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How to get a conference off on the right foot

Letting people speak to each other at the beginning of a conference has many benefits. It gets us relaxed and contextualised. You start to know who the people are around you. They become both humanised and professional. They talk, ask questions, answer questions, and – depending on what you’ve been asked to talk to them about – tell you something of their intentions or ambitions for the day.

Without it, everyone remains isolated, formalised, perhaps even alienated. They will sit bemused, watching a succession of speakers and sponsors welcome them to the event, as they start to feel less and less welcome.

Creating a more conversational atmosphere is easy to do. The choice is yours. Here’s how to do it. Once everyone is seated, welcome them to the conference, then before the first scheduled speaker begins, ask everyone in the audience to turn to their neighbour for a 2-minute conversation. Select a topic that will usefully inform people’s participation in the event. That might be ‘What are you most looking forward to from today?’ or ‘What are you hoping for from this event?’

Your audience will be pleased and your event will be improved.

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