You are probably familiar with that famous children’s game, where children queue up in a line, a message is whispered into the ear of the first child and is passed on till the last. In almost all cases the original messages has been changed profoundly.
In business conversation with longer chains of command, we have seen similar processes, especially when the organization of an event is not rather straight forward, for example because there are third parties organizing the event.
You have to be aware of the organizational setup and be alert for problems that might trigger off. We try to be as close as possible to the targeted audience, and try to find out as direct as possible what they are actually looking for to avoid misunderstandings. It does not always help.
Sometimes we see that the ideas of the audience and the organizer clash, in different ways. Speakers are then sometimes being asked, five minutes ahead of their speech, if he or she is able to change the topic. Most of our speakers are professionals and very knowledgeable in their fields and mostly it does not provide a problem.
Although dealing with this kind of challenges of rather diverse decision making processes is one of the elements that make our work interesting, finding a harmonious solution on a timely basis is better. Often, direct contact with the audience is hard to get, when embassies, consulates, PR-firms and travel agencies are the intermediaries. Making the communication lines as short as possible is very important.
Sometimes we see very complex processes, for example where a business school is organizing events for corporate clients. Then not only the professors and the company involved make the decisions, but the participants, often high-end executives take actively part in the process.
Nowadays everybody can be a journalist and post — even during the session itself — reports on their weblogs, mailing lists, Twitter and other social media tools. It is important that — depending on the insight of an audience — you set the rules of the game clearly before the show starts, if a speakers wants to speak off the record.