How to Make Your Meetings & Conferences More Interactive

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Audiences expect a higher degree of interactivity at meetings and conferences than in the past. Meeting planners are looking for speakers who can hold an audience’s attention while delivering key messaging and making the overall experience of the event inspiring and unforgettable.

There are a number of ways to include interactive components in your speakers’ presentations. New technological tools can amplify your message, facilitate networking and build community, but the basic foundation of any successful event is its core content. Here are three key ideas about how to make your next event even more memorable and powerful:

1) Book speakers who offer interactive programs. Audiences want more than just a 60-minute lecture; give them a program that combines the lecture format with something truly invigorating.

Kevin Harrington (of Shark Tank fame), for instance, deftly combines a traditional speech with a “pitch tank” interactive competition where audience members pitch ideas or products to a panel. Kevin also offers pre-event pitch coaching via conference calls to finalists and he is a masterful emcee and facilitator for an entire event.

TIP: Many speakers might not even highlight possible interactive components in their bios or programs so it’s important to tell your speakers bureau agent that you want someone who provides interactivity and something fresh to engage your audience.

2) Ask your speaker to incorporate deep customization into their program by using live feedback.

For instance, Captain George Dom, a former leader for the Blue Angels, uses the Waggl survey platform to gather valuable feedback before, during and after his presentation. This instantly engages the audience and makes them an integral part of the program. Captain Dom’s sessions are the most highly rated at the events he is booked for because participants say they appreciate being heard and that he understands their organization and challenges. Live meetings need to have more two-way interactive conversations like these.

TIP: You can also use the fireside chat format and Q&A to help bring the audience into the conversation.

3) Book a musician, artist, scientist or someone else that does on-stage demos.

Someone who excels at putting together customized demos is Professor AnnMarie Thomas, founder of the Playful Learning Lab. She creates customized interactive demos and surprises for all her talks. Recently, she demonstrated exploding cakes for the Factory of Imagination Conference and for another program; she even brought Damian Kulash from the band OK Go onto the stage as a surprise interview guest (after wowing the audience with one of his amazing, viral videos).

Another great example is Peter Himmelman, a Grammy-nominated musician who leads creativity and team building workshops where participants write their own songs and then Peter and his band perform the songs at the end of the session!

TIP: Facilitation of an audience participation activity is a unique separate skill set from just speaking. If you want your speaker to also facilitate an interactive session, it’s a good idea to make certain that they have experience running successful sessions. The right facilitator will engage the audience, which will make the meeting or conference far more valuable.

©, published on November 9, 2018

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