This summer it was my honor to be part of a main-stage panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of the National Speakers Association. The conversation turned to the future of the speaking profession and meetings industry.
The landscape of national meetings, association meetings, and corporate events is shifting and both groups (speakers and meeting professionals) must face new challenges. Social media has changed the nature of meetings. Speakers and meeting professionals must embrace technology and understand the needs of a new – more connected – audience. It is no longer acceptable to have a static website or be without a social media presence.
Here are some insights from the panel:
- Audiences are no longer satisfied with just a “good” speaker. The content must be rich and relevant. The speaker must have tangible deliverables in order to justify the expense of having a live event. Speakers are challenged to go deeper, give more, and deliver on promises. Meeting professionals are charged with creating experiences that have measurable events.
- Audiences are no longer satisfied with just the platform performance. Members want to connect before and after a program. Social media played a huge role in creating buzz for the National Speakers Association Convention. As members, we connected in Facebook groups, encouraged attendance, shared excitement, and even posted YouTube videos to entice registration for events. Since the event the groups have been very active and have held the engagement level high. Successful speakers will need to develop social media avenues to interact with audiences before they arrive and support learning after they leave. Meeting professionals, especially those charged with engaging association members need to leverage social media to connect with members year round.
- Audience members have devices, and they are on, you have to learn what to do with them. “Please turn off your phones,” is no longer an option. Your audience is connected and online at all times. Understanding people will be engaged with devices during a program requires a shift in thinking:
- Just because someone is typing on their phone or device, it doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. Maybe he is taking notes. Maybe she is Tweeting out the profound thing you just said. It isn’t reasonable to expect all eyes on the speaker anymore.
- Speakers need to adjust expectations and design programs to be easily shared. Make main points and phrases Tweet-able. Encourage people to take a picture of your slide, or of you, and post it on Instagram or Facebook. Use texts to survey the audience or field questions.
- See the device as a way to connect rather than a barrier.
- Audience and association members in the X and Y generations demand a higher level of involvement in meetings. The “expert at the front of the room” model is less appealing to younger members who want to be part of the conversation. Learning Lounges and TED-style (15 minute information packed) programs are popular. Speakers must learn to adapt to shorter programs while maintaining impact. Meeting professionals must be flexible in providing meaningful ways to connect and exchange information in more customized and individual methods.
- Audiences exist outside the physical meeting. Incorporating virtual presentation, live streaming, and social media simulcasting of events may be the wave of the future. This will require flexibility from the speaker and a good deal of infrastructure and planning on behalf of meeting professionals. Simply supplying enough bandwidth for a conference can be challenging. Future hybrid meetings, combining live and virtual sessions will require host venues to be flexible as well.
One additional lesson from the NSA Convention was the benefit of promoting the event on social media. This year was one of the most well-attended in years and drew many new members.
The landscape of meetings is shifting. Speakers and Meeting Professionals need to work together to build a bright future for the industry.
As a professional speaker, my job is to partner with my event professionals to create wildly successful events! Download our free e-book on How To Leverage Your Speaker To Promote Your Event.
Now it’s your turn. What changes are you seeing? How can speakers work with you better to achieve results? Share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks!
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