to sign the book. Then enlist the help of a few staff members to work the line. Their job is to pass out yellow Post-it notes to everyone. Ask them to print in legible letters the name (with correct spelling!) they want the speaker to use when personalizing the book. There are so many ways to spell various names that this is a huge time saver and prevents a disappointing mistake. After the name is written clearly on the Post-it note, they should place it on the page that will be signed. Viola. Now you will have a smooth book signing.

You also need to ask the speaker if they will allow photos- Establish the photos policy on the front and be consistent. Also it is important to know if the speaker is only staying for an allotted time or will they stay until the end. The staff helping you work the line needs to know. If the speaker is only staying for an allotted time, do not allow photos and explain why the process is important – i.e. you want everyone to get their books signed before the speaker leaves at [time].

Speaker arrival- Speakers travel all the time and try to avoid being away from home longer than necessary. If it is important to you that a speaker arrives the night before, you need to address it in the contract. If your speaker is coming for the day only, you need a green room (speaker ready room) or a hotel room for the speaker to freshen up. Most hotels will work with you on a special rate if the speaker uses it only for freshening up.

Quality A/V support- Don’t skimp on A/V cost. If you hire a speaker, you want your audience to hear what they have to say. Always allow time for sound checks and make sure everyone is on the same page so you have a flawless event.