I was recently driving with my son through Sydney when the car in front of us switched lanes without any warning right in front of another vehicle. Behind was another car who then needed to slap on their brakes to give everyone room. I calmly explained to my son ‘that’s why you need the 3 second rule’. You know, the one that says no matter the speed you’re doing make sure there is always a 3seconds between you and the car in front. Sadly there are a few drivers out there who don’t know about the 3 second rule. (Good thing I’m perfect!)
If we have buffer zones when driving then why don’t we have buffer zones in event run sheets? To get the most from your conference facilitator or MC you need to ensure there is enough room – timewise.
So often in event programs there is no room for error when it comes to time, if one keynote speaker goes overtime, or your delegates are late from a break, it creates a cascading effect catch-up and havoc. It throws the next few speakers out, shortens Q&A, annoys your sponsors when you cut 10 minutes from lunch and they have less selling time, and your conference facilitator becomes a glorified timekeeper. So I’m jumping on my soapbox and making a plea! Please add, at least, a 5-minute buffer between presentations. ‘Hang on Nige’ I hear you say, ‘if I have 8 speakers during the day that’s 40 minutes of downtime!’ Yes, that’s right, although I’d say it is 40 minutes of productive time. And there are three very good reasons for that.
Here are three reasons why your conference facilitator will love you:
You’ll get the most out of your conference facilitator.
You’re paying good money for your conference facilitator (at least I hope you are) so you want to give them the time needed to edify your speakers, create links, add relevant anecdotes, energise people, and get participants thinking and talking about what they just heard. A good facilitator is a theme weaver, and it’s their job to support and enhance your program, and they can only do that if you give them enough time to do so, otherwise you’ve paid someone who only has time to thank the previous speaker and introduce the next one.
You’ll get the most out of your keynote speakers.
No matter how well you plan someone is going to go over time and the last thing you want is other speakers stressing out. Many internal speakers are thrown (and sadly many professional ones too) if you ask them to trim their time. I’ve coached loads of executive presenters over the years and the one thing I wish I didn’t have to teach them is how to build their presentations so they can cut 5 or 10 minutes off if they need to, without affecting their message or delivery.
Your delegates will learn more, retain and apply more.
Building buffers also helps your conference participants get more from the sessions. Humans need time to digest things, especially when it’s new. Having buffers gives them that chance because it allows them to think about and talk about key points and how to apply them. And it allows them to empty their brains and reset for the next presentation. Neuro-science tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of your brain) drains itself of energy fast and needs to recharge every 20 -30 minutes. (This is one of the reasons for the trend of shorter presentations – but that’s another topic)
It takes the stress out of things for everyone.
I know I said three but this one kind of sums it all up. Nothing more to be said really.
Just as keeping 3-seconds distance between you and the car in front might seem excessive, having a 5-minute buffer between speakers may seem unnecessary, but it will make sure you arrive safely at your conference destination. It will also make sure your participants get the most from the journey and that you get the most from your conference facilitator,
your speakers, and your sponsors.
By the way, this article first appeared in micenet magazine in December 2017. Nigel Collin was the author.
Also read ‘4 ways to create delegate engagement using downtime at your next meeting or event‘ and 5 ways to destroy your meeting or business event.