What is SpeakerOps?
SpeakerOps is a role within the Content Team which helps to smooth delivery the talks at the event. In summary as a SpeakerOps volunteer your role is taking care of our speakers - the rest of this page elaborates on these words.
The talks and speakers at EMFCamp are a core part of the event and one around which other activities rotate. EMF Speakers are almost universally present and speaking from their good will about many facinating subjects and sharing their experience and insights to educate and entertain us. The SpeakerOps team liases with speakers to help make sure everyone is at ease, and to help everything go smoothly in delivery of their talks.
What does it involve?
Volunteers sign up for typically two or three shifts across the event (though if commitments etc. mean you can only do one shift then don't be put off joining the team), and for the duration of that shift you are responsible in supporting the speakers presenting at one of the stages before, during and after their talks.
- Meeting speakers in the Green Room prior to their talk, and making sure they have all they need and know where to go and escorting them to the stage if appropriate. - Hepling to make sure that mics are working, laptops are projecting (with the tech team) in on stage pre talk setup and then Introducing the speaker and their talk to the audience when it is time to start. - Being attentive during the talk and on hand in case any assistance needed. - After a talk, many times speakers will be happy to take questions. SpeakerOps volunteers co-ordinate these and take the cordless mic to the raised hands to allow audience members to ask their questions of the speaker.
Should I volunteer for SpeakerOps?
Absolutely :-) SpeakerOps is good fun, a good freindly team and great experience. If you are already confident on stage or looking for first or more experience then this is a great role to volunteer for.
In looking at the schedule you also have the ability to choose your shifts to co-incide with the talks that you are most interested in and the speakers you'd like to meet in the process. This is done on a first come first served basis for shifts across the talk schedule where possible. We've found in the past that even if you are not super interested in all the talks in your shift, often serendipity will introduce you to some very interesting topics that you way not previously have been drawn to.
Beyond the above, you can also avail of the volunteer perk of the food tent, where you can enjoy a good meal (the chefs make healthy, hearty and tasty food) and meet & mix with other volunteers.
If you've never walked on stage before, then don't be put off. In fact many of us would identify as introverts and those who don't are probably just too shy to do so. Personal growth is all about pushing yourself to do things that might be at the edge of your comfort zone so do challenge yourself and we'll help make sure you are comfortable in the team and role.
What support and training is available?
We'll have a briefing at the beginning of the event where we make sure that everyone in the SpeakerOps team knows where to go and what to do & answer any questions etc. We can also practice some speaker introductions and prompts for questions. If you are new to the role then we can also buddy you up with a more experienced team member who you could shadow or who can shadow you to support while you grow your confidence. The EMF audience is relatively easy and co-operative (they are all people of inquisitive mind and attending talks they are interested in).
More Detailed notes on SpeakerOps:
We need to cover all the talks across all the stages to make sure that the talks run smoothly and in a timely fashion. Thus we organise shifts covering a number of talks on one stage with a shift start time to shift end time (ending after the last talk within or starting in shift ends). This normally means that one shift equates to three or four talks on one of the stages.
What is the Green Room?
The 'Green Room' is the SpeakerOps tent, where we co-ordinate and where speakers report before their talks.
Before a SpeakerOps shift, if possible look up the talks on the shift and the speakers so that you have some insight as to what the talks cover and about the speaker's background - enough to allow for a brief introduction for the talk.
Describing a typical SpeakerOps Shift:
A typical shift covers 3-4 talks and cycles as follows.
At start of shift (or ideally a little before) we report to the Green Room (which is typically a white tent despite the name - see  for the background on the term), and make contact with the SpeakerOps team leader to report for duty.
Meeting in the tent:
When speakers arrive before their talks, we introduce ourselves and talk to them to make sure they have all they need to deliver their talks and get an idea of talk format - ie how long does their talk run for? have they given the talk before? do they normally get questions after the talk? Are they happy to talk to people afterwards if they want to in the bar etc. Sometimes speakers need VGA / other adapter cables for laptops, and we have a number of these to help. We also have plenty of bottled water in the green room to offer a bottle to speakers for their talk (no one wants a dry mouth on stage). Getting an idea of how the talk typically goes helps us to help the speaker. Sometimes speakers need extra help such as in bringing in books or taking other equipment to the stage. We can offer any reasonable assistance.
Importantly we also need to ask the speaker if they have any objections to their talk being streamed or recorded. Most EMF talks are recorded for later video upload and there may or may not be live streaming if technology allows. The video cameras are non intrusive and most speakers are happy for their talks to be recorded. Sometimes talks might be security sensitive and not for filming, and other times speakers might just not want to be recorded which is their absolute right and choice. In this case we need to make sure that this is noted and that the tent tech staff know not to record / stream - and for the audience also not to record on their phones if requested - in this case we'd make a specific request / announcement before the talk and monitor during the talk in case we can spot infringement and need to
confiscate and crush a miscreant's iphone respectfully ask to stop if needs be.
We then show the speaker to the tent where they will be giving their talk, and help them connect their laptop etc. on stage, and bring in any props / items to demo (which have ranged from de-activated miltech to sex robots in the past). We normally do a brief sound check to make sure everything is working. The stage tech teams will have a mic for the speaker (which migth be hand held radio mic for you or on a stand per their preferences) and will have a radio mic for you also (allowing you to introduce the talk from stage and then later take questions, or to bang in the odd loose tent peg).
When it comes time for the talk to start, we make sure the audience is seated and if you can see people stil coming into the tent we can often wait a couple of minutes to peoeple to get in and to their seats (sometimes other talks run over - yours will not of course!). Sometimes there may be announcements that SpeakerOps staff are asked to deliver for the EMF Event as a whole wihch will have been co-ordinated and passed on through the Green Room and this is a good time to make those announcements (these are typically requests for volunteers for X, reminders that setting fire to Y is not good behaviour etc.) We don't want to hold on too long but a couple of minutes will not hurt. We then quiet the audience by welcoming them to the talk and introducing the speaker and their talk. There may be notes that a speaker has asked us to announce in the introduction (such as no filming), and we deliver these as part of our introductions. These might be quite simple, but you might also like to add context of event and location. For example 'Welcome to EMF 2018 and Stage A where I am happy to introduce our next speaker who is professor Stephen Hawking who will be answering the question of 'will the world end in 30 minutes? and when will those 30 minutes be? - so in case they are in 29 minutes time, without further ado please welcome professor Hawking'.. etc. Some animation is good but remember the speaker is the main event so short and sweet is the ticket. The 'Welcome to EMF.. part (or whatever you'd like to say there) tends to be useful as it takes about 2-3 seconds for people to realise that someone is speaking and to start paying attention so that when you say 'our next speaker'.. by that time they are actually engaged listening.
During a talk it is good to pay attention, and be on hand if anything happens or is needed (ie this is a live event so if the speaker's mic goes off you'd offer your own, or if you forgot the water earlier you can grab one for the speaker now - there is plenty next to stage also etc.). Mainly during the talk you should be attentive to the talk (as all the audience will be in any case). It is a good idea also to think ahead during the talk as to questions that might be asked after the talk. Think about one or two questions yourself now and make note of them - related to the talk, or the speakers wider experience.. you may need these shortly.
Once the main talk is finished, there wil normally be time for questions. When a talk finishes, there will often be some applause, and then it is your turn to stand up at the front with your mic (or from stage if appropriate) to state that we have some time for questions (this also allows a speaker to draw breath and have a swig of water or other beverage). Some talks will naturally prompt a sea of hands, others may not immediately. If you don't see any hands rising straight away, then now is a good time to use that question that you thought of during the talk. No one likes to ask the first question, so if you go ahead with something like 'I'd like to start with a question that occurred to me about the subject - which is that in the light of current human behaviour towards and consumption of the limited resources of our planet, how relevant do you think it actually is that there are likely to be 36 million years to the end of the world?' etc. .. then others will typically think of their own questions and be more forthcoming with interesting questions while this one is being answered, and often lead to some lively and interesting debate.
During questions, where you have raised hands, we generally try to go to people in order of hands raised for fairness. If you have a Fitbit (other smart watches and fitness trackers are available) then you may well get quite a few steps dashing around the tent. It is important to pass (or hold in front of) the microphone to the person asking the question so that the question can be 1) recorded (where permitted) and 2) heard by the speaker and everyone else in the room. The speaker will then answer this question and normally others in turn. You also have a duty to keep an eye on time, and to prevent one person hogging the questions with either multiple questions or more a discourse of their own. This comes down to common sense so that things don't overrun, and a good strategy if there look to be more questions than time allows (or a few people with these) is to ask for the microphone back and say something like (and remembering one of the questions that you asked the speaker earlier in the Green Room): 'I can see that we've got quite a few more questions here and it is a very interesting topic that we could talk for hours on and sadly our schedule in the tent does not allow for that but happily Professor Hawking's schedule allows him to stay on for a while and he will be happy for you to buy him a pint in the Robot Arms bar and discuss this further with any and all interested.
At the close of questions, we normally thank the speaker for their talk and there may be a final round of applause, you may or may not wish to say that 'our next talk here on Stage X will be Y at Z O'Clock' so that everyone knows where they stand.
We then help the speaker to disconnect their laptop etc, make sure that any equipment borrowed is returned (VGA adapters, Microphones etc.), and any props are taken off stage & thank the speaker etc.
You then typically have enough time to dash to the loo if you need to, and then back to the Green Room to meet your next speaker if you are not at the end of your shift.
All of the above happens in quite a short space of time and so if any of this sounds a bit intimidating then don't worry as it soon becomes quite a natural process. As part of training, we'll run through the process and you can try some intros in front of us if you like and can buddy you with someone experienced in the process. Eveyone has their own style and these are just some notes from experience.
This is a wiki so if you've anything to add, delete, elaborate on etc. then please feel free to contribute / correct / tidy / restructure etc.
Some general notes:
- Make sure you are familiar with the layout of the individual stages - if you've had experience of doing speakerops from one stage then you go to another that you're less familiar with there is more risk of (for example from the author's own experience) falling off the back of the stage as you traverse it in a somewhat unceremonious, slightly embarrasing, mildly comic at the time and bit painful for the next few days manner. - Please be (at least mostly) sober for the time of you SpeakerOps duty.
Please note that references to banging in tent pegs with a microphone are intended for purposes of humor and may invalidate the warranty of Tech team members not to wrestle SpeakerOps team members to the ground and sit on you for the duration of a talk. Unless they give you a Shure SM58 which are fine to us for banging drums, tent peggs or anything else. If you are given A Shure LC microphone then note Hackspace rule 0 applies to people, not these microphones and it is your duty to introduce said microphone and a laser cutter to each other with expedience.
We don't have any insight as to what alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages Professor Hawking prefers so if you are on speakerOps shift if / when he speaks please do be sure to check and we can't assume that anyone will be available to take discussions to the bar / outside after their talks; though we could be sure that Professor Hawking would probably not be short of hands raised after his talk.
- At this point in time no speakers are invited or confirmed and this is purely an illustrative example though I'm sure he would be welcomed to speak at the event).