Wracking their brains. When I read what event and meeting parties post online about finding engaging content for their event, they seem to be wracking their brains trying to find that magic bullet. Does such a thing exit?
Whether it's a keynote speaker, breakout session, or entertainer, the magic bullet would be:
- captivating in content and delivery
- unique and fresh
- a perfect fit for the audience
Let's look at each of these individually:
Experts are great. They're knowledgeable about the topic to the Nth degree, and they speak a language that may be esoteric to the rest of us, but connects perfectly with the audience for that event. Often, however, they are not experts at public speaking and their talks can be dry, humorless, and leave the attendees zoning out frequently to check their emails.
On the other end of the spectrum is pure entertainment. Sometimes a perfect cap to a mentally taxing conference is a fun evening of music or comedy or magic or mind reading or gambling or figuring out whodunit. No educational tie-in required. Some events, however, don't have an "entertainment" budget or they want something with more of a connection to the theme.
The best of both worlds would be to find either a subject matter expert who is also highly entertaining for a keynote, or to find an entertainer who can customize their program or presentation specifically for that audience. Particularly well-suited for this are comedians and variety entertainers. They often provide a questionnaire for the client so they can personalize their act to the specific event.
Most professionals attend many events in their industry over their careers and have felt like they've "seen it all" because they often see the same type of speeches and entertainment over and over.
Often a client wants to stick with what's comfortable - what they've always done. Hire a speaker from XYZ who talks on leadership. Get that DJ we usually have who plays the classics. Or a cover band. Even though these may feel like "safe" options, the event planner knows that there are more engaging options that can make the event more memorable and experiential.
Has the audience ever been part of a murder mystery interactive performance? Have they seen the comedian who eats fire? How many have been a part of a live mentalism performance? What about an illusion show? A dance troupe featuring amazing LED lighting effects?
Generally speaking, the more interactive the talk or entertainment, the more engaging it is. Will it get people involved in ways besides just sitting and watching? What I like about performing as The Virtual Mind Reader is that my entire program involves various members of the audience, sometimes even the ENTIRE audience.
CAVEAT: Most of us have seen speakers who overdo the interaction by taxing the audience with challenging tasks like role-playing and problem-solving activities. This could be great for a breakout session, but awkward for a general keynote.
The "perfect fit" is probably the most challenging to pull off. For example, finding a speaker for a conference on energy-efficiency in building design who is also a master storyteller and very entertaining may be difficult, if not impossible, to find. You may need to go for a more generalized keynote, on goal-setting, mental toughness, leadership or creativity, for example. You can find a speaker who you know will be engaging, but the content won't be quite as targeted as the green energy expert would have been.
If you are looking for an outing or entertainment, you may feel it is ideal to use something that has a genuine local flavor. Here in Louisville, popular attractions found nowhere else are Churchill Downs, the Muhammad Ali Center, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In house entertainment could mean getting a band that plays music that area is known for, or finding a variety entertainer that incorporates local flavor into their act.
Just be sure the whatever you use is in line with the audience's interests and demographics.
So when planning an event, whether it's a holiday party, a conference, a sales meeting, or a retreat, you may not be able to find that magic bullet, but if you keep these key components in mind - captivation, uniqueness, and audience fit - you'll have a better chance of making the event sparkle and having your client wanting you to do it for them again next year.