Get Your Morning General Session Off to a Great Start


Your attendees have to be at the morning general session. Make them feel excited to be there— not wishing they were back in bed. Try the following ideas for getting people talking, laughing, and paying attention:

1. Create a Cool Theme

I recently did a morning meeting in Las Vegas with a James Bond theme that played on the name “Diamonds Are Forever.” We used “Vegas Is Forever,” but you could also use your company name (“Baskow Is Forever”) or overall meeting theme (“Creativity Is Forever”). Stationed near the ballroom doors were10 secret-service-type men in black suits carrying silver briefcases and wearing earpieces, which immediately created a buzz.

While iconic James Bond music was playing, the men walked through the audience and got up on stage right before the CEO zip-lined across the room, and amidst a puff of smoke appeared center stage next to two “Bond girls.” (A stunt person did the real zip-lining, of course! But the audience was none the wiser.)

Keep it going: We continued the Bond theme throughout the week with a Casino Royale cocktail party, a Daniel Craig look-alike who came on stage and handed the CEO a briefcase, and more secret service men who handed out clues for attendees to win prizes.

2. Try On-Trend, and Low-Cost, Talent

I’ve used lots of talent from the hit TV show “America’s Got Talent.” These are acts that millions of Americans voted for, and they can start your sessions with power and energy. Here are a few example:

• 13-year-old child prodigy Jackie Evancho, who has already recorded four albums, made a PBS Special, and been on major talk shows.

• Fighting Gravity, a “blacklight dance group” from Season 5 that came in third. They will take your guests on a journey of the impossible with illusions that seem to defy the laws of physics.

• Recycled Percussion is a group of musicians who create an interactive experience with the audience. They take everyday items like buckets, power tools, ladders, and trashcans and use them as instruments.

• Bruce Block and Skippy the Talking Rabbit are way out of the usual box! Imagine a real rabbit that hops up on several stacked suitcases, puts his adorable bunny lips directly up to the microphone, and delivers a five-minute comedy routine that will have your audience in stitches.

• Rock Demarco bills himself as “the world’s fastest painter.” While upbeat music plays, Rock transforms blank canvases into masterpiece portraits of celebrities, dignitaries—or your own CEO, right in front of your eyes.

You don’t have to have the biggest names in entertainment for your meeting to be memorable. All of these acts are outstanding and yet affordable. Create the element of surprise, engage your clients, get them all talking. My clients can’t wait to see what we’re going to think of next. And you should be creating the same sense of anticipation for your audience.

About the author: Jaki Baskow has been committed to the highest level of service to her clients since founding Baskow & Associates in 1976. A recipient of multiple awards, she delivered on her mission to “Let us dazzle you!” by combining business smarts with a unique vision and creativity to facilitate incredible shows and events. Named Las Vegas Business of the Year, Baskow & Associates is a full-service company that provides world-class entertainment, corporate event models, and other services. Jaki also founded the Las Vegas Speakers Bureau. This article was originally published in 2013.

Tell us! How do you wake up your audience? Leave a comment below.


Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Oct 21, 2013

Jaki is right on. Having an energizing opening session sets an upbeat tone for the rest of the conference or the day. Using entertainment that promotes the theme of course makes sense and using talent from places like America's Got Talent makes lots of sense. As they are brand new winners or runners up, their fees are very affordable.
we actually worked with Fighting Gravity a few weeks after they were on the show. They were wonderful to work with and enthusiastic.
The secret is to always look for new and refreshing ideas and you will almost always have a winning opening that is fun, enrgizing and within your budget.

on May 9, 2014

As a member of a couple of conference design teams, I know it can be challenging to hit a home run consistently with your conference opener. Planners: When you choose your opening keynote presenter or entertainer, what is your number-one criterion? Having seen them yourself? Getting a recommendation from a trusted source?

on Feb 26, 2015

I must have been on another assignment ,so they sent Daniel Craig. Next time consider having Sean Connery, at your trade show to "Shake & Stir" your guests. Cheers!

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