Why You Should Have a Facilitator at a Live Event
Facilitators Nadine Dereza and Kate Sturgess share with us some insights into their world of events. They let us in on their top tips for live events and tell us how they manage the daily challenges of a facilitator such as keeping the speakers to time and asking those awkward questions. We picked out the best parts of their individual pieces, bringing you a short summary of what a facilitator should do, and why you need one at your event.
A main part of a facilitator’s role will often be to chair a panel discussion and ensure all the audiences questions are asked. We asked Nadine: in your role as an interviewer you have had the opportunity to talk to some of the biggest names in business, how do you ensure controversial issues are addressed and not ignored in your interviews?
Nadine has to make the most out of interviews
“I always put the needs of the audience at the forefront of my interviews. If there is an ‘elephant in the room’, a question that everyone else in the audience wants me to ask, I have to ask it and don’t mind doing so. Generally, the person being interviewed knows that asking challenging questions is a part of my job - and often they appreciate having the opportunity to give their side of events. A tough question is a chance for a speaker to address a key issue.”
She goes on to comment that “business leaders often would prefer to be understood rather than liked, and a difficult line of enquiry gives them a chance to explain themselves. Also, if I don’t address the question everyone wants asked, then the audience thinks it’s either a ‘soft’ scripted interview or that I haven’t been impartial – which of course is not the case! Off stage, being polite, friendly but professional is essential, and I think I’ve got away with some pretty searching questions without stepping over the line.”
Nadine is right, she needs to take the hard line with pushing the panel for answers. Kate finds she also has to take the hard line with keeping speakers to their allotted time. Here she tells us how to avoid the worst case of a speaker rambling on.
Kate has to keep the speakers to their allotted time
“As anyone who’s spoken in public knows, minutes become elastic when you’re on stage. You may think you’ve got all the time in the world at the start of your presentation… but then you realise you still have 18 slides left and the facilitator has risen to their feet, put their head on one side and is quite obviously signalling: ‘Come on, No. 42, your time is up.’”
“What can you do? Keeping a countdown clock in plain sight of the lectern, which flashes red when a keynote speaker is out of time, not only allows them to pace their presentation more evenly, but also make it very clear when time is up. Quite often, a speaker will say; “I see I’m out of time, so if, after my summary, anyone has any questions, do come and chat to me at the next break”. It leaves them still feeling in control without the facilitator having to cut them off.”
This is a key part of being a facilitator, you need to ensure everything is under control and running smoothly, but without making the whole process of the event jarring, or intervening too much. One part of a live event which can be a little difficult and awkward is always the Q&As at the end of the presentation. Kate shares her tips on how best to encourage Q&As at the end of the presentation.
No Q&As at the end of a presentation is not a situation any facilitator wants
“We’ve all experienced it. The speaker knows that the end is in sight; they gratefully see that last ‘summary’ slide appear and swiftly read through the bullet points; they turn to the audience and say, "Well, that’s my presentation. Any questions?" Nothing. Zilch. Tumbleweeds blow across the stage, and the speaker, crestfallen, returns to their seat.
It’s not (usually) because their presentation was so dull that no one wanted to prolong it by asking a question. It’s simply because the brain takes around 6 seconds to change from receiving information to formulating a question which arises from it. But 6 seconds is a loooong time for an uncomfortable silence! By which point, anyone in the audience who might have been tempted to ask a question is put off by the lack of anyone else doing so.
But you can start that 6-second countdown earlier: “We’re drawing to the end of my presentation, and I’ll be taking questions from you in a few moments, but first in summary…
Avoid turning to the screen, in order to encourage questions
At this point, please resist the temptation to turn your back on your audience and read from the screen behind you. If you start catching people’s eyes, you’ll help to encourage their questions.”
The facilitator will help make the best of your audience and ensure they get the most out of their session, they will also keep things running to time and make sure the housekeeping parts of the day are all tied up. A facilitator is essential to the smooth-running of a live event and can definitely make the event has a slick finish and leaves your delegates impressed, to read Nadine or Kate's full blog follow the hyperlinks.
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