Why it’s Wise to do a Recce
When you receive a phone call or email inviting you to speak at a conference or meeting I bet you immediately start to picture what the venue looks like in your mind.
If you follow my mental preparation technique to a tee (well done if you do) you’ll imagine everything going well and everything being just as you expected it to be.
However, let’s be realistic. Things can only go as you expect them if you take on some of the responsibility to ensure that everything you want and expect is in its correct place.
This doesn’t necessarily mean telling your host that you’ll only perform if you have your own dressing room and a bowl of M&Ms with all the yellow ones taken out.
It does mean asking the event organiser a few routine questions:
- How long will I speak for?
- Who else is speaking?
- What do you want the audience to get out of it?
- How many people are you expecting?
- What sort of people are they (industry/knowledge level)?
- Will I be on a stage?
- What sort of microphone will I have?
- Will I have to stand behind a lectern?
- What AV equipment will be at my disposal?
If you are really committed to making your performance a success, I suggest you go a stage further and go on a recce (short for reconnaissance, meaning ‘a mission to obtain information by visual observation’).
Recently, one of my clients mentioned that he would one day like to make a presentation at an expo at one of the large exhibition centres in London. So to fully prepare him for this eventuality, we both attended a session there as audience members and I made some notes about aspects of the presentation area that we might have been unaware of had we not done a recce.
- There was space for around 200 people but only 50 people were present and they were dotted about around the hall;
- There was so much general hubbub from the main exhibition space we had to really strain to hear the speaker;
- Audience members came and went during the presentation;
- The microphone was a fixed lectern mic. However, when presenters moved away from the lectern the mic still picked them up very well;
- The audience looked very engaged (leaning forward, straining to listen);
- The presentation was really just a list of facts about a product, but it was clear from the audience questions at the end this was exactly what they wanted.
As you can see, there is information in that list that would be extremely useful to know in advance, but a chat with the conference organiser prior to the event is unlikely to solicit it.
It’s not always practical to do a recce. The event you’re speaking at may be hundreds of miles from where you live. But if you can get sight of the space you’re speaking in, even if just a few hours before you speak, you will be able to address some of the issues that threaten to harm your talk and deliver a presentation par excellence.