Why I never worry about speakers not showing up

I was tagged in a post on LinkedIn recently where an event host was thanking a speaker for agreeing to join their event at the last minute to replace a speaker who dropped out.

This is the greatest source of stress for hosts of most live events. 

“What if a speaker doesn’t show up?!?”

I commented, “The trick is to build the event flexible enough that if speakers show up it’s good, and if they don’t show up, it’s still good!”

And now I’m going to tell you how.

The basic structure of my events is 15 minute blocks. 15 minutes of speaker, 15 minutes of interaction, alternating through the event.

The interactive blocks could be networking breakouts, hotseats, Q&A, open discussion, roundtables, or some other activity.

I’d like to share with you a story about how powerful this can be…

At EntrepreNERD last week, we had an incredible hotseat session.

An attendee had a serious challenge in her business. She was stuck, and not sure what to do.

Often, when someone comes to a hotseat, it’s because they are out of ideas. There is a frustrated, worried energy about them, and they are hoping for but not expecting to find a solution.

Our attendee raised her question, and four of our speakers were able to offer solutions. Solutions she had not thought of. Solutions that would work.

Her energy completely changed. From stuck, now she had ideas. She had a way forward. And the rest of the audience also was able to learn from these answers because many have similar or related challenges.

This hotseat took place in a time opened up by a speaker not being able to show up.

Far from it being a disaster or a disruption, a speaker cancellation is an opportunity for more engagement among the community we build on the event.

By building the event for interaction, as well as instruction, we can effortlessly adapt to a speaker cancellation by shifting the time allotted from instruction to interaction and the audience experience is no worse. In fact one might argue it’s better.

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