Thoughts from the Road – Speaker Timers

When it comes to corporate conferences with heavy programming, there’s one factor that can easily derail even the most meticulous planning: timing.

You have general sessions, and you have breakout rooms – the scale varies, but the importance doesn’t. These smaller rooms are often the opportunity to speak to specifics. Whether it’s sales-driven content focused on specific products, or pointed information for your individual internal departments – the content covered in these sessions is usually just as critical as that held on the main stage. And when even just one speaker decides to “wait for the room to fill out” or to just take that one (or fifth) “last question”, your ambitious programming is out the window. You’re left with an impatient crowd in the hallway (making plenty of noise) around the refreshment table, more guests leaving for “quick calls”, and the subsequent elimination of a much-needed break.

Senses get dulled, and the impact is diluted.

Speaker timers are often the tech-remedy, and a good one at that. They help keep the speaker on track throughout the duration of their time. But let’s be honest – when the time’s up, people have no problem ignoring a flashing red light on the floor.

As members of the AV staff, we don’t always feel empowered to interrupt the presenters on behalf of scheduling.

It’s just not our naturally given place. Even when staff from the client is in the room for this, they’ll usually wait for a lull in the speech to motion for a ‘wrap-up,’ and that doesn’t always come right way.

Here, on the road in Chicago, perhaps one of the most effective tools I’ve ever seen used in tandem with a speaker timer is affectionately dubbed: “The Analog Speaker Timer.”

Signs. “5 Minutes.” “2 Minutes.” “STOP.”

People may be able to ignore a flashing red light, but they have a hard time ignoring the smiling face of an AV engineer holding up a sign that says “STOP.” A REALLY hard time. And that’s what makes it effective.

Sometimes a simple solution is the best one.