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With the exception of the keynote, event planners increasingly want speakers whose presentation involves some audience interaction. So says Traci Browne, president of trade show marketing firm Red Cedar Publicity and Marketing. Browne books speakers for a number of organizations, including the Business Marketing Association Philadelphia.

She sees three trends:

  • Increased Q&A time: Rather than lecture for 45 minutes and devoting only 10 minutes to questions, speakers are talking for 20-25 minutes and leaving the rest of the time open for Q&A.

  • Speaker as a moderator:  In this session type, the speaker might talk about a point for five minutes then moderate 10 minutes of idea exchange between audience members. Sessions might be set up as a “town meeting” or "in the round" rather than in theater style.

  • On-the-spot consultations: Some experts (marketing, design, web, etc.)  invite people to submit their materials to be publicly critiqued. Some speakers go as far as asking participants to submit materials ahead of time so they can make slides to show what does and does not work.

Note: The success of all three formats hinges on the speaker’s ability to not only present effectively, but also to facilitate conversation while making the information seem relevant to the audience ... on the fly.

For tips on what you need to do if you want to get in on the action, check out Get a Speaking Gig: How Event Producers Decide Who Gets Onstage. Also check out this super secret speaking tip.

Helena Bouchez is principal and owner of Helena B Communications ( Reach her via or follow her on Twitter (@HelenaBouchez).

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Helena Bouchez is principal and owner of Helena B Communications ( Reach her via or follow her on Twitter (@HelenaBouchez).