I love the work I do
coaching individuals to give great performances, and once in a while I get to
work on a whole event. This is the hardest work I do, trying to balance all the
conflicting forces which go into an event to produce a work of communication
which works on every level and is truly engaging.
This is how I work. I would
love to hear of other processes which work for you.
The first session – ideally – contains all the stakeholders
in the event, which is easier to arrange in a corporate setting. Depending on
the circumstance I have a number of techniques I use all leading to a situation
– again ideally – where each speaker has a one sentence summary of their
presentation, which is often the final thing they will say before leaving the
This is when I’m at my most
facilitator-ish. I don’t get involved in the internal power struggles because
they really don’t matter. I find that if I engage with politics then politics
engages with me. I am the “voice of the customer”, in this case the audience,
determining what is right in their eyes to make the event a worthy return on
their investment in time and travel.
Once each contributor
leaves with their direction set, I revert to my usual, individual, coaching
For this second step I become a little Jekyll and Hyde. Mr Hyde is
in the room solely focussed on the individual I am working with, whilst Dr
Jekyll occasionally bursts in to remind us of the bigger picture. Or is that
the other way around? Ideally this is how all presentation coaching sessions
would run; with a clear objective and an overview. There have been times when
this step is done by another coach – either because the speaker has a personal
relationship with someone else or, more usually, for reasons of geography.
The third step is a group session which often occurs on site
the day before the event when rehearsals bring all the speakers together again.
There are occasional adjustments needed, particularly if some external events
have changed the communication landscape. This is mostly around stagecraft and
rehearsal, no fundamental changes to content are made here.
The end result is a
properly “curated” event which brings clarity and value. If it is that straightforward
to achieve, why are there so many disparate events out there? The answer – in
my opinion – is that few event organisers have the influence to make corporate
speakers toe any kind of a line. After all, these are senior executives several
pay grades above the organiser.
Many of my colleagues used
to moan about events which were organised by “the Managing Director’s PA” or
someone similar, but at least that person had the clout by proxy to involve the
speakers for their own good.
It’s taken a while to
arrive at this three step method, I wonder if you know any other ways to align
speakers to larger goals?
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor