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 SpeakerOps shift

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

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; if not, you'll need to ensure the tech team knows this prior to the talk start, make an announcement asking audience members to not record with their phones, and also keep an eye out for anyone who might be disrespecting this request to be gently reminded)

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).