Meeting Mentor Magazine

March 2024

Don’t Let Your Event Runneth Over

As chief event Einstein with AV company Endless Events, Will Curran has seen his share of sessions running overtime. What’s worse is that once one speaker runs over, you end up with a cascade of scheduling issues that can leave attendees grumpy and other presenters unhappy at having to cut their sessions short.

If you have experienced presenters, who know how to pace and time their presentations, you probably don’t have to worry about keeping everything running smoothly, he said. But if you’re like the rest of us, who have no choice but to let the CEO and other industry experts who aren’t polished presenters speak, here are five tactical tips Curran recently shared on his Wednesday Whiteboard podcast to keep your event running on time.

Use a stage timer. Make the timer visible to the speaker, and designate someone to be in charge of it, he said, including being able to control it remotely from backstage. It also helps to set it for a little less time than is actually allotted for the presentation. “That allows [the speaker] to know that they need to start wrapping up,” he said, and it gives you a little buffer in case you need it. It’s not only super useful, but a timer is also an inexpensive tool to rent.

Use a stage manager. The stage manager’s sole job, he said, is to make sure everything on stage runs smoothly, including making sure the talent is positioned by the edge of the stage, miked up with clicker in hand, when it’s time for that person to take the stage. The stage manager also ensures that the event production team is ready to go and the stage is set correctly — and can be the person in charge of the timer as well.

Use an emcee. If by chance you do end up going into overtime, an emcee can keep the audience energized and keep the event moving, Curran said. In addition, “If you need to get things going a little bit faster, they can sometimes tighten up their script.” You can also send the emcee to lurk at the back of the stage if a presenter does start to run overtime, he added. “That’s a pretty good indicator for the presenter to wrap up without it being awkward.”

Build in a buffer. It may seem obvious, but “I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve seen show flows, scripts and run of shows put together that do not have a buffer in between presentations,” he said. “For example, if you are planning on doing five hour-long presentations, do not plan for it to be done in five hours. Plan for there to be five minutes, maybe seven minutes, in between each presentation” so if someone does run over, you don’t start eating into the next presentation. It also gives you time to switch up the stage set and reset the timer, he added.

Don’t get too specific with published event schedules. Instead of listing exactly when each presenter is scheduled to speak, Curran recommends publishing chunks of time. “For example, ‘the first chunk of presentations runs from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m., then a coffee break until 10:40, then another block of talks from 10:40 a.m. to noon,’ versus ‘the first talk is at 9:00 a.m., the second talk is at 10:00 a.m., the third talk is at 10:15 a.m.’ This allows you to have a little bit more flexibility.”

View this video in its entirety, along with more Whiteboard Wednesday and Event Tech podcasts and videos, at Endless Events’ Event Tech blog.

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ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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