Yesterday I was on a panel discussion with a diverse audience curious about how to brand yourself within your career.

I am not a professional speaker, but I still learn a lot from every public speaking experience. My first challenging public speaking event was at Carnegie Hall. I was 17 years old addressing 2,500 people and I came on stage after President Bill Clinton. I wasn’t very good, which is why it was memorable and since then I have been curious about how to design better conversations, be it with five people or five thousand.

During yesterday’s talk I had my eyes on the the audience with empathy for those who had questions, but weren’t confident enough to raise their hands. It got me thinking throughout the event about all of those genuinely curious people who want to engage, but by the design of speaking events, find friction to engage with the speakers.

Here are two notes I took about that:

Questions before the event

A lot happens during the Q&A, lot’s of hands are raised, people get shy and others don’t have enough time to articulate their questions.

Note #1:

I think it would be helpful if we design better ways for the host or moderator to share more of what the talk is about, allow attendees to send their questions before the talk, share those with the speakers, and pick a few to answer or reflect on at the event. This allows room for more “good” questions and not just questions from more “confident” people.

After the event

It’s that moment when the talk is over and a number of people approach the speakers to ask more questions or simply get their contact information.

I have definitely been in a position when I wasn’t confident enough to battle the crowd to approach the speaker, but really wanted to continue the conversation. There were other times when I simply wanted their contact information, because I wanted to share with them more information and right there and then wasn’t the right time.

Note #2:

I think it would be helpful for hosts to share the appropriate contact information of speakers with attendees after the event.

It could be their website, twitter handle or email if they are OK with that.This makes it easier for speakers to simply tell guests that they’ll get their contact information in an email and use that moment at the event to actually talk. It also allows people to simply continue the conversation and engage beyond the talk.

What do you think?

Join me and other curious people in figuring out how we can plan and find better conversations through Opentalks.is