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Lessons from Hosting the Scottish EDGE Final

Mel Sherwood EDGE10

If you had an opportunity to compere the final of the UK’s largest funding competition, how would you feel? If you’re like most people, including me, you may feel a little daunted by the prospect!

The Scottish EDGE final takes place twice a year and is an eagerly anticipated event in the entrepreneurial calendar. Held at RBS Conference Centre in Gogarburn and attended by 600 people across the course of the event, audiences this round saw twenty promising entrepreneurs pitch their businesses plans to an expert panel of judges in order to win a slice of a £1.3 million prize pot.

I’ve been involved with the EDGE in some way or another since the first round 4 years ago. I’ve run pitch workshops for applicants and have personally coached more than 30 EDGE, Young EDGE and Wildcard EDGE winners who have secured more than £1.25 million between them. So I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to host the Round 10 final.

Having sat through most of the EDGE finals I was aware that the host has a massive duty to keep the energy and momentum up throughout the day for the benefit of the entrepreneurs who are pitching as well as for the audience.

With that kind of responsibility on my shoulders, I was keen to do a good job in the role and ensure it was engaging, informative and entertaining. I pitched some ideas to Scottish EDGE CEO, Evelyn McDonald, and COO, Steven Hamill, who embraced my suggestions to increase audience engagement and Steven incorporated it into the script he kindly drafted for me. We included activities that required audience interaction such as ‘2 Truths and a Lie’ about the EDGE team which generated some laughs as we learnt more about each of them, and we asked the audience to guess the answers to questions such as ‘What is the total number of jobs EDGE winners have created?’  We also ran a competition for audience members to come up with an alternative acronym to EDGE and they came up with some crackers. Some of my favourites included ‘Everyday Delivers Grief for Entrepreneurs’, ‘Enjoying Da Gogarburn Experience’ and ‘Educating Drivers in Good Etiquette’ (you had to be there!) Incidentally, EDGE actually stands for Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day after seeing twenty entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone to give their #pitchtastic pitches in front of a formidable panel and a packed auditorium, I got out of my comfort zone to wrap up the event by singing a song I wrote to capture the spirit of the EDGE. This was a bit of a challenge for me because I feel the same way about singing as many people feel about public speaking – super anxious, but thankfully it seemed to go okay!

Overall, the day went really well and there has been some great feedback, but it didn’t happen without any planning or preparation – there was a whole fabulous team of people involved in bringing it together and as the host I had to make sure I did my bit to ensure the success of the event.

Congratulations to everyone involved and to the twenty businesses who delivered such a high standard of pitches – whether you won or not, you were all absolutely #pitchtastic!

If you have the opportunity to host an event, here are some of my tips to ensure you are well prepared to ensure everything runs smoothly:

Before the day

  • Research the audience and why they are in attendance
  • Understand the event and its themes so that you can align your comments and reinforce key messages
  • Find out exactly what the organisers are expecting you to do
  • Prepare a script, or at least bullet points to ensure you cover everything that needs to be mentioned
  • Prepare some relevant anecdotes and stories you can weave in throughout the day
  • Prepare introductions for all speakers; make sure they are happy with what you will say
  • If hosting a panel, research the panel and prepare introductions and questions
  • Think through possible problems and prepare some solutions should the worst occur
  • Think about ways you may be able to interact with the audience to keep them engaged
  • Ask about the pronunciation of all names or words you are unfamiliar with (I did this for the majority and was still caught out by some slightly different to ‘normal’ pronunciation so always check every detail with the actual person you are introducing)
  • Practice what you are going to say, especially any unfamiliar words or phrases
  • Visit the venue where possible; at the very least obtain pictures so you have an idea of the set up and layout of seating, etc

On the day

  • Arrive early (I arrived just before 8am for a 9.30am start)
  • Let the organisers know you have arrived and ask if there is anything additional you should know or anything they might need you to do to help prepare for the event
  • Familiarise yourself with the space, stand on the stage, walk up any steps, check where the lectern and other props/staging might be, note where you will enter and exit the stage
  • Sit in a few different seats in the auditorium so you can see what it will be like from the audience’s perspective
  • Find out about any prepared fire alarm tests, where the toilets are, etc
  • Meet sound and lighting technician/s (they will be your best friend and ensure you are seen and heard)
  • Find out where and when you will need to get your microphone and make sure you are there at that time
  • Anticipate questions the speakers may have (e.g. how to use the slide ‘clicker’)
  • Warm up your body and voice so that you aren’t warming up on the audience’s time
  • Take a moment to prepare yourself mentally and get into the right state before the event commences

During the event

  • Start strongly and positively; remember you are setting the scene for the event
  • Stay alert and ready to adapt as required
  • Vary your voice and use open body language to ensure your delivery is engaging
  • Listen to the speakers so that you can incorporate a comment about their talk when thanking them
  • Keep to time; you may need to fill some time between speakers but remember it’s not about you so don’t go on and on leading the event to run overtime
  • Smile, be lively and enthusiastic and keep your energy up throughout the entire event

After the event

  • Thank the organisers, the tech crew and anyone else who has supported you through the event
  • Review your performance – think about what went well and what you would do differently in the future
  • Relax and recover!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

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