Sunday, October 24, 2010

Decorum on the Conference Podium

So, I was at this conference, looking forward to the keynote address; well-known speaker, “corporate celebrity”, from way out of state – truly, in media parlance, “a get”.

The agenda simply said “Keynote Speaker”. The auditorium was well populated. On the podium, we saw the conference chair, with the keynoter to his right and a little behind. Imminent introduction anticipated.

This is what happened:

The conference chair took the microphone and talked for 10 to 15 minutes about the conference, gave out an award, mentioned another award that would be given out later in the day. The keynoter was completely ignored.

The conference chair introduced another person (co-chair?), who spoke for a minute or two. Keynote speaker still on the podium, still ignored.

Supposed co-chair introduced another person, who started talking about the conference. The keynoter, still ignored, now by the third speaker in a row, exited stage right.

The person kept talking – the conference, the organizers, the theme, the venue, the need for volunteers and sponsors for the next event, etc.

The microphone was handed back over to speaker number 2, who, in two sentences, lamely introduced the keynoter – finally! – who then came back on the podium.

Lessons for conference organizers:

  1. Stick to the agenda. If it says “keynote speaker”, do not add awards, promotions and self-congratulations.
  2. Don’t let the keynoter stand on the podium like a potted plant, while you carry out a different agenda.
  3. Have the highest-ranking person present (Conference Chair, Mayor, Chief Sponsor) introduce the keynoter. 
  4. If the keynoter is not immediately introduced, keep him or her offstage until the introduction takes place. Then give him/her a rousing welcome, commensurate with the speaker’s corporate/celebrity status. Not two sentences that sound like an afterthought to what has come before.

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