We attend and handle communications for many events, all year long. Events can be an ideal way to connect with audiences face-to-face and create memorable moments that enhance your brand. But nobody, ever, in the history of an events, has left one and said, “That was nice, but I just wish there was a longer speaking program.”
Speaking programs (unless there is a compelling keynote address that is part of the draw or they present a high entertainment factor) are typically the bane of existence for event attendees. They tend to be long, repetitive and take away from the event experience. Sometimes, they are a necessary evil, as they are a communications opportunity to precious to ignore. Some smart organizations have shown videos in lieu of a string of stiff, scripted speakers. But, at a recent event, we recommended something innovative and the client said “yes,” – we helped them pull off an event without a speaking program. And guess what? Nobody missed it.
This was a grand opening, especially for donors, of a building supported by philanthropy it was a celebration and a chance to see, in real life rather than in renderings, the fulfillment of a dream. The client allowed the guests to tour the building, enjoy food and entertainment, and learn about the facts of the new facility through artistically-designed signage located around the venue. Instead of calling a time-out on the fun and bringing the festive atmosphere to a halt to listen to the CEO thank individual after individual in prepared remarks, the party atmosphere remained consistent for three hours, while the CEO worked the room to personally thank donors. The building itself was the star of the show and it was kept that way.
The feedback has been terrific. Attendees describe the event as “fun” and “memorable” and not one asked about why there wasn’t speaking program.
The advice the next time you host an event, keep the speaking program as short as possible or, if it has to be relatively long, make it entertaining with video and/or personality. The host should work hard to make the rounds and communicate the most important messages in person. Or, better yet, if the situation allows, if there’s no sit-down portion of the event, for example, just nix the program altogether. The only ones who might miss it could be the PR firm who could have billed hours to write remarks that would have been nobody’s highlight of the event.