An effortless conference interview actually takes a lot of preparation


New format, big risk, monster rewards

Rather than go with the tried ( tired ) format of getting a client to present a hours worth of Powerpoint slides to a lifeless audience, we thought we'd go for a slightly higher risk interview format.  I interviewed a client on stage with my questions and those submitted by the audience live and using Twitter as the session progressed.

Benefits

  • More interesting for the audience who feel engaged
  • The audience feel they got their questions answered
  • No "death by Powerpoint"
  • You get remembered as you stand out
  • You get a far more senior client to agree to present because they have to do very little (no Powerpoint deck to prepare and get through their PR team, no rehearsal, no anxiety about presenting)

Negatives

  • No slides for people to have after the event
  • Higher risk because it is a level of "improv"
  • Requires skilled interviewer who understand the subject

BTW Improv is a really powerful business skill.  Download the free ebook to find out more

Results

After using this format at the recent Gartner BPM Conference in Washington DC, it was a huge success based on the reaction from the audience when I announced the session format and the positive the comments from the audience after the session. It showed the no-slides, informal interview format really worked well.

PPPPP: Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Like everything, there is quite a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make the session seem ad-hoc, relaxed and freeform!!! Below are the steps I go through to be able to make the person I am interviewing feel at ease and make sure the session goes well for them and the audience.

When speaker confirmed

  • review any written case study info
  • talk to account manager
  • prepare draft structure of questions
  • 30 min with person to be interviewed covering
  • structure of questions
    • supporting videos that are available
    • no-go areas (eg revenue, market share, competition)
    • how comfortable with curve ball questions
    • should we take audience questions
  • redraft question structure

At least 2 weeks before

  • get video(s) and review and think how they will be incorporated
  • another conference call (if required) to review structure

At the event

  • meet for a hour at the event to talk around the questions  (that is my chance to see how well the person thinks on their feet / deals with tricky questions)
  • think about additional / padding questions if the session runs short
  • think about which questions can be cut if time running out
  • get a feel of progress markers - ie which question do you need to get to by half way to make sure you cover most of the material
  • prepare introduction and summary and cover slide
  • install cover slide and any videos on machine and test
  • make sure the AV guys and Question takers understand the format
  • make sure you have 2 stools.

Run session

  • concentrate like hell (read Improv 3 principles)
  • think about the session from the audience's perspective to incorporate questions

What next?

Rather than take written questions, take them as  Twitter feed with a hashtag specific to the session

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