Seriously. You walk into an event and look around. What do you see? Do you see anything wrong with the picture above? It was taken as Ed Tate was running a warm-up exercise for attendees before Lady & the Champs actually started. Everything was just right. Months of preparation had paid off.
Whether you are holding an event of your own or speaking at someone else’s, always look at your environment. A multitude of factors can affect it. Some are more obvious than others; some are subtle. Everything matters.
For several months, my staff and I had worked tirelessly on every detail of this annual event. That day it did all come together. If you look at the picture again, you’ll see that we had invested in a black pipe, a drape, and even blue up lights to add some class. We had a drop down screen and a projector in the air so that it did not obstruct a few seats in the front. We had music that filled the air with good energy during the breaks. We had good lighting and a professional sound system that, despite a few glitches, worked pretty well.
My staff and I had also prepared hundreds of slides that would cover all of the in-between announcements and keep the event flowing along with a well-thought-out, minute-by-minute schedule. That schedule kept everyone on the same page. We also invested $1200 to rent a special switcher to be able to switch back and forth between the event slides and the presenter’s computer.
We also had the right number of chairs set up. We had just enough for attendees and staff to fill the room and no more than a couple of empty ones. This helps the event feel full. You’ll notice green and blue banners on the right and left in the front of the room letting people know about the Master Workshops we run monthly throughout the rest of the year. Still, I ask, what is wrong with this picture?
We had a professional emcee, Mark Kamp. He was on. He had the audience hopping. We also had some of the best speaker coaches in the world on stage: Patricia Fripp, Craig Valentine, Ed Tate, and Mark Brown. We delivered new content mixed with classic stories and brought audience members up on stage for live mini-coaching.
It was good, really good. We had guest experts, too: an image consultant and the owner of a Speaker’s Bureau. Everyone brought their best. When you look at this picture, you can see that we were in the moment and laughing and connected with our audience. From most angles, everything looked just right.
We ran a pre-event on Thursday, the Stage Time University Summit, a free event for my STU Members. This allows us to work out the AV kinks before the main event starts on Friday. We tightened up all the glitches that many people probably did not even notice. We were set.
That is why the conversation I had with Ed Tate at the end of Friday, day one of Lady & the Champs, was surprising. We talked about the lower energy in the room compared to previous events. The energy was not bad; it just wasn’t as electric as in the past. We thought about everything but could not figure out what was wrong. We were perplexed and strategized for the next day.
Ford Saeks, CSP, was flying in from a previous speaking engagement that night. On Saturday morning, the final day of the event, Ford walked in the room early to get his AV ready. He had just flown in the night before from a previous engagement. He was not in the room for two minutes before he asked, “Why is the aisle in the middle of the room so wide?” Yikes! How did I miss that? It is one of my own pet peeves, The Moses Effect. In the same way that Moses had parted the Red Sea, I had allowed the room setup to have a huge center aisle.
This is an energy challenge because it can feel like two smaller audiences, one on the left and one on the right. When you are standing center stage and looking straight ahead, you are actually looking directly at no one. It may seem like a little thing, but it matters. It all matters. Ford brilliantly suggested that we not move all of the chairs in the room, just the outside chairs. We moved the tables towards the center about 1 ½ feet each. Then we took the outside chairs and brought them inside on the aisle. It was fast, efficient, and made a difference.
Thank you, Ford. The energy changed in the room on the last day. It was definitely better, and it was such a simple, obvious solution. I honestly do not know how I missed it. It was right there in front of me, or actually not in front of me, but you know what I mean. Look at the last picture when Ford was on stage, and see the width of the aisle. Sometimes we are so close that we miss the obvious. We all need that reminder.
It’s like a new pilot who always takes the time to go over a checklist and the experienced one who sometimes takes the checklist for granted. You and I must always consider all the factors that combine to create the experience. Even though some factors may be out of our hands, we must do our best to create a learning environment and manage the energy as well as possible. Get the picture?