Notes from back stage: From event planners to speakers

By April 2, 2015Corporate Events

We’ve been fortunate to work with some very  talented and motivational speakers over the course of many years and conferences.  With this ‘behind the curtain’ access we’ve seen  the good, the bad and yes, the ugly. Here’s some tips from back stage to help executives and guest keynotes be prepared, guaranteed to provide you with the smoothest on stage experience.


No matter how seasoned you are, we need to talk to you before the event. If we have a clear idea of your content, your style, how you wish to deliver – we can be more prepared onsite when  you walk in for rehearsal.

Sharing your slides

When we ask for your slides ahead of time, it’s not because we presume to think we should review your content, and heaven forbid, think that we could advise you, the expert in your field, on how to make your presentation better. But rather, it’s so that we can ensure your on stage experience is flawlessly executed from a technical perspective. Here’s a few examples of some glitches we can avoid.

There’s that slide format thing that can give you those unfortunate black bars on the screen or content that runs off the slide. Countless times speakers have assured us their slides are in 16×9 format, only to arrive onsite with slides that are in fact, 4×3. The things is, if you do this, we may not have time to fix them before you go out on stage in front of ALL THOSE PEOPLE. And well, that just makes us both look bad.

Or, let’s say you’ve created your slides in keynote and we’re transferring to ppt, and vice versa. Things don’t always re-format as neatly as you think they will. Videos don’t always play, the way you think they will, or with the best sound. We need your original videos, please, please.

Your notes: Those comfort monitors – they’re just that. They’re not meant for a full script. When you put your notes, word for word  on comfort monitors, the audience knows you’re reading. And well, that just makes you look bad. Comfort monitors are for bullet points, to prompt you for your next thought.  

Which brings us to our next point:

Pansters Beware

If you’re a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type of presenter, it will come back to bite you one day.  Even the most seasoned speakers have a moment of whoa… really , whooaaa…..when they walk into a theatre seating 2000 people and the lights are shining on them and they can’t see the audience. If you’re not prepared, it will show. And its awkward to be up there all alone, on stage, going by the seat of your pants. The audience knows. If you know your content well enough, if you’ve rehearsed in front of a mirror over and over, and you use the  comfort monitors the way they should be used to prompt you for  your next point, you will be fabulous.


Don’t use it unless it’s really you. The President of one of our clients always incorporates a touch of humor to his keynotes, and it works. For him. He did a top ten reasons á la David Letterman that was probably one of the most clever deliveries we’ve seen. It worked, because it was his personality shining though. Not someone else. Unless your sense of humor is a big part of who you are – don’t try and be a comedian.


Mr. and Mrs. Speaker, it’s not that we don’t think you’ll be any good, or that we presume to tell you, the expert, how to present. But, if we’re going to ensure your presentation comes off flawlessly, we need you for a run through, a technical check, whatever you want to call it. So that we can tell you where to enter the stage, what kind of music/lighting will be used to introduce you, where you should go afterwards. It’s so that you can click through your slides and give us the nod that everything is indeed in order.

And if you change your presentation and your notes during the rehearsal, it’s going to be hard to for us to ensure your slides and notes and any  video cues play out the way you intended. Because you see, after you have all rehearsed and left us, we – the producer and the crew – do what we call a cue to cue. And we rehearse that baby – the entire conference program – so that your presentation and your notes sync, the video cues and intros are tight, so the finely tuned dance of your presentation comes off looking as slick as a Vegas production. And if every speaker changes their presentations we’ll be left re-formatting the entire show deck and we won’t have time for that cue to cue. And well, you guessed it —  that will just make us all look bad.

There’s no such thing as being too prepared

That’s why we recommend slide and notes print-outs – because if a technical glitch happens ,and they sometimes do, you want to have your notes with you. And if you have them on your tablet, even better. You can carry on as if nothing is wrong, even though  you might be dying inside. But hey, this is a little bit of show biz and the show must go on.


It’s expected in our social world that you’ll  share your presentation afterwards. Your audience will love you even more. Leave us with a copy that we can pdf to post to our conference site or post it to your own site for attendees to access. Because after you’ve been the star of the show, you can continue to share the love.