How to deliver a memorable conference using audience plants

Using audience plants to help you deliver a conference speech might sound like cheating to some of us, but according to personal development/mindset expert Ross McWilliam, they can actually help you emerge having given a great, memorable presentation – and with your honour intact. Here, he explains how…

Conference experiences generally fall into four categories: great, good, OK or poor.

However, even with an outstanding, recognised speaker, the perfect venue, a right combination of quality and quantity of delegates, a real necessity for the conference information, and even sensitive pricing, few conferences are ever memorable. This then begs the question….”What makes a conference memorable?”

But, before we answer this question, let’s take a look at a number of factors that make learning effective, enjoyable, and therefore, ultimately memorable. We know that effective learning must have four components:

1. It must be fun and engaging
2. It must contain opportunities to actually learn
3. It must compel learners to implement the new information ie change behaviours
4. The new change behaviours must be measured to assess effectiveness

Assuming we can deliver on these four areas, there may still be something missing that gives us the wow factor. This wow factor has its origins in a number of motivational states. These states are:

• Curiosity
• Challenge
• Rapport
• Competence
• Imagination
• Relevance
• Choice
• Fun

A really good way of achieving the eight states is to use covert audience plants ie, people in the audience who are part of the conference, but act as if they are regular delegates.

These plants may then eventually reveal themselves (but not always) and become an integral part of the delivery. An everyday example of this are the entertainers The Singing Waiters, who act as if they are regular waiters in a restaurant. However, at a set moment, they start to sing and eventually the whole restaurant diners might end up singing along, thus enhancing their dining experience.

So, getting back to conferences, how would this actually work?

One way of introducing the audience plant or plants, is for the speaker to say something controversial, that may prompt a response from the audience. If a member of the audience is brave enough, they might challenge the speaker, and then this might be an opportunity for the plant to join forces with the challenging delegate.

This may then follow a set format where the plant further challenges the speaker on previously agreed content and views. The plant may well join the speaker on stage and can then put his/her acting skills into full throttle.

This ‘act’ can then be further embellished by the use of further audience plants, that may back up the speaker or challenge the original plant. The audience may be asked to vote on issues, and even be invited to be part of the process, either at their table or on the stage.

So you don’t have to recruit singing waiters but plants, if well organised, can help you achieve the eight states I mentioned and help the conference become memorable… for all the right reasons.

• Ross McWilliam is a personal development/mindset expert who has spoken at numerous national and regional conferences. He works to empower business people and their employees to make positive change. He has more than 20 years’ experience and in that time he has worked with more than one million people across a wide range of sectors. For further information go to Ross McWilliam