General Sessions Series: Amp up your General Sessions with These Tips & Tricks

It’s best to think of your General Session as having a conversation. It's not an opportunity to simply bombard your audience with information, but to engage them in a productive and exciting conversation. Consider how you could make that communication flow both ways.

  • Plan from the moment they walk in. Dead time = dead attendee emotions. Build excitement and anticipation.
  • Surprise them and set up anticipation for more surprises. Give them something to look forward to.
  • Don’t open the doors until the “behind-the-scenes magicians” are clear. Build anticipation by making the audience wait.
  • Give thought to your master of ceremonies voice and go live, not recorded.
  • Remember, morphing and unexpected twists excite attendees.
  • Use all five senses.
  • Grab attention: no matter how bold, bright, and loud you think you’re going, go bigger.
  • Add a charitable tie-in to heighten audience emotion. Play an impactful video or bring relevant contributors or recipients up on stage for special recognition.

Your Room’s Ready, Now Make Sure Everything Else Is Too

Don’t Forget Rehearsals and Final Checks.

Rehearsals

Speaker skill level does not negate the need for rehearsals. Each tech delivery and communications system is different. Will they have a mic? What kind? Who will coordinate media and questions? These details deserve a quick walk-through. Schedule this with your speaker(s) early on so they factor it into their travel plans.

Meeting design tip:

Rehearsal should be non-negotiable. Sometimes speakers feel that rehearsal is a waste of time, but even rock stars perform soundchecks. Schedule time for this with your speakers, your sound and audio team and any other tech professionals. Soundcheck

Rehearsals should include sound and tech checks, too. Remember things sound louder without bodies in the room. Have your tech professionals present and available to give feedback on sound and make adjustments accordingly. Anyone who will be on stage speaking (or even introducing) should be available for a quick run-through.

On-site Status and Event Prep Meetings

Hold pre-conference meetings with all essential staff including catering, AV, tech, etc. For those present on-site, meet there. Others can be conferenced in as required. Whenever possible, go through physical walk-throughs of what will take place the day of your event. If that is not possible, walk through the pieces verbally. Someone should own every piece for a smooth show. Create a contingency plan for "what-if" scenarios, so that everyone is prepared and aware of what to do if things do not go according to plan.   

 

Decisions that Will Mean a Slow Death for Your Event

Blame high budget events or personal virtual assistants, but your audience is used to tech and personalization at this point. To ignore this fact will surely mean alienating some attendees. Here are a few event planning mistakes you can’t afford to make:

  1. Going cheap on tech. While you needn’t break the bank on it, you must be aware that most attendees are walking around with several hundred dollars worth of computing devices in their pockets. Occasionally they might even use one to make a phone call. If you go cheap on tech, it shows and it affects attendee experience. The bar is set fairly high at this point.
  2. Forgetting to mention next year’s (or next month’s) event. Always capitalize on current interest and help funnel it to your next event. Find ways to connect the general session experience to the rest of your event. Get them while they are amped up and excited. Make sure you deliver on the promise you just made in your general session.
  3. Not applying data or other things you learned over the course of your event. Don’t collect it if you don’t use it to improve and offer more of what your audience wants.

About the Author

Jeff Youngs

Jeff Youngs is Vice President of Production and Operations for GES’ Corporate Events team. Youngs brings more than 30 years’ experience producing live corporate events including general sessions, sales meetings, product launches, and training seminars. A storyteller at heart, Jeff blends his extensive leadership in effective production process with his focus on delivering strong brand messages in an interactive and engaging environment.

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