A Challenging “Open Forum” Presentation Environment

The 2014 Sapphire NOW + ASUG Conference opened on Tuesday, June 3rd at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. This 3-day event attracted 20,000+ IT decision-makers from around the world. I arrived in Orlando several days before the conference to work with 15 clients preparing for this all-important event.

2014 Sapphire NOW + ASUG Conference

Speakers quickly learned that Sapphire NOW is dramatically different from most trade shows or conferences. At Sapphire, EVERYTHING takes place in the 950,000 square feet (22 acres) of exhibit space — no walls, no privacy, and a lot going on!

2014 Sapphire NOW + ASUG Conference

In this “open concept” forum, speakers deliver their presentations competing with Demo Theatre Presentations, Microforum Discussions, Speaking Sessions, Spotlight Presentations, conversations at exhibit booths, and attendees networking and just milling about.

2014 Sapphire NOW + ASUG Conference

To help the speakers combat this challenging environment our coaching focused on the following:

  1. Keep the message clear, succinct, and attention-getting. If attendees don’t immediately hear “what is in it for them” they will wander off.
  2. Arrive at the presentation space early. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings and determine how best to manage the dynamics of the space.
  3. Include your entire audience in your presentation by using clear, direct and roving eye contact. This will let listeners know you care and they will be less likely to lose interest.
  4. Although you practiced before arriving at the venue, rehearsing on-site is essential. No matter how well you have prepared, take advantage of the intangible pressure that comes when you arrive at the venue and rehearse your presentation on-site.
  5. If co-presenting, don’t assume you have it nailed because you “worked through it in advance”, this may be the only time you have to rehearse face-to-face.
  6. In the trade booth, interacting with attendees? Just because you have been asked to man a booth doesn’t mean you know what to do. Boost your confidence and convert those conversations into qualified leads by considering the type of hospitality you want to extend to your guests, thinking through your messaging, and “tuning up” your listening skills.

These points resonated with my clients and fortified them for the challenge of presenting in an open concept forum.

What kinds of environments have you encountered and how did you handle the challenges?

 



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