Getting your audience's attention is one thing, but how do you keep them engaged? Josh Golden, PCI Creative Director, gives tips on scripting your live event.
Your event is a show. The audience is in one room. They are all facing one way. You have their attention. So, how will you reach them? One of the most effective and cheapest ways to improve an event is also one of the most often overlooked: the script. Here are five tips to elevate your event through better scriptwriting.
1 .THE PLAY'S THE THING
You’ve got an audience and a stage with lights and music. What you have here is essentially a play. Or, at least, your event could be treated as one. So, approach your script as a playwright. Ask yourself these questions:
WHAT IS THE SETTING?
Are you a local organization in your hometown? Have you traveled to a resort or big city? Is this somewhere your audience has likely never been before? You should greatly consider where your event is because the world beyond the ballroom has an impact on the state of your audience. It matters that Dorothy is in Oz and, to the same extent, it matters that your audience is in Palm Springs or Chicago or Washington DC. Acknowledge the setting in your scripting. It might even give you a valuable theme.
WHO ARE THE CHARACTERS?
More specifically, who takes the stage and speaks to an audience? Think of these people as your characters. What’s their point of view and what is their overriding objective? This can be anything from galvanizing the membership, garnering support for the foundation, to selling the product. This will elevate their remarks from simple speeches to targeted, motivated actions. And it should stem from the answer to...
WHAT IS THE INCITING INCIDENT?
Why are you having this event in the first place? Sure, it’s March and you hold it every March, but there’s something more. Why is this year special? What is the state of the union or the audience’s particular state of mind? Answering this question will naturally inform the rest of your script and help you answer...
WHAT IS THE CONFLICT?
Yes, it seems particularly fraught to introduce conflict into an event. After all, you’ve been fighting conflict every step of the way. Conflict, however, replete with obstacles to overcome and challenges to the audience, has an uncanny ability to spice up an event script. What are your characters (i.e. speakers) fighting against? Is it apathy, regulation, the status quo? Once you recognize the conflict and your characters’ objectives, you’re really on to creating an engaging event script.
OK. Now you have the foundation for your script. What else can you do to elevate your event scriptwriting?
2. ALL ABOUT THAT PACE
Your event script need not be a series of speeches. If you find yourself scripting an endless procession of orators, you have an opportunity to improve your event through pacing. Alternate speeches with video content. Break up the solo remarks with a panel discussion. Move from one speaker to a conversation. Diversification is key. The more you can mix up your show flow, moving from speech to screen to panel to group recognition, the more you avoid audience-numbing monotony.
3. MAKE 'EM LAUGH
If you can craft the ebb and flow of your show, that’s a big start. Now you can look at mixing up the emotion. What you’re talking about may very well be serious business, but there’s always room for levity. Creating an event script that has highs and lows, tears and laughter will capture the audience’s attention and hold it. So where’s the room for comedy? Perhaps in those grueling elements (board of directors introductions, sponsor recognitions, housekeeping) that you have always felt you needed to “get through.” Consider these moments as on ramps rather than speed bumps -- something that forces you to get creative to keep the audience alert. Recognize your sponsors through rhyme or dance the board onto stage. Whatever you do, find the sizzle amidst the meat.
4. WHAT'S IN A NAME?
A lot, actually. Names, in an event, are a trigger. They tell the audience that someone new is about to take the stage. They cue the music. Be careful not to create false cues. A best practice for an awards event -- or any event, really -- is to save the name for last. Rather than this:
Bill Smith is this year’s winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Bill, why don’t you come to the stage?
Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce the winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award...Bill Smith! (Cue music, cue applause, cue Bill).
The audience will thank you for the clue and Bill will thank you for the applause.
5. HELP A SPEAKER OUT
Professional speakers may understand the moment and may intuitively know when to pause or to build their speech to a climax. Others -- your speakers, perhaps -- may not. If that’s the case, adding clues to the script helps a great deal. Placing PAUSE into the teleprompter script will slow a speaker down at key moments, allowing their last statement to resonate. Want them to lead the applause? Write LEAD APPLAUSE. Other clues such as BUILD TO END or SLOW DOWN HERE will help an unseasoned speaker deliver remarks that have more shape and, therefore, more meaning. Remember, even after the script is out of your hands and in front of a speaker, you can still support the presentation.
Note to our readers: this article by Josh Golden is part of PCI's monthly blog post series on Meetingsnet, a leading online resource for meeting and event planning. For more tips on how to elevate your live shows and presentations, check out our 5 No-Cost Ways to Energize Your General Sessions.