Here are the stats:
I have become a regular Social Media Week Lagos attendee
Popularly referred to as #SMWLagos2020 on social media, this was the 4th conference I have attended since the first edition in 2013 in the economic capital of Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million people. Lagos city itself has 21 million citizens.
As a by-the-way, I also attended #SMWMumbai in 2013 and #SMWChicago in 2014.
I guess you can call me an old hat of this global conference.
Back to #SMWLagos, I have also conducted 4 Masterclasses on various topics to date.
My Masterclass this year was inspired by the Digital Marketing Skills In Africa Audit 2020 project (#DMSAA2020). This initiative was launched by eNitiate in late November 2019. I also published a blog about the topic in October 2019, setting the scene for what was to follow.
Moment of reflection
I am a self-confessed eternal student. In line with this passion for endless learning, I reflected on my 2020 Masterclass and the others I attended during the week-long conference.
I share the following 6 Masterclass tips in this blog:
1. From the get-go
As part of the starting blocks for your Masterclass, answer the following questions as comprehensively as possible:
- How insightful and relevant is your subject?
- Who will it appeal to?
- What is the one thing you want the audience to take out from the Masterclass?
- How do you make the topic catchy for the targeted audience?
- What will the format of your Masterclass be? Are you going to be alone, or are you going to have a panel of speakers?
- What is the format of the presentation of the associated content going to be?
- What will be the requirements to enable the effective delivery?
Of the 4 of my Masterclasses at #SMWLagos thus far, I conducted 3 alone – including the most recent one, and 1 was a panel.
2. Great Masterclass material takes preparation
Whatever the format of your Masterclass, you have to decide on the type and structure of content for it.
Three words of caution:
QUALITY. This is key for ensuring the intended take-out is effectively delivered.
QUANTITY. Too much material is not a good idea as it does not allow for meaningful engagement with attending audience. More about this later.
LEGIBILITY. Speakers in at least two of the #SMWLagos2020 Masterclasses I attended used presentation slides with lots of text with font size too small to read from the back of the room. This affects audience experience. It’s an absolute no-no.
Here are my rules for positive audience experience:
- The less the content on a slide, the better. Too much text on a slide encourages audience to read ahead of you. The smallest font size should preferably be minimum 20.
- Using a limited number of visuals on a slide that are supported with verbal descriptions, context etc, from you does a much better job.
- In addition, animation is great for creating a story that helps with flow of information, which helps the audience to follow and grasp the message
3. Break down your Masterclass duration into sections
With the knowledge of the duration of your Masterclass, timing the content slides (2 minutes per slide) if you are alone, and/or questions and responses (1 minute to pose it, 3 minutes to answer) if you are moderating a panel, is a key requirement. Add to this the duration you want to allocate for audience participation.
Timing will assist greatly in determining the maximum number of your slides and/or size of your panel. Too many slides means you will not be able to go through all of them during the Masterclass. Too big a panel does not allow for more involved participation from your individual panelists.
Given that the approach tends to be to leave the best for last, if you miss your planned timing you run the risk of ending your Masterclass on an anti-climax, having not done justice to the punchline at the end of it.
4. Promote your Masterclass
There is nothing as painful as taking the time to prepare for a Masterclass and you have no audience attending your session. It has happened to me once, and it was not fun.
Promote your session on all the shared media channels you have access to. You cannot rely on the event organizer or curator to do this for you.
Depending on the date and/or time slot of your Masterclass, attend prior relevant sessions by other speakers, actively participate in them and promote your session there as well. I did this during #SMWLagos2020 and it worked!
The hope is that awareness of your Masterclass will create interest that will result in eventual attendance.
As part of your promotion, use a limited amount of presentation content to tease the targeted audience.
5. Conduct your Masterclass like a pro
Let us get one thing clear. A Masterclass is not a lecture. It is a knowledge-sharing forum.
The style of delivery should be more about facilitation, with presented content broken down into small chunks for easy mental chewing by the attendees, allowing for summaries of key points, reflections, inputs and moderated debates, including among the audience.
Decide on points of pauses to allow for the inputs from the floor. Doing this deliberately ensures that you are taking the audience on a journey with you. This also gives you opportunity to catch a breath if you are running solo.
Always assume you are not the only expert in your chosen topic. This also goes for the panel. This way, you will be more open to treating your session as a 2-way learning opportunity. As you share knowledge of your own – or the panel as the case may be – do invite inputs from the audience.
Be engaged. Listen attentively to inputs and questions from the floor. When this happens, be still and face those that are contributing. There is a Sesotho phrase that, loosely translated, says the story is in the eyes of the teller. Play the inputs and questions back to assure your audience that you are listening, and you are on the same page with them.
Read your audience’s faces for non-verbal communication cues. If you spot the cues from any of them, invite the verbalisation of the underlying thoughts. Feel free to go like ‘your facial expression says you are thinking about this point, or you disagree with what I just said. Do you want to verbalize your thought for our benefit?’ I have done this countless times and have surprised those I spot the facial expressions of and got surprised myself at enriched discussions emanating from verbalisation of their thoughts.
Be welcoming of divergent views, and don’t be defensive. Take a minute to probe for reasons behind these. There is always a lot to learn from this line of thinking too.
How to deal with a tricky question from the floor? Invite the audience to answer it. At worse, this gives you a split second to think about your response.
You have audience members who are having side chats during your session? Invite them to share with all what they are talking about. This way, you turn an irritation into more positive participation. Also, there is a good chance that the side chats will stop.
At the end of the Masterclass, ensure you summarize the content and the key discussion points. Also ensure you have a group photo taken. This is a great way to extend the life of your session beyond the allocated slot.
The two immediate indicators of the value audience got from your Masterclass are:
- Taking of pictures of some of your slides; and
- Post-Masterclass Q&A by some of the audience members who stay behind.
6. Beyond the Masterclass
Share key points and insights from your Masterclass on shared media channels you have access to. Include the inputs that were made by the audience during the session.
Use the group photo in the shared content as well. This gets your audience to take interest and want to engage on these platforms beyond the Masterclass.
Social Media Week is a great platform for generating and sharing knowledge that can be used widely
Social Media Week is a global event that happens across many cities around the year from – New York to Lagos. It is a massive knowledge sharing platform for all of the digital marketing community.
While this blog is an addition to the #SMW knowledge base that is already huge and growing exponentially every year, the learnings are applicable to all forms of knowledge-sharing platforms and are thus not restricted to this event.
I hope there are many eternal students like me out there who will benefit from the 6 tips above.
eNitiate has been the social media analytics partner of #SWMLagos since 2017, and we are proud to be associated with Nigeria’s biggest tech conference.