Keeping your program tight and on schedule can be the difference between an event that is good and one that is great. When you start on time, and end on time, you tell your guests they are valued.
5 Tips for Staying on Time at Your Next Event
1. Create a Time Budget
When planning an event you carefully budget your money, allotting just the right amount to food, awards, décor, speakers, and entertainment. You also need to budget your program time. Before any of your attendees walk in the door, answer these questions:
• What time do we want our guests to arrive?
• How long will each segment of the program run and what is our total run time?
• What time will we say “Goodnight” and dismiss our attendees?
2. Serve Food Faster
One of the biggest areas of time overruns—especially for a dinner program—is the food service. If your event is held in a hotel ballroom and you are serving a plated dinner, you can almost always count on your program running about 30 minutes late.
Solution: Consider offering your guests a delicious buffet instead.
Your attendees will:
• Appreciate having control of what and how much they eat.
• Be happy they are eating sooner rather than later.
• Be more focused on your platform presentations.
3. Keep the Speeches Short!
Abraham Lincoln gave one of the greatest speeches in history, the “Gettysburg Address,” in about two minutes. It’s not easy to tell your VIPs to keep their messages tight. Harder still to enforce it. Do it anyway. You will make them look good, and leave your group eager for more.
• Remember that a TED Talk lasts only 18 minutes. It is long enough for your speaker to feel important, but short enough to hold your group’s attention.
• Cut Power Point presentations whenever possible. Your audience wants fewer charts and more heart.
• Have no more than one “keynote speaker” and limit the number of VIPs who will take the stage. Keep their presentations super tight and within their slotted time.
4. Hire a Professional Emcee to Keep Things Moving
The Academy Awards, and TV shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, make use of dynamic hosts. A good emcee can make your event a hit.
Make sure you:
• Hire a professional Master of Ceremonies. Just because Charlie in HR is a crack-up it doesn’t mean he has the experience to connect with a large group, or seamlessly handle transitions and introductions.
• Work with a likable and funny host. A gifted emcee can be an entertaining component of your program and keep your attendees attentive and in good spirits. Make surehis/her humor is positive and friendly, not mean-spirited or inappropriate.
• Provide the Master of Ceremonies with your event outline, special announcements, and (short) speaker introductions several weeks before your program. This will give your host time to tailor his/her material to your event’s theme and your group’s culture.
5. Become a Time Keeper
Bob Westfall is a super successful event producer. In the last 10 years his company, The Westfall Group, has helped non-profit organizations generate over $450 million dollars via live events. Westfall has lovingly been called a “Time Dictator.” He understands that when you honor an attendees’ time, her impression of your organization is enhanced.
To ensure your program stays on track and on time:
• Position one or two countdown clocks where your speakers can see them, but your guests cannot. Point out these clocks to your Master of Ceremonies and speakers, and make it clear: they need to wrap it up before their time elapses.
• Agree on a fail-safe signal should a presenter go over their allotted time. This signal will remind the speaker that they are over their time limit and need to finish immediately. Empower your Emcee to tactfully encourage a speaker to conclude their talk.
• Meet with your presenters before the program starts and review the running order of the program. Make sure each presenter knows when he/she is “on deck” and have him/her ready to take the stage.
It can take months to plan the perfect event, but the most critical moments of any meeting begin when your guests arrive, and end when your guests depart. Plan and protect the time in between carefully to ensure your event will be a huge success.
Adam Christing is a popular Master of Ceremonies and the Founder of CleanComedians.com
Yours for great events,
Adam Christing, Founder