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Speaking on a webinar? Do these first!

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Interruptions, awkward camera angles, and background noises are all indications that you’re an amateur webinar presenter. Polish up your act by doing these 10 things first, to ensure you’re viewed as a professional (and asked to speak again!).

1. Use headphones
Most webinar tools allow you to connect via a telephone or VOIP. Using headphones helps minimize background noise, ensure your voice is heard clearly, and reduces the possibility of audio-feedback. I was once on a program where the busy street traffic and police sirens could be overheard on the speaker’s phone line… don’t be that person.

2. Close the door
You’re giving a presentation, and therefore it’s obvious that you find a quiet place to present. If you’re in your office, a space in your home, or a shared conference room, simply close the door. This is an indicator that you’re busy and shouldn’t be interrupted. Better yet, put a physical “Do Not Disturb, Recording in Progress” sign on your door to alert those nearby to keep their voices and potential disturbances to a minimum.

3. Put your phone on DND
Often overlooked are potential distractions from incoming calls and the occasional office page. Turn on the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone, which will both mute your office ringtone and disable others from being able to interrupt your phone line. Yes, I have been in a program before where the presenter’s phone line was automatically put “on hold” due to an incoming call into their line, triggering the dreadful “hold music” across the airwaves and therefore derailing the entire presentation.

4. Turn off pop-up notifications and alerts
These usually important attention getters will become points of frustration for you during a webinar. If you’re sharing your computer screen, it will become increasingly frustrating (as well as embarrassing) anytime an alert or pop-up comes through on your device, visible to all participants. Common ones to silence include: incoming email notifications and previews, in-office chats, text messages (if your cell is connected to your laptop), and calendar/task reminders. Not to mention, these also make distracting noises.

5. Mute your computer speakers
Again, this is an example of muting any device that may potentially disrupt your presentation unintentionally. Muting your computer speakers is a sure bet that you’ll minimize distractions (perhaps even from an unintended alert you forgot to turn off? See #4). Also, if you’re connecting to the audio line via VOIP through a headset plugged into your laptop, muting your computer speakers may also reduce the potential for audio feedback.

6. Charge all batteries
Again, it seems obvious, but when your mind is concentrated on preparing the content for your presentation, the obvious is commonly overlooked. Is your laptop charged or plugged in? Are you connecting via a cell, is it also fully charged? What about a computer mouse… usually used as your slide advancer. Yes, I have been on a webinar before when the presenter’s mouse batteries literally died during the webinar. Simply put in a fresh set beforehand and you’ll be assured you’re good to go.

7. Have water available
You’ll be speaking a lot. Keep your voice clear and drink plenty of water. Enough said.

8. Install updates and plug-ins in advance
Is your laptop scheduled to automatically install system updates? Does your webinar platform require a plug-in (lots do)? These updates and installs may be routine, but, if they’re prompted right before you’re set to speak, could put you off balance and render your device temporarily unavailable. Nothing’s worse then watching the dreadful “Updates in progress, this could take a while” notification take over your computer.

9. Print out a hard-copy of your slides or notes
In the event that something unexpected happens, it’s important to have a printed copy of your speaking points in front of you. I also use this paper copy to jot down notes, perhaps of something interesting that a prior speaker said that was worth mentioning again. Having a hard-copy of your materials is a simple way to ensure you’ll be prepared. One time during a presentation I accidentally bumped my desk and knocked the wire loose from the computer docking station to the external monitor. My screen went black while I was on the air. I continued presenting from my printed notes, and at the next break for Q/A, I promptly plugged the cord back into the dock. No one was the wiser, but see how this could have escaladed quickly?

10. Preview your camera shot
Check in advance to find out if the webinar will be featuring video feeds of the presenters. If yes, use a website like this to test out your camera shot before you go live. Things to check: your personal appearance (do your hair, make-up, sit up straight, and wear appropriate attire), lighting (you’ll want centered front-lit lighting which could be accomplished by repositioning a desk lamp and closing the curtains), camera angle (lens should look slightly down on you, which may require raising your laptop on a few books), what’s in your background (a blank wall with minimal distractions is best). This video demonstrates how to look good on webcam.

Presenting on a webinar has similarities to speaking live on stage. Both require quality audio, technology, and the reduction of distractions and interruptions. Use these steps as a guideline the next time you present on a webinar. What other tips and suggestions do you have? Share in the comments below!

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Conference photographers – Think like a marketer not like a photographer

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Our clients hold their conferences in various cities across the country and beyond, and we hire conference photographers who are local to each event. While we try to balance budget vs. experience, and certainly check portfolios and references, we are never quite certain what we are getting until we receive access to the images after the event has ended.

The photo above is an actual image we received from the photographer hired for a conference. Truly, it is a lovely image that reflects both technical skill and compelling composition.

But, it is not what we are looking for in conference photography.

We are looking for images that can be used on our website and in communications to promote our association and future conferences. We want to see:

People
And, lots of them. We want to reflect the fact that the conference has a lot to offer, and is therefore well-attended. Showcase the filled seating in the presentation audience, heavy traffic in the aisles of the scientific poster sessions and well-attended social networking events. This might mean planning staff and board group shots for the beginning or end of a networking event, so the photographer is free to capture the networking action when attendance peaks.

And, please show our conference attendees having fun and interacting, or alternatively, engaged in learning.

Branding
The photos received from one recent conference included lots of close-ups of presenters’ faces. Really close-up. The images represent very sharp, expertly-executed photography. However, we would have preferred the inclusion of some context, such as the branded podium and the branded presentation slide projected on the screen behind the speaker.

Our conferences are all well-branded, and there is signage everywhere. For candid shots of attendees interacting in the hallways between sessions, take advantage of this and position yourself to include conference branding in your shots.

Lighting
This is one of the biggest technical challenges. Conference lighting can be tricky, with dark presentation rooms and the off-color cast of artificial light. Using a basic flash can produce harsh and unnatural results. While most professional photographers are adept at handling lighting, this is something we have learned to take a close look at when reviewing potential photographers’ portfolios.

PS. Do not worry – The photographer who took the photo featured in this post also provided ample images that more than met our needs!

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Moderating a webinar? Some tips for a successful presentation

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I recently had the opportunity to moderate a webinar for the first time. Over the years I have participated in many webinars and panel discussions as a member of the audience or a presenter, so I anticipated this experience would be similar. In many ways it was, but serving as a moderator did come with a unique set of considerations and preparing for the sessions was certainly a learning experience! Looking back, I realize how much I did learn from this opportunity and since many of us in association management may one day find ourselves in the position of session moderator, I thought I would share some of what I learned.

1. Do your research. As the moderator you are probably familiar with the subject(s) being discussed but don’t take that for granted. Take some time to study and read about any of the latest news or developments. This will make you more comfortable and able to take an active role in the discussion.

2. Check in with the panelists. Once you have assembled panel, don’t forget to check in with them prior to the event. Presenters are working diligently to prepare for their own participation, so consider putting together some information to assist them. This gesture will almost certainly be appreciated! Some examples of information to provide:

  • Introductions: It’s always nice to know who you’ll be working with. If these individuals don’t know each other they will appreciate a bit of background on their fellow panelists.
  • Reminder of Event Logistics: Date, time and anticipated length of the webinar; whether slides are required or encouraged (if so, submission instructions); event format.
  • Anticipated Subjects: What is each presenter expected to discuss and for how long? If registrants are submitting questions ahead of time, consider sharing those to help speakers plan their remarks.

3. Have a plan to encourage discussion. It’s possible that the audience will not immediately engage in dynamic conversation with the panelists. Have some questions or talking points ready to help encourage discussion and audience participation.

4. Be ready for the unexpected. Despite all your best planning, something unexpected may come up. While it isn’t possible to prepare for every possibility, try to think of some that may be most likely. Do you have a plan if there are audio or connectivity issues? If a panelist cancels at the last minute can you or another panelist cover his or her talking points? If you are able, consider doing a dry run with the panelists/presenters to help identify technical glitches ahead of time and give everyone a sense of how the session will flow.

5. Review the tapes. If the session is recorded, take some time and watch/listen to the recording. It’s a terrific way to see yourself in action, see what went well and identify improvements for next time.

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Exceed expectations when onboarding your volunteer leaders

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Here are some tips on how to put your best foot forward with your volunteer leaders and give them what they need to lead so you have what you need to manage.

1. Understand the role, personality, and communication style of each leader.
Do your volunteer leaders have a clear understanding of what their role is within the organization and what your role is as staff? Creating a decision matrix, leadership manual and onboarding your volunteers at the beginning of the association year starts you off on a good foot for working successfully together.

When new volunteers come on board, ask them how they want to be communicated with and then actually utilize that as often as possible. Do they have an assistant that they want looped in on certain requests (especially scheduling)? Is a text or a phone call a better alternative to email or is email the only way to go?

Whichever way you communicate, get to know their style and personality. Are they a nothing but business, straightforward communicator or do they like to engage in conversation prior to jumping in to the subject matter? Do they want a high-level response, or do they need a little more “meat”?

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively to each leader in their “style” and preferred method will help to create a strong relationship and ultimately make the work easier for both you and the volunteer. There is, of course, a learning curve to this but the more you can figure your volunteers out, the easier exceeding their expectations become.

2. Be proactive.
Can you anticipate questions before you receive them? If so, answer them before they have to be asked. As an example, I like to annotate my check and credit card expense details for one of my clients so that they have an understanding of what each expense is for. It doesn’t take much time at all and it eliminates many questions that could come up.

Are there ways to streamline operations or do things in an easier way for both you and the volunteer? Create a well thought out proposal and present it – the worst that can happen is they don’t adopt it but, in most cases they are excited to see that you’re thinking about how to better the organization and agree to suggestions. As an example, one organization who holds annual elections wanted to send multiple email reminders. Staff are always aiming to streamline communications and not overwhelm in boxes. We suggested a schedule with rationale and proposed setting up a link on the member’s only part of the website so people didn’t have to look for the link in an email. The Nominations Committee chair was thrilled and appreciated the pro-active thinking.

3. Manage expectations and over deliver.
While we’re talking about exceeding expectations, some do need to be managed. During your onboarding process, talk about response time for emails and phone calls. Strive to respond within 24 hours of receiving the communication and, if you can get to it the same day, all the better!

Ensure that your volunteers have a clear understanding of turnaround time for various projects – not everything can be done same day. If you can anticipate that a project is going to take you awhile, be up front about it and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Then, when possible, over deliver. If you can get something done faster, they’ll be thrilled.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do.
This not only builds a strong, trusting relationship but it ensures the association will run as smoothly as possible.

5. Set them up for success.
What can you do to make your volunteers look good? Provide talking points ahead of meetings, annotate financials, talk ahead of time to ensure they have everything they need to understand what they’re talking about when they lead a board or committee meeting. When your volunteers look good, it’s a win for them and for you.

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Establishing goals essential to measuring event's success

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“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins

Events, conferences and meetings tend to be the lifeblood of associations, especially for our clients. As we approach the busy meetings season, many of us who are planners become so busy with the logistics of the event that we can easily lose sight of the ultimate goals and what defines success.

When planning an event, there can be a tendency to go into automatic overdrive. Planners may repeat processes that were done in the past because it’s efficient and familiar. Determining overarching goals of the conference, whether it be providing networking, education, business leads, or making a profit for the client, need to be clearly defined and understood for the entire team to execute successful outcomes. Using defined goals for each component of the event, which may change from year to year, drives decisions from selection of education formats to social/networking activities; from implementation of communication strategies to integration of technology.

Here are a few tips our meetings team uses to establish goals for client events:

  • Follow a goal setting model for each clients’ event to ensure you develop strong goals to be accountable for throughout the planning process. A common model used in our industry is SMART: Create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound goals.
  • Keep your goals focused on the needs identified in your audience. These can be actual attendees, subsets of attendees, potential attendees, stakeholders, or the organization itself.
  • Ensure leadership agrees with the goals as established. There will likely be less resistance to a change in process if all leaders are included from the start.
  • Review your goals regularly to ensure they are being executed.
  • Keep in constant communication with your organizing team on progress throughout the planning process.
  • Have over-arching goals that drive the conference experience, and then set specific metrics by which achievement of the goals will be evaluated.

In summary, deciding on specific goals prior to your event will help you judge your event’s success as well as help you prioritize efforts throughout the planning process.

 

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