Conference On-Site Management of Speakers, Session Chairmen and Panel Moderators

Speaker Management

  • Before the conference the speakers should have already been sent out detailed information on the theme of the event.
  •  If you are using a celebrity speaker then they will have been chosen for relevance of their message or entertainment value. You will need to know in broad terms what they are going to say and what support material they are using. Check the script and make sure that the production company and speaker are aware of timings.
  • Speakers and moderators will have been sent information on their session, place, time, date, and audience profile- including their average age, interests, and knowledge. If the audience does not use English as their first language, the speaker should be aware of this and have been given guidance notes on speaking slowly and clearly. Hotel accommodation will have been booked as required. It’s advisable to book hotel rooms for speakers prior to an early morning presentation, to make sure they are on time, as well as organising transport for them to the venue. Their presentation should have been sent in advance in order to be downloaded or made available on the website after a conference or seminar, or as hard copy notes for a seminar or workshop. The Session Chairman should also be given a copy of the notes.
  • The speaker should have been sent joining instructions telling him the name of the meeting room and what Audio Visual (AV) and multimedia equipment will be set up and available in the presentation theatre or room.
  • A member of the conference staff should be allocated to meet and greet as well as look after the speaker whilst they are at the conference. The staff looking after the speaker should double check the meeting room before the speaker’s arrival to ensure that the AV set-up there is as requested by the speaker. Check to see if the speaker has any brochures or information he would like to put at the back of the room for delegates to take — arrange the display of such material as necessary.
  • A badge and speaker pack should be ready to give to the speaker when he or she registers. If you need to ask them a question about their presentation or give information when they register it can be useful to add Post-it notes to the speaker badge as an aide-mémoire.
  • Depending on the size of the conference, speakers and chairmen may have a separate registration area to delegates.
  • It is useful to designate badges for speakers of a different colour to that of the delegates to signify their role.
  • Larger conferences tend to have a specific speaker, chair and moderator hospitality room designated so that they have an area to relax, work and take coffee before a presentation. It is also useful to have some separate rehearsal rooms available for the speaker to practice if no specific rehearsal in the main meeting room has been scheduled before the event.
  • It is advisable for the speaker to visit the presentation room before their presentation to see the set-up and understand how the audio equipment works or meet the production company. If time is short then coffee or lunch breaks are often a good time in which to do this.
  • It is useful for the speaker to meet the chair of the session before the presentation to run through the format of the presentation and to understand the timings and the Question and Answer (Q&A) session.
  • Speakers are notorious for tweaking a presentation right up to the last moment so please ensure that the presentation slides are the latest both to be shown live during the session and to be downloaded onto the website after the event.

Session Chair Management

  • Much of the chairman management pre-event and on-site is similar to the speaker. They should have been sent joining instructions, and know the details of time and place of the session or stream they are chairing. Accommodation and transportation should have been ordered as required.
  • When the chair registers they should receive their chairman’s pack with their badge. This may include the name display sign for the speaker to be put on a name board of the top table if there is one for the session. They should also have a biography of the speaker so that they can introduce them at the start of the presentation, as well as an outline of the presentation and hard copy of the slides. It is most important that the chair keeps a sharp eye on the time so that the presentation starts on time and the speaker does not overrun.
  • The chairman should familiarise himself with the session room and be familiar with how to use the equipment and they should meet the AV production company who are running the session room.
  • The chair should introduce himself to the speaker before the session and go over the meeting timings and schedule, so that each person understands the goal of the session and how the audience is to be managed.
  • The chair will also manage the Q&A session as well as thanking the speaker on behalf of the audience at the end of the session.

Session Moderator

  • If a session is a panel discussion with moderator then again the on-site management is similar. The moderator should have been given additional information before the conference on the type of questions that he should be asking the panel in order to get the most informative response for the audience. The moderators are experienced through moderating other sessions as well as being very knowledgeable in the area of the discussions so that he can ask pertinent and poignant questions.
  • Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.
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