Nagging problems can affect the quality and success of a presentation — and it's the responsibility of meeting organizers to protect speakers from them. So what are my pet peeves? Here's the short list:
Room and Audience Size Mismatch
Meeting planners can't always match the size of the room to the size of the group, but they can control how the room is arranged. Don't provide chairs for 500 attendees if only 300 will be there. If your room is larger than needed, don't center tables or chairs. Keep them close to the stage so that the presenter can get intimate with the audience.
Disappearing AV Support
Once AV technicians have made sure the equipment works, they often leave. Have someone stick around, at least through the first 10 minutes. Ideally, have them stay for the entire session. But if they can't, know where they will be and how to contact them.
Inaccurate Presentation Time
Frustration is having 20 minutes taken by one or more introductions. Or worse, being told you have 15 minutes less just as you walk onstage. Let the speaker know exactly how much time he will have. Exclude announcements, introductions, and so forth. If the presentation starts late, tell the speaker whether he needs to finish at the scheduled time or if he still has the amount of time originally planned.
A speaker never wants to compete with clanking dishware or a boisterous presentation in the next room. Likewise, when others talk during the presentation, it's downright rude. Schedule programs to minimize the chances of these problems. If something arises, have the noise stopped.
A good intro builds speaker credibility and audience anticipation. Informal remarks related to the topic, perhaps with a personal story that leads to the speaker's introduction, work best. If the introducer isn't good at ad-libbing, make sure that he or she doesn't.
Rooms run hot or cold, and adjustments are often difficult to make. A large, empty room tends to be cold, especially in the morning. Stuff it with warm bodies, and the temperature steadily rises. If you can't adjust the temperature, at least let the audience know that the problem is being addressed.
I'm amazed when servers refresh tables during a presentation! If the meeting site can't schedule this during a planned break, skip it. It's more distracting to have people wandering through the audience than to have a few tables be temporarily out of water.
I've confirmed ending times only to have the CEO or a meeting coordinator signal me to stop — or whisper that I was supposed to have finished 45 minutes ago! Let the presenter know if the stop time is “hard” (another meeting is in the room, the group is going to an event, and so forth) or “soft” (a break is scheduled, Q&A time is available, and so forth).
Evaluations or Announcements
I think it's tacky to have the speaker make group announcements, present door prizes, or ask the group to complete an evaluation. Have the meeting coordinator handle such responsibilities.
Bob Nelson, PhD, president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, is author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, and Bob Nelson's Rewarding Employees newsletter. Contact him at (800) 575-5521, www.nelson-motivation.com, or BobRewards@aol.com.