Tips on effective chairing of a conference
Chairing a conference for the first time can be a very daunting task. Apart from ensuring that all the presenters have arrived with their presentations, you have to look after the delegates. As a chair person, you need to learn this skill to ensure success.
Chairing is a skill. One that is learnable. Follow my tips below and you will have a conference that is focused, with the right tone and one that everyone will have enjoyed.
My top tips on chairing a conference are:
- Dress code – find out the tone of the conference and dress appropriately
- Introduction – remember to cover:
o Objectives of the conference
o What the delegates will get from the conference
o Agenda and any last minute changes
o Reinforce the timings
o Cover and Health & Safety notices
o Be upbeat and positive!
- Awareness – be alert and aware of the conference surroundings. For example:
o Delegates are not too spread out or cramped
o Room temperature is comfortable
o There is adequate water / sweets on each table
o Comfort breaks are well spaced and planned
o Lighting and sound are correct
o Delegates have their delegate pack and paper to make notes on
o Speakers presentations can be clearly seen
- Map the delegates – draw a mind map of the seating and write down the delegates name. You can then address them by name during the Questions and answer or discussions. Very effective!
- Time keeping – make sure you keep to time throughout the conference. Good to synchronise your watch with that of the delegates!
- Tone of voice – sound authoritative yet personal and friendly. Speak clearly yet not too loud
- Balanced and fair – especially during Questions and answer and discussions
- Mixing – circulate amongst delegates during breaks and lunch. Great way to find out how your event is received!
- Plan for the unexpected – rehearse in your mind for the unexpected for example a fire alarm or delegate taken ill. In one conference, I had a false bomb scare!
- Interruption strategy – both from the floor and how you will interrupt a speaker who has run out of time
- Thank you – thank the speakers and delegates at the end of the conference.
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