Archive for the ‘Creative’ Category

Inspiring videos edited by kid with cerebral palsy

A lovely little article from the Verge about the videos created by a young boy who has cerebral palsy:

This is Christopher Hills. He’s an Apple fan. He also has cerebral palsy, and as you’ll see in the first video below, he can’t control his muscles easily. The incredible thing about Christopher, though, is despite that, he edited these three videos himself. Not unlike Stephen Hawking, he uses a single button to manipulate his computer, which he presses with his head, connected to a device called a Discover Switch.

As well as being very inspiring and life-affirming, these videos also highlight the fact that with the appropriate assistive technology and software which is accessible, wonderful things can be created by people who are severely disabled. Remember, this is a kid who uses a single switch to work with a video editing application: technology proving to be truly empowering.

The distribution of iBooks 2 content

Yesterday, Apple announced the launch of iBooks 2, and an audacious initiative to modernise the textbook industry. As part of the launch, they also announced the release of iBooks Author, a free tool for creating and publishing eBooks.

I’ve not had a chance to play with it myself yet, but it looks like a very slick, well-made and easy-to-use tool for creating interactive books — something which has been missing from the market for far too long.

I’ve seen a fair bit of negative talk on Twitter though, mainly about the terms of Apple’s SLA and how books created with iBooks Author can be distributed. The short story is that if you’re planning to sell your publication, you have to distribute it through Apple’s store — you’re forbidden from distributing through any other means. Seems to many like a dictatorial move from Apple, but David Smith has an interesting take on this:

The real story here today shouldn’t be that Apple has ‘audaciously’ claimed ownership of the books make with iBooks Author but that they have created an avenue for non-commercial distribution that would exclude thementirely. That is actually unprecedented.

If I create a textbook using iBooks Author and then decide to made it freely available to the world (à la Khan Academy) I can do that without any restriction. Simple click ‘Export’ within iBook Author and the resulting file can be distributed by any means I choose and then loaded in iBooks. The mind boggles at what things may come out of this.

All Apple is doing with this restriction is saying that if you directly profit from this free tool and platform that we have created, then we deserve our cut. Which seems entirely fair to me.

And John Gruber has followed up on this with an interesting point about the HTML5 foundation of this iBooks format:

Second, it’s about not wanting iBooks Author to serve as an authoring tool for competing bookstores like Amazon’s or Google’s. The output of iBooks Author is, as far as I can tell, HTML5 — pretty much ePub 3 with whatever nonstandard liberties Apple saw fit to take in order to achieve the results they wanted. It’s not a standard format in the sense of following a spec from a standards body like the W3C, but it’s just HTML5 rendered by WebKit — not a binary blob tied to iOS or Cocoa. It may not be easy, but I don’t think it would be that much work for anyone else with an ePub reader that’s based on WebKit to add support for these iBooks textbooks. Apple is saying, “Fuck that, unless you’re giving it away for free.”

Worth noting that Apple pitched their launch event at the education market, and they’re probably already a long way down the road with making deals with educational institutions (Apple has a track-record of quietly making individual, private deals in the education sector). Amazon et al have had a massive head-start in the ePublishing sector, but none of them have been audacious enough (or powerful enough) to make these kinds of bold moves into education.

Apple are doing a very clever thing here: they’re making efforts to put iPads into the hands of young adopters. Talk about brand exposure!

Baker ebook Framework

Baker is an open-source HTML5 ebook framework for publishing books on the iPad using open web standards. From the website:

To design for the Baker Framework you just have to build HTML5 pages with a fixed width of 768px and you can unleash the power of WebKit.

That’s all. Use your favorite tools, test it on the iPad from Safari, refine as much as you want.

It seems to have a workflow – which is being refined – which allows you to easily compile your HTML5 as an application which is ready for submission to the Apple spp store.

Mashable has a short feature on the framework:

“HTML5 is out there,” co-founder Davide Casali wrote us in an e-mail. “Why is nobody really making the convergence between the publishing industry and the web, and why are we confined to those crappy designed epubs?” he asks.

Casali and his team hope their creation will lead to more beautiful e-books and digital magazines on the iPad, and for other WebKit-enabled devices later.

Ber interesting to see how this develops and what gets created with it. I’m sure the fact that it’s being released under a BSD license will encourage plenty of experimentation.

Adobe unveiling the Digital Design Suite

Mashable report that Adobe are about to unveil their Digital Publishing Suite, a tool which will allow publishers to create Wired-style digital magazines:

The Digital Publishing Suite will let publishers create, produce, distribute and monetize their digital magazines and content across different devices and marketplaces. The App Store is obviously the biggest target of the Digital Publishing Suite right now, but the platform is designed in such a way that it is easy to target multiple marketplaces at once.

At first glance, it looks like Adobe have thought the publishing workflow through quite well on this, with distribution, monetization and analytics built right in to the toolset – they’re obviously focused on keeping ahead of the game in this profitable area. But the authoring platform is heavily focused on InDesign, and I’m not convinced that’s the right tool for creating the next generation digital magazines: it’s a tool for creating page-based print designs, not the rich, interactive experiences we’ve come to expect.

An interesting closing comment from Christina Warren:

Thanks to desktop publishing tools, the barriers to creating professional content and layouts have really been reduced. With the App Store, and mobile devices and tablets, the distribution barrier is also breaking down, allowing more publishers — big and small — to get their content onto digital devices.

The distribution and publishing barriers were broken down a long, long time ago: HTML and PDF are much better tools for modern-day publishing. HTML5 and CSS3 blow the pants off of anything these bespoke, proprietary solutions can offer.

Advice for a successful pitch

As part of my work at We Make Media, I regularly have to prepare proposals and deliver pitches to potential clients. A lot of the time projects come about through informal meetings and conversations with clients, gaining an understanding of what they want to achieve and preparing a project proposal which meets (and often exceeds) their needs.

Other times though, we have to go through a more formal pitching process, competing for a contract with other agencies. Last week I had to attend a pitch interview and deliver a presentation for our proposal, and since I hadn’t done one for a while, I was reminded of just how much we have to put into these things.

I’ve worked for a fair few big agencies, and I’ve had plenty of experience working with all sorts of clients: my speciality for a while was as a consultant team lead, acting as a liaison between demanding clients and (slightly less demanding) creative teams. I’ve also spent a lot of time preparing documentation and assets for pitches.

But it was only when I founded an agency of my own that I realised just how much effort we were going to need to put in, in order to secure a healthy roster of clients. It’s one of the biggest differences between working as a freelancer and taking on the responsibilities of running an agency. The projects get bigger, the paperwork becomes more demanding, and you really have to raise your game.

Sadly, we didn’t secure last week’s pitch. Although we received some very positive comments about the interview, the presentation and our creative ideas, our technical solution just wasn’t quite what they were looking for. That’s just the way it goes sometimes: no matter how good you are, and no matter how much effort you put in, you’re just not quite the right fit for that particular client at that particular time.

It’s always disappointing to loose out – it’s less the rejection, more the fact that your creative ideas and enthusiasm for the project have hit a dead-end. But it gave me an opportunity to reflect on how we go about the process of pitching, and how we can do better next time. So I’m going to share my thoughts on the process and try to demystify a few of the more daunting aspects.

The RFP

Usually, the process starts with a Request For Proposal from the potential client. This will be a document outlining the requirements of a project, and at the bare minimum will include:

  • An outline of the brief
  • A timetable of the pitch process
  • A timetable of important project milestones
  • What they expect in your proposal

It may also include:

  • Background information about the client
  • History of the project
  • Objectives and aims of the project
  • Technical requirements
  • The available budget
  • Who will be involved in the project
  • A summary of available assets

Make sure it’s the real deal

It’s a sad fact of life that a fair number of RFPs are sent out by organisations going through the motions: fulfilling their tender obligations despite the fact that the work has already been allocated. It can be frustrating when this happens, particularly because the cumulative time it wastes for everyone involved is not insubstantial: if six agencies are invited to submit a proposal, and each has one person spending just a day preparing a response, that’s six days of everybody’s time wasted.

It’s just a fact of life though, and aside from encouraging better ethics, the best you can do is try to keep an eye out for the warning signs:

  • If the brief is very short, it could be that they don’t see the need to explain a project which has already been green-lit.
  • If there’s evidence of copy-pasting from another RFP, it shows a worrying lack of care and attention to detail.
  • If there is a heavy emphasis on telling you what the creative solution should be, rather than inviting your ideas and suggestions, then it could be a sign that the project has already been well defined by somebody else.
  • If the deadline for submitting the proposal is almost imminent, then it could indicate that the pitch process is being rushed, or that you’ve been invited to submit just to make up numbers.

I’m not suggesting that these are hard and fast rules for detecting a flawed pitch process, and you certainly shouldn’t just turn down an invitation to submit your proposal based on any or all of these points. But I’d suggest that it’s always worth opening a conversation with your prospective client to get the information you need, and to get a feel for their expectations: if they’re open to questions and show an enthusiasm to engage with you, then it’s a good indicator of their authenticity; if they’re cagey or aren’t able to answer your questions, or are just too keen to refer you back to the RFP, then you might want to consider whether it’s worth putting in the effort for them. After all, if they’re not communicative with you at this early stage, are they really going to be the type of client you want on your books?

Resist the temptation to submit design ideas too early

An RFD will often include a request for you to submit design ideas, or to show an example of what your creative solution might look like. We always resist showing any visual designs or mockups at the written proposal stage. It’s time-consuming, and I think it’s unreasonable to commit so much creative resource at such a tentative part of the relationship with the client.

More importantly though, at this gestation phase of a project, there is no way that our creative ideas can be fully informed. The client should be recruiting an agency to come up with new, original, innovative ideas: creating those ideas is all part of the project and that can only happen once you’ve established a working relationship.

If we get selected for interview, then sometimes I’ll spend a little time producing some mockups – but only if it’s going to help explain an idea, not just to wow the client. Often though, it’s much better to show existing examples to illustrate your concepts – either from your own portfolio, or work which has inspired or informed your ideas – that way you can show that your concepts aren’t just pie-in-the-sky meanderings: your ideas can be visualised in a real-world application.

Include an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)

We always put a confidentiality statement in every proposal document we send out. It provides a little bit of security and peace of mind that our ideas aren’t going to be hijacked if another agency gets appointed. It’s just a polite reminder to  potential clients that we take ownership of our intellectual property seriously and that our proposal to them isn’t free for open discussion with third parties.

If, further down the line, you do suspect that someone has ripped off your work, you’re in a much better position to approach them about it if you’ve explicitly stated the terms under which you’ve provided documents to them. Call it over-cautious if you like, but I always think it’s best to err on the side of caution when sharing your creative ideas: as a creative agency, our ideas are our life blood.

Be prepared

Chances are that if your written proposal gets shortlisted, you’ll be invited to interview to present your ideas in more detail, and to answer a ton of questions. And be in no doubt, there will be a lot of questions. It won’t just be one person firing them at you either, it’s likely to be a panel of different staff each of whom will be wanting to quiz you on different aspects of the proposal. It can be a pretty daunting process, so you need to be really, really well prepared. The fact that these meetings are called “interviews” is no coincidence: they can feel like a job interview, but with far more intense scrutiny, and far more of an emphasis on justifying yourself.

If you’re flying solo and attending the interview on your own, you’ll need to be clued up on every aspect of the project, including:

  • The creative approach
  • The technical approach
  • The people who will be involved in the project
  • How the project will be managed
  • The budget and any ongoing costs

And this is aside from having an impressive and well-rehearsed presentation to deliver! You need to be sure you have everything clear in your head before you go in – if you’re well prepared, you’ll be more confident, more relaxed and you’ll be able to present and field questions without having to worry too much about the words coming out of your mouth.

Technical details are hard to explain

Having reflected on recent pitches, this is the one area where I’ve realised that I need improve my approach.

I’m pretty confident that the technology, tools and methodologies we use to develop our online projects are just bloody amazing. We’re really proud of the fact that we’re able to develop projects which make it stupidly easy for clients to manage their online presence, and to adapt to their needs over time. We use agile development frameworks which provide much more flexibility and advanced functionality than a standard CMS (Content Management System).

Now, I can talk at length about the technical ins-and-outs of the tools we use, the software we write and the interfaces we design until pretty much everyone else in the room is bored to tears. But ask me to summarise the approach and explain how it works in layman’s terms, and I tend to come unstuck. Even providing a demonstration of what I’m talking about does more harm than good, as there are so many caveats and if’s and maybe’s involved. A lot of it is theory and design patterns, which aren’t very client-friendly topics of discussion.

If you can demonstrate the technology or software you’re proposing, then do. And where you can, I think it’s worth showing it in the context of what you’re talking about: if people can see something actually functioning, then they can much more easily visualise how it will work for them.

I tend to take our technology for granted, and don’t appreciate how unfamiliar and alien it can seem to people who aren’t so technically savvy. I need to do a better job of evangelising how damned clever it is.

Don’t be tempted to quote too low

Costing and scheduling a project is a whole article in itself, but I will offer up this little bit of advice.

If an RFP gives a guide to the budget which is available, and you think it’s way too low for the amount of work involved, then think twice before putting in a low quote just for the sake of securing the work. You’ll likely come to regret it further down the line. Clients can often put unreasonable demands in their brief – they’re obviously looking to get good value-for-money, so they’re hardly going to hold back on the spec. But an unrealistic proposal is eve more dangerous than an unrealistic brief. Aside from the fact that it can make you look desperate for work, if a schedule of work looks unrealistic when you’re in the planning stages, it will become a very sobering reality when it comes to actually delivering what you promised.

If you think the scope of a project is unreasonable within a proposed budget, then say so in your initial proposal, explaining your rationale. Providing suggestions for cost-saving solutions can be a virtue which makes you come across as pragmatic and reliable.

And if the scope of work seems ridiculous for the budget being proposed, then don’t be afraid to just walk away.

Think long-term

One thing I hear and read more and more often these days is that a client is looking to “establish a relationship”. It’s very rare these days that we finish working on a project once it launches. We usually embark upon a project with the intention of maintaining and evolving it over time – it just makes good business sense for us and the client. It’s also a good thing creatively, because it means we can continually review, improve and refine elements of a project once it’s in the wild.

So that’s something to bear in mind when you’re pitching your ideas. Yes, you’re being asked to deliver on the specifics of the client brief for this particular project, but your relationship may continue for months or years into the ongoing life of the project. This is going to be in the back of the client’s mind, and so you need to think about ways you can give them confidence that you’re future relationship is going to be based on reliability and value-for-money.

Conclusion

These are just my thoughts and very general advice – it’s all very subjective. I don’t expect everyone to agree with the points I’ve written – I see that as a good thing: everybody’s approach should be different; tailored to the way that you approach your work. I think that’s the trick to a good pitch really: find what works for you.

I would love to have feedback on the subjects raised here, and feel free to contribute any of your own suggestions on things I’ve missed out.

Is the iPad Really the Savior of the Newspaper Industry?

In-depth analysis from Mashable about the current state of newspaper applications for mobile devices. There’s nothing conclusive in the article, but it does include some interesting tidbits and some startling facts and figures:

The Harrison Group survey found that tablet users spend nearly 75% more time reading newspapers and newspaper articles, and 25% more time reading books. Those surveyed were apparently so convinced by the digital delivery and form factor, that 81% of tablet owners believe that it is inevitable that all forms of publications will eventually be produced almost exclusively in a digital format.

Those are some pretty compelling and encouraging numbers for content creators. So why are so many of the current apps failing to make the grade?

After looking at a variety of newspaper iPad apps, our main complaint — and we’re generalizing across the entire market — is that they don’t take enough advantage of the iPad’s wowing capabilities.

Uh-oh.

The solution could be found in a new “hybrid newspaper app” suggests Fidler, in which “automated sections with continuously updated news stories and more visually rich magazine-like sections created by editors and designers could coexist.” The Reynolds Journalism Institute is experimenting with exactly that kind of new publishing model.

The NAA also acknowledges the need for newspapers to “differentiate” content, and digital strategist Levitz says that consumers read longer-form content on the iPad, and they really enjoy the high quality of the visual images on the screen. She thinks newspapers can thrive in the tablet space if they take advantage of the device’s capabilities.

So essentially, what’s being said here is “people like pretty pictures and clicky, whizzy, shiny things.” This is where so many publishers and analysts seem to be missing the point. The IPad’s wow factors aren’t it’s ability to show high-quality imagery, nor it’s slick animations. The iPad’s wow factors are it’s pick-up-ability, it’s tactile and responsive interface, it’s ability to connect your offline world seamlessly with your online world.

So many newspaper publishers got it so wrong when they tried to transition from print to the web. They failed to innovate; failed to adapt their business models; failed to see the value in their content and the power of their readers. Amid that disruption, they appear to be about to make the same mistakes again: failing to innovate, failing to adapt; failing to realise that their content has become even more valuable, and their readers ever more powerful.

“ū—”: A Distraction-Free Writing Environment

Cheeky but fun little parody by Merlin Mann of the Writer app which I mentioned yesterday:

We call this workhorse “ū—” in tribute to an untranslatable Inuit word meaning, “the moment when Family Leader finds himself sweeping yak hair from the [ice-covered lean-to] while his angry wife screams heavily-distracting criticism of Family Leader’s time use.” Since it’s untranslatable and we don’t speak a word of Inuit, we’re not sure what that word would be. But, we definitely thought “ū—” sounded cool and a little Eskimoey.

Also, we had to come up with a name that wasn’t already on the App store. So.

Writer for iPad

This new writing application for the iPad from Information Architects is pure elegance. Hardly surprising considering the well-thought philosophy behind it:

Professional Typography is not just pretty to look at. It facilitates the process of reading. If you look at text as an interface, typography is its usability. Common text editors are typographically weak (small font, tight leading, random measure, lack of whitespace). In addition, few people have the professional skills to design digital text. In Writer, font type, text size, column width, leading and contrast are carefully set for the best reading experience both in portrait and landscape mode.

I’ve been finding it difficult to find a reason to invest in a first-generation iPad, but it’s beautiful apps like this which might just sway me. The thoroughness of their branding nails it:

The period at the end of the logo reflects the main virtue of the application: It pushes you to get to the point.

I guess you might call this a kind of retraction… of sorts

I posted up an article yesterday which summarised some do’s and don’ts for organisers of film events. It was prompted by my experience of a local film festival I attended this weekend, and contained some examples of things which I felt could have been done better.

Now, I appreciate the effort that goes into organising these kinds of events, and the contribution that is made by volunteers and contributors. Not to mention the fact that it was free to attend, thanks to public and private funding. So I was very careful not to criticise individuals or participants: I was airing my opinion about what I saw as a lack of care in the organisation and running of the events I attended.

I received quite an acerbic phone call from one of the festival organisers this afternoon, who took exception to my comments. As a gesture of good will (and because I like a quiet life), I’ve now edited the original article to remove some of the specifics of my criticisms. Not because the original piece was inaccurate or exaggerated (if you want to see the original, just contact me), but because the tone of the phone call was… well, let’s just say it wasn’t very pleasant.

I’m surprised that anyone would take the opinions of little old me so seriously. But when it comes down to it, that’s just what they are: my personal opinions, and I’m sorry if people don’t like them. Airing my views publicly has got me into hot water plenty of times in the past, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.

Some advice for organising a film event

This is an edited version of an article I posted on Sunday. You can read the reasons for the edit over here.

Since our decision to cease the CFN screenings as of the new year, we’ve been really enjoying getting out and about to attend events as patrons for a change. Although our screenings were only once a month, there was a heck of a lot of work involved: liaising with guest speakers, doing PR, researching films, programming films, preparing films, producing programmes – and that’s all aside from actually presenting the evenings themselves. So it’s nice to not have to worry about all those jobs right now, and to spend some time getting out and about seeing what everyone else is up to.

We’ve been to some good events so far this year, my favourite being the first short film evening at Lanternhouse, which I hope is going to become a regular fixture in Ulverston’s cultural scene.

This weekend we’ve been to some of the screenings and talks as part of the Film Insiders Talent Festival in Barrow, hosted by Signal Films. I couldn’t make it to this last year, so was doubly keen to make it along this time.

I went with an open mind, hoping that I was going to enjoy myself. Ultimately though, I was left disappointed. Not so much with the programming – the events themselves had good content, with some interesting people speaking – but the organisation and running of things seemed a bit slap-dash. Easily-avoidable technical problems spoiled proceedings at both of the evening events I attended, and seemed that there was no one person in charge of proceedings.

I know it’s a horrible cliche to say “I could do better than that”. But the fact is that I could, and more importantly, have repeatedly done better than what I experienced over this weekend.

Rather than just ranting about it, I thought it’d be worth posting up some constructive advice for anyone planning to organise a film screening event. We’ve been organising and hosting them regularly for quite a few years, and have learned a lot along the way. Here’s my bullet-proof list of how to run a successful film event.

1. Test everything

It really isn’t good enough rolling up an hour or two before your event, setting things up and hoping that everything will work. You’ll inevitably have some technical gremlins appear, and the only way you can iron them out is to prepare and test everything well ahead of time, and then when you’re happy with things: test it all again. We spent at least three solid days getting things checked and in place when we hosted Rule of Thirds last year, making sure that everything was water-tight, with plan B’s in place to cope with any unforeseen hiccups.

Don’t just hope for the best, because something will go wrong. Even if you’ve tested everything off-site, test it all again in situ at your venue. Technical glitches can seem like small hiccups to you, but can be a real annoyance to your audience, particularly if they’re persistent.

2. Sound is everything

You can just about get away with a slightly under-par picture, but your sound quality is of utmost importance. If your sound is bad, then everything else falls apart. It can create an awful experience for your audience, and can render films completely unwatchable.

This is relevant to both screening films, a Q&A session, or any other kind of presentation activity. Microphones need to be of a decent quality, and tested to make sure they’re working properly before proceedings begin: fiddling with things during the event really isn’t an option.

If you’re going to use a PA system, get someone who knows what they’re doing, and have them concentrate solely on running the sound throughout your event. It’ll save you so many headaches, and give you one less, very important thing to worry about. But, if you hire someone in, get them on recommendation: there are some rubbish sound technicians operating out there in the wild.

3. Respect your contributors

If you have a filmmaker in attendance to talk about their work, then you owe it to them to make doubly sure that everything runs smoothly. They will have invariably gone to quite some effort to join you, and quite often they’ll be a little nervous about speaking. If your event runs smoothly, and your audience are enjoying themselves, then it creates a comfortable atmosphere: you’re contributors will relax, feel more comfortable and ultimately give your audience a much better experience.

When your contributors arrive, make time to have a sit down and a short chat with them, even if you have a 101 other things to do. Make them feel at home, and explain the itinerary so they know when and where they need to be, and what to expect when they’re plunged in front of an audience. Technical or logistical hitches with a guest speaker is not only embarrassing for you and for them, it makes your audience squirm.

4. Don’t cause distractions

Once an event is underway, everyone should be seated or in position to do whatever they need to do. And that includes organisers. It can feel tempting to hover around at the back, or wander in and out looking busy. Once proceedings are underway, you should find yourself a seat closest to where you need to be, and stay there. Noise travels, particularly in a room full of seated, attentive people, so if people are moving around, or fiddling with things, it causes a terrible distraction for your audience.

If something needs fixing, it’s really best not to try to fix it until you have a natural break. This is particularly important while people are speaking: any kind of technical tinkering can be a horrible distraction, and can throw your speakers off their stride. If you do have something to sort out, don’t try to do it while your event is still running: wait, call a break, then fix it – you’ll get things sorted much more quickly, and you won’t look like such a shambles.

5. Have a master of ceremonies

I can’t stress how important this one is. Have one person in charge, curating the event and acting as host. They should be in charge of making sure the evening runs smoothly, dealing with any problems and generally keeping everything in check. Your event is destined to fail if you don’t have some kind of hierarchy and allocation of responsibilities.

I’ve witnessed far too many badly run events due to a simple lack of communication and planning. If nobody is in charge, then there is no focus for any crew or volunteers helping with your event, and problems are compounded.

And just hoping that people will be where you think they should be doesn’t work. People aren’t always under your jurisdiction, so you need to double-check they know where and when things are happening, and if you need to have someone with them, to give them guidance and support. It has the added advantage of helping you to deal with the running of things at lightening speed.

6. Don’t cause yourself problems

Always make sure you know where your assets are (without them, there is no screening), and always, always have a backup. Loosing a disc is unforgivable, and a coherent running order is a must.

And whatever you do, if you have lost a disc or something show-stopping has happened: never, ever announce it to your audience from your seat. Get up, stand at the front, apologise, and tell everyone you have a technical problem which you’re sorting out as quickly as you can – your audience need to be kept informed.

And one last, easily-avoidable headache: don’t swear. People haven’t come to your event to be sworn at, unless it’s during the course of open conversation with a contributor – but the use of bad language is entirely unnecessary, and a lot of people really don’t appreciate it.

7. Have a good presenter

If you’re running a Q&A session, it’s really worth trying to find someone who has a good presentation style – preferably someone who is personable and knowledgeable, someone who can connect with an audience. It’ll help your whole event to “gel” and is the best way to present an air of professionalism – and is a sure-fire way of getting people to return in the future. They should be well-dressed – not too formal, but at least make a bit of an effort – and should be full of energy, attentive and alert, with good posture (no slouching!)

8. Run things to schedule

Wherever possible, make sure that you run a tight schedule. Sometimes it’s necessary to delay things a little if you’re still waiting for audience members to arrive or iron out final logistics, but you need to weigh up the pros and cons of keeping everyone else waiting, at the expense of a couple of people having to shuffle in late. Some people don’t like to be kept waiting, so if you do have a serious delay (and I consider serious to be anything more than 5 minutes) you need to make an announcement.

Probably more important than starting on time, is finishing on time. It can be very inconsiderate to keep people around for longer than they expect, because they generally have places to be: a train to catch, a childminder to relieve, friends to meet, a parking ticket about to expire. Running everything to time puts across the impression that you’re running a tight ship, and keeps everything feeling sharp and dynamic, not lazy and lacklustre.

9. Thank everybody

Thank your contributors, thank your venue, thank your hosts, and most importantly thank your audience. But don’t let it turn into a lengthy oscar speech, you should keep it brief. By wrapping up with a round of “thanks” you nicely bookend your event, and prompt a hearty round of applause from your audience. There’s nothing worse than going to an event which isn’t concluded properly, and where things just dwindle.

The most emphasise should go to anybody who has contributed their time or resources for free – those are the people who have really made your event a success, and if you don’t thank them, they’ll be really cheesed off – and rightly so! I make a list before I present any kind of event, to make sure I’ve got everyone covered, and that gives me the rest of the time to figure out if I’ve forgotten anyone. It’s that mantra again: check, and then check again.

I wish I could round all these points up with a tenth, but right now, I can’t think of anything else. Those are the key areas I think: follow those words of advice, and I don’t think you can go far wrong.