"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." -- Sanford Meisner


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Emceeing Tech Conferences

Cloud Asia 2017 at Suntec Singapore, is a summit for senior IT and information security professionals from Asia Pacific countries to network and learn. At random, the attendees I have met were CIOs, information security professionals, IT quality assurance professionals, lawyers and compliance officers, from the region. While some are already security experts, there were those who were newly assigned to a security role and were there to learn more quickly.

It feels surreal hosting a tech conference. It is like going back one whole circle,  as  I used to speak at such conferences in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong,  Prague, Montreux and Brussels.

This is what I have learnt as a host/emcee:

1. Research
Pre-conference research on the speaker backgrounds and subject matter had helped me guide the speakers and attendees to focus on key points that really matter.

I read up on the officially listed topics like e-business, Internet take up rates and Cloud adoption in regional countries, leveraging the Cloud to enter the world of the Internet-Of-Things (IOT)...etc., but also looked ahead to possible extensions, like the security breaches in the world of IOT; and the scary possible future of Transhumanism (humans with embedded computer chips).

2. Ground Check
Arriving early and mingling with the attendees during breakfast just before the summit started helped me to gauge the prevailing intellectual capacity and diversity, and steer the summit accordingly.

3. Housekeeping Rules
Besides the usual housekeeping rules of keeping mobile phones silent,...etc. I reminded everyone that while they were encouraged to ask questions, they were not supposed to make speeches. This saved everyone a lot of time and grief.

I also reminded the audience that the organsers had spent a lot time and effort making the summit possible and we should all show our gratitude by turning up on time. *hint* *hint*

4. Time keeping of speakers
Some speakers were slow and fluffy with their presentations. I should have reminded them before they started - that they should keep their talk short and sharp, and leave time for questions and answers.

5. Summaries
I listened and picked up key points in each presentation, relayed them to the audience with a comic twist, so that it was easier for them to remember what was spoken. It was more fun than a sterile regurgitation of the speeches.

6. Feedback
Feedback forms are important, but nothing beats gathering candid responses during the tea breaks and lunchtimes.

Three attendees came to me to thank me for injecting humour and fun in the summit, especially on some topics which were inevitably dry. I also approached a few other attendees at random to gather their feedback. They all felt that they have learned something and enjoyed the summit thus far, while one commented that some speakers were too slow and that their content were too padded with fluff.

Some of the attendees recognised me from "Hentak Kaki" and "Gift" and asked to have photos taken together. It was ok, there were not many,  otherwise it would be a little out of place.

What Went Right?
The summit was immaculately executed, from registration, tea-breaks and meals, sound to logistics in general. It ended on the dot at 5pm as planned. The meals were delicious. We even had round tables wiith table cloth and chairs to sit on to enjoy our meals. This was a stark contrast for me as an actor on set in Singapore, where commonly, we sit by the road kerb and eat our packet lunch bought from a nearby hawker centre. :)

In the era of Youtube and TED Talk where presentations are available freely, live face-to-face conferences must deliver more. This means making them more experiential and encouraging more audience engagement like having: 
  • More time for Questions and Answer Sessions
  • Role Plays
  • More Networking activities
  • Live Broadcasts via Facebook Live or WeChat Live to spread the net of audience wider.
Do you have other suggestions?

How did it feel like?
I enjoyed emceeing the event, particularly the challenge of finding the funny bits amid the sobriety, to help the audience recap and also keep them awake. Having done stand-up comedies before had definitely helped.

To refer to my live performances like stand-up comedies...etc, chronicled in this blog, click here.

If you are interested in technology risks in banking, the world of augmented intelligence, or banking made as easy as booking an Uber cab,... you may like to go to here.

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