SpeakerOps Training

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This page gives more detail in terms of what to expect when doing SpeakerOps and some suggestions from experienced SpeakerOps people for approaching SpeakerOps.

A typical shift covers 3-4 talks and cycles as follows.

At start of shift (or ideally a little before) report to the Green Room (which is typically a white tent despite the name), and make contact with the SpeakerOps team leader to report for duty.

Meeting speakers prior to talks

Ideally this happens in the Green Room prior to the talks, but may happen in the tent at talk time.

Introduce yourself to the speaker and ask the following things:

  • How long does your talk run? (double check with the session list)
  • Are you happy to receive questions after the talk?
  • Do you have all the cables you need for laptops, etc.?
  • Do you need any help setting up?
  • Would you like some water?
  • Do you have any objections to your talk being recorded or streamed? (it is perfectly fine if they do not want it recorded or streamed; see below for details on what to do with this information)

In the tent, at the beginning of your shift

Check with the person running the shift prior to you if there is anything you need to know about AV/staging/etc.

Introduce yourself to the stage team. They are your friends. They will give you a microphone and show you how to use it.

Acquaint yourself with the layout of the stage, noting trip hazards, etc. that might be worthwhile pointing out to the speakers.

Identify the mechanism by which you can call for help from the SpeakerOps team lead if necessary (this may be a radio or telephone).

For each speaker

If you haven't shown the speaker to the tent, locate the speaker. Help them set up any equipment they need.

The stage team may want to do a sound and visual check. Let them know if the talk is not to be recorded.

Ask the speaker if they would like a warning when they are running out of time. Three minutes before question time is usually a good amount of time to warn. Let them know where you will be sitting and how you will warn them (three fingers held up and waved, or a piece of paper with THREE MINUTES written on it generally work).

Please try your best to start and end the talks on time.


If there are announcements passed to you from the team leader, you can make them part of your introduction of the speaker.

Introductions should at minimum include a welcome statement, the name of the speaker, and the title of the talk. Feel free to embellish a little and provide context, a joke, or other appropriate short statement. Some suggestions:

  • "Welcome to EMFCamp day 3! It's 11am and you're at Stage A. Our next speaker is Professor Jane Jones, and she will be giving a very timely talk on How to Give Talks at EMFCamp! Please join me in welcoming Professor Jones."
  • "Hello all, it's great to have you all back here at Stage A for our next speaker, Professor Jane Jones. Before we begin, I have a very important announcement from the organisers - please don't set fire to things! We appreciate your co-operation. I've also been informed that Professor Jones would very much appreciate it if you did not record this talk. So please put away your mobile phones and cameras, and enjoy this talk on How to Give Talks at EMFCamp!"

During the talk

Please pay attention. If something happens, you may need to assist - if the mic stops working, speaker needs assistance with a prop, or they need more water, for example.

Take note of a question or two that may help to break the ice at question time.

When the time comes to alert the speaker to the time warning, warn them in the pre-arranged way. If they keep going into question time, take that into consideration - keep alerting them every couple of minutes until they wrap it up. If they finish their talk without any time left for questions, explain that to the audience post-applause.

At the end of the talk

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).