News

Conference News column, September 2011
September 6th, 2011 9:42 am

Despite the carefully cultivated 'Mr Grumpy' image, I'm actually an easily pleased kind of guy. And that's worth knowing, because it can mean great things for your business. I'll prove it. Those of you with memories slightly better than a goldfish may recall that, in the July edition of this wonderful magazine, I was talking about the issues of keeping presenters to time. As a result, our esteemed editor had an e-mail from Philip Gibbs at IMS Communications. Introducing their Presenter Clock software. It's a nifty solution; as someone who has to stand on stages a lot for a living, I can confirm that the Laws of time do seem to become corrupted the moment a speaker's foot touches the boards. The uncertainty of an audience's reaction, the need to speed up or slow down a presentation, an anecdote taking slightly longer; all these factors can suddenly leave you feeling adrift from the space-time continuum. And as IMS point out 'Most presenters are given a time-slot and their audie...

Conference News column, August 2011
August 1st, 2011 1:06 pm

A recent video doing the rounds showed an Australian reporter interviewing the Dali Lama, and trying a joke; 'would you go to a pizza restaurant and ask for one with everything?' The revered religious leader, whose English is quite passable, looked on bemused as the joke went down like a lead balloon. And if you're not completely au fait with English, that analogy may pass you by. A balloon made of lead? Why? Stories, jokes, similes, metaphors and proverbs can add colour to a presentation, but as many conferences will have international audiences, these should be chosen with care. For example, most cultures will have a saying similar to 'touch wood' for luck, as good spirits were believed to live in trees. In Spain, the phrase is 'tocar madera' (literally 'to touch wood'); but In Catalonia and in other Catalan-speaking areas, the expression used is 'tocar ferro' (literally, touch iron). So far, so good. But if a Spaniard said to you Árbol que nace torcido, jamÃ/em>...

Conference News column, July 2011
July 16th, 2011 1:05 pm

I have the pleasure (or pain) of attending quite a few events, and one of the biggest problems is timekeeping. Speakers over-run, panellists waffle, delegates get the roving mike and nurse it like a climber clinging to an oxygen mask. Interestingly enough, when I'm running training courses for conference managers, they all confirm this is an ongoing problem, then look at me like cute puppies to solve the problem. Unfortunately, my response is the unsympathetic 'grow a pair.' Now, some delegates find this an unsatisfactory answer, pointing to the fact that the worst offenders are line managers or directors, and being forceful could be career-limiting. "Nonsense", is my unequivocal reply, and let me explain why, dear reader. If you think of most conferences, they have a strong element of theatre – the light, the AV, the stage, etc. And the parallel doesn't end there. You see, it doesn't matter whether you're an English Thesp or an American celeb; you take your ins...

Conference News column, June 2011
May 28th, 2011 2:05 pm

Two stories, a continent apart, form the basis of this month's column. Part one: I was privileged enough to spend a week in Trinidad in March, whizzing straight out after Confex, and enjoying the sumptuous hospitality of the Hyatt Trinidad (more of that anon, except to say it's one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in). But this was work (whatever the Press stories and my Facebook pictures might suggest otherwise) and between dancing and partying and eating I also managed to do some research. My host, the lovely Sasha Hlozek (Account Director for Cheryl Andrews Marketing) and I spent hours chatting into the night, fuelled only by creatively lethal cocktails, discussing the economic impact of the Trinidad Carnival. The Prime Minister (who I also met, albeit from a distance) trumpeted that the Trinidad and Tobago economy had received an injection of T$1 billion (US$158 million) as result of the government's investment in the event. PM Kamla Persad Bissessar explained 'we have g...

MPI One+ magazine (guest columnist)
May 7th, 2011 12:37 pm
'Good morning ladies and gentleman and Chair, whose name I've already forgotten. I'd like to start my presentation by completely failing to give you any clear objectives about my speech, or emphasizing any benefits that could accrue to you by listening to me today. My intention is to throw some unstructured thoughts at you, and not do anything to link my contributions with the other presentations you've heard so far, because I regard myself as too important to turn up at the start of the conference and listen to what they have to say. I'm also not going to give you something you couldn't get from reading this online which would have made you grateful you bothered to turn up in person. And I'm going to continue that theme by hiding behind this podium, rustling my notes in this irritating fashion, which will effectively kill off any sense of emotion by removing my ability to make gestures or generate energy through movement. Because of my state of mind I'm already slightly has...
Conference News column, May 2011
May 7th, 2011 10:16 am

As one of my hats is as a Speaker, and another is as a trainer of Speakers, I thought this month I'd share some tips on how to remember what to say when you're on stage. It's a question I often get asked, as so many nervous presenters are worried about being parted from their notes and 'going blank' when confronted with an audience. Well, it's worth remembering that the fear is natural, and actually having a script won't help. Imagine holding a newspaper (The Times, not The Sun) and reading the typeface while standing up in front of a large audience. The text will be almost illegible; the truth is notes in that situation are little more than an emotional crutch. Few presenters are trained actors, so don't even think about trying to memorize speeches. That's a very different skillset. However, the correct approach also equates to hard work. If it's your first time, or a new speech, it can be worthwhile writing it out if full. Then practice it, edit it, get feedback, practice again...

Exhibiting column, May 2011
May 3rd, 2011 3:57 pm

Now, it's all well and good to talk about hitting sales and PR targets when exhibiting, but what about organisations that use exhibitions for different purposes? What about charities and organisations whose remit is to change attitudes, rather than sell widgets? This is the area known as 'social marketing', which has seen a considerable rise in its profile (thanks, in part, to excellent books, such as 'Nudge'). At heart, it's all about using both psychology and marketing to engender change. Don't smoke, stop dropping litter, turn off lights, eat more vegetables, do some exercise; all those things are embraced by the principles of social marketing. So how can such organisations embrace the power of 'live marketing?' Well, exhibitors in those situations may want to think about one of the pillars of social marketing, known as Trans-theoretical modelling (or TTM for short). You'll see the stages in the box, but let's look at an example. Imagine you feel that you're getting a bit plum...

Lights, Camera, Action (part 1)
May 2nd, 2011 7:43 am

You can't have missed the rise of video around conferences and events, with more conferences taking the TED approach and seamlessly blending live and video presentations. Additionally, organisers are using video to promote their events (as well as capturing performances for post-event transmission) And the market is growing hugely, driven by falling prices, simpler technology (most smart phones have remarkably good video editing capability) and the role-out of ever-faster broadband capacity. Check out the ubiquitous Google, and with your latest search, opt for 'video' replies; you'll be amazed at what's up there. Meanwhile, many companies are Increasingly embracing the power of Web 2.0, and adding video to their websites. There's been an explosion of .tv domain suffixes (and if you haven't registered it for your organisation, pull your finger out). But there are some tricks you need to know to prevent cluttering your bandwidth with a collection of dull talking heads, and are seri...

Lights, Camera, Action (part 2)
May 2nd, 2011 7:40 am

So, you're committing to video, and you've found your corporate star. Let me share a few hard-learned lessons. Firstly, dress the part. For example, check patterns can cause 'patterning' which is distracting for the viewer. The cameraman might also suggest you use makeup (regardless of your sex). Men struggle with this, but it's because the harsh lighting may make you look somewhat shiny. So accept the powder – unless you want to confirm those Botox rumours). It makes a difference (as Richard Nixon found out to his cost). It's worth learning some of the terms used in making videos, and understand that a variety of shots is essential. Learn from broadcast news stories that usually employ a technique known as 'reverses'. The interviewer asks the questions while the camera is on the subject, and then asks them again facing the camera at the end of the interview. These are then spiced together, and other effects can be added, and gives the piece a far more dynamic feel...

Destination Report - Trinidad
April 9th, 2011 12:20 pm
  1. Trinidad (from the Spanish 'Trinity') is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just 11 km (7 miles) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. Flights from Europe are generally good, being served by major carriers, but that doesn't mean daily flights. And if you're flying out during carnival season, book early, and watch out for chaos at the airport for the return leg.
  2. For eco enthusiasts, Trinidad has more than 450 bird species, 108 types of mammals, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians and 620 types of butterflies; ranking the island as one of the richest outposts of biodiversity in the Caribbean. Even if you're not a 'twitcher', check out the Asa Wright Nature Centre, a world -renowned centre for bird watching. Other outdoor activities can include hiking through rain forests, cycling through verdant countryside, turtle watching and kayaking past wildlife filled forests. Plus there are the usual beach activities, including a 'shark ‘n bake' party (esse...