“Will you attend/speak at/sponsor my event ?” Here is my answer and checklist

Richard Lucas  July 2014

Introduction

I am invited from time to time to attend/speak at/be a mentor or sponsor events.  I sometimes agree if I support the goals of the organisation and  the audience is one I can offer something of value to. I aim to be useful and contribute.

If the organisers are volunteers/and working for free, I may agree not to charge.

My topics are usually entrepreneurship, leadership, management and technology. I am very focussed on “participant experience”, and ensuring those who attend interact, contribute and learn. I’ve written in more detail about this here

I don’t want to be bored or participate in boring events. Life is too short

Not what I am looking for

Not what I am looking for

Events I support do not have to be in an expensive venue or with a high budget. indeed some of the worst events are in the “smartest” locations, as if fancy food and champagne compensates the attendees for the boredom. I want events I attend to be 100% respectful of the time of the people who show up (including me).

I’ve seen so many lamentable examples of bad practice at events I’ve attended (and sometimes sponsored) that I don’t feel apologetic about having some requirements.  If someone agrees to attend an event you are involved in, they should be able to expect that you will be respectful of their time. You owe it to them to run the event at a high standard.

Most events have something wrong with them (from my perspective), and so I wrote this as a check list. The aim is to help event organisers do a better event and create more value. Even if you never invite me, or don’t think I am the sort of person who would contribute, I would encourage you to consider this list with respect to the people who you do want to have involved.

If you are going to invite me please copy/paste the questions into an e-mail and send it to me (with the answers where relevant 🙂

0. Who is in charge of the project, and who else is on the team?

1. What is the point of the event? Who are the target participants –  and how many are you expecting?

2. Who else you have asked to speak/sponsor or attend, how did you ask them, and what did they commit to?

3. I believe in transparency.  What is your expected budget and your largest three planned expenses ? 

4. What is the plan and timetable for promotion of the event/activity ? and who is responsible for making sure this happens?

5. Will speakers be introduced briefly and courteously by a Master of Ceremonies (MC)/ Host who knows who they are ? Who is the MC/Host?

6. Who is responsible for the play order and timekeeping during the event?

7. Do you commit to international standards of organisation and time keeping ?

8. Will attendees are welcomed, encouraged to interact with each other/the speakers and be looked after from the moment they arrive at the event, as per this article ?

9 Is a named individual is responsible for making sure that the projector, laptop, loudspeakers, internet access and microphone (if needed) work ? Who is that person and do they understand that they have to make sure things work?

10 Are all speakers told what their time limit is, what is it, and will it be enforced ?

11 Are questions/comment time limited. what is the limit, and will it be enforced ?

12 Are links to presentations posted on the event wall and web page, and are presentations/videos distributed under a Creative Commons licence ?

13 A few minutes before the start time will people be asked to take their seats, so the event starts on time?

14 Do you solemnly promise there will be no enforced “waiting for latecomers”. So that the speakers and people who are on time have their time wasted by those who are not punctual ? (It often makes sense to have 30-60 minutes, pre-event registration, networking, so that there is a soft start before the main event) .  If you invite me and nothing is going on 5 minutes before the main event I will start anyway – you have been warned.

15 Will attendees be told that mobile phone use, and texting during talks is not allowed and that laptop users should sit at the back ? Big thanks to TED.com for alerting me to this obvious rule. As they point out, seeing someone else using their mobile reminds you of the world out there and takes your attention away.

16 Will all attendees are asked for feedback at the event and afterwards, and will this be shared online? 

17  Will short up to one minute community announcements be allowed and encouraged at some point in the programme?

18 Will the host and the volunteer team intervene to stop people chatting during presentations?  

19. If I am speaking, will I have the opportunity to send materials ahead of time to those taking part so that those who are interested can prepare? 

Conclusion

Most of the requirements and questions above reflect bad experiences I have had or observed. If you are at the early stages of planning your event  – and don’t have answers to all the questions. just be honest. We can come back to the list closer to the event.

Organising and leading an event is hard work and can be challenging. I recognise this and salute everyone who is trying to organise something good and valuable.  The fact that it is a challenge does not mean you should not challenge yourself to do a really classy event. It requires thought, planning and commitment more than money. If you achieve all of the above you are a star.

Feedback, comments, and suggestions welcome.

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