As ‘planners for hire’, with each new job assignment we all get asked to do a wide variety of things. Duties can range from both major and minor meeting planning responsibilities to bonafide “you want me to do what?” tasks. For some, being asked to make public announcements or introduce a speaker could be a game changer, you know, the point at which you draw the line and say, “Who, me? I’m just the planner!” But even on temporary jobs you might be called upon to get up in front of the group to say a few words. Most of the time it’s reading scripted material, but on more than one occasion I’ve been called upon to make housekeeping notes without having any, well, actual notes. And, as you probably already know, you’re either comfortable on stage or have a terrifying fear of same! If you’re someone who would rather retreat to the kitchen and start washing all the attendees’ dishes by hand than have to introduce the evening’s speaker, then here are a few basic tips to help you prepare for that one day when ‘it’ might happen to you:
1) Try not to be intimidated by your audience. No matter who they are, most likely you will never see any of them again, so treat this part of your assignment as free on-the-job training and muster the strength to do the best job you can. Also don’t view this as if you’re the entertainment – just be yourself and do the best you can.
2) Read and reread the scripted material as soon as you get a copy. This helps you become familiar with the message. Also at this point, highlight any terms or words that might be new for you, and make sure you ask for correct pronunciation from a trusted source such as the client or speaker. This is especially important if it’s a medical meeting and there are ‘big scary words’ in front of you!
3) If you don’t get a script, make some notes of your own to have in hand. Housekeeping notes are normally pretty standard, i.e. parking, bathrooms, evaluations, Q & A sessions, etc., but it’s still good to have a list in front of you. And if your job is to introduce the speaker and you are handed a three page resume, you also may need to become an instant editor! Most Doctors I’ve worked with prefer that you not attempt to put everyone to sleep by reading their entire bio! Focus on the career high points and when applicable, mention that a full copy of their vitae is in the handout or available on line.
4) If there is no lectern in place then put your notes on a clipboard or notebook. This is a ‘speaker security tip’ so that the rattling papers in your hand don’t distract from the spoken word.
5) Before you begin, take several deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Next, make some audience eye contact, smile, speak slowly and clearly, then repeat. If there’s a microphone, make sure to find your comfort level with the sound before you start rapid-fire delivery of things as it’s important to get everyone’s attention first.
When it’s over, pat yourself on the back and add another notch to your resume. There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?