What’s the difference between listening to a great entrepreneur’s keynote speech and having a face-to-face conversation with the same person?
The answer is obvious: During a keynote speech, you only get a superficial overview of what that person represents. It’s much more general or detached and shows a clear distinction between the speaker and the attendees.
One-on-one meetings, on the other hand, are more intimate and focus mostly on building a trust-based exchange of information. You get a detailed understanding of someone’s character and being. This is why fireside chats are incredibly popular.
What’s a fireside chat? Compared to other traditional presentation formats, a fireside chat is an informal, yet structured dialogue between a speaker and a moderator, who focuses on adding a casual tone to the conversation while providing massive value to the audience.
Obviously, there’s no fire or flames, so why is it called a fireside chat, then? The first fireside chat "is credited to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held a series of radio addresses beginning in the Great Depression. His press secretary said the informal talks were meant to make people feel like FDR was talking to families next to his fireplace, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin."
Now, we have the privilege of enjoying fireside chats with Elon Muskand Jeff Bezos, and getting more insights into the way they think and act while enjoying a laidback environment.
Are you intrigued and now thinking about running a fireside chat for your next event? Here’s a list of requirements to consider for good results:
Invite speakers who have something interesting to share
Fireside chats are an incredible opportunity for attendees to get to know a speaker in a friendlier and more familiar way. That’s why you’ll want to invite someone who has interesting things to talk about.
Obviously, you shouldn’t obsess over inviting industry rock stars or high-profile figures.
However, you’ll have to make sure that the speaker is indeed beneficial to your attendees and has plenty of stories to share with them.
Hire a moderator with a good interviewing experience
Inviting an interesting speaker is only 1% of the equation. What makes a fireside chat truly great is the person who’ll be interviewing the speaker. Not all moderators have the talent to ask good and insightful questions.
If you want to run a highly engaging and immersive fireside chat session, you’ll have to do your research and hire an interviewer or moderator who has a journalistic background or is known for leading highly interesting interviews.
Involve your audience and listen to what they want to know
There’s no point in a fireside chat if you don’t offer your audience the opportunity to ask questions. Ask the attendees to post any questions they have before the event via social media or an event mobile app.
Make sure your moderator will take into consideration what your attendees want to hear about during the fireside chat and encourage him or her to prepare accordingly.
Make sure that the structure of the dialogue is easy to follow
There’s nothing worse than a disorganized fireside chat with a moderator who jumps from one topic to another. Before the event, brief the moderator and agree upon a specific structure of the dialogue.
You’ll have to know the main topics that will be tackled and in which order, and how much time the moderator will dedicate to each topic.
Subsequently, you can share this structure with your audience at the beginning of the fireside chat to prepare them for what comes next.
Build the narrative with the informal atmosphere in mind
Fireside chats are especially popular because of the amicable vibe they convey. A successful dynamic will generate the feeling of sitting by a fire and speaking to a good friend.
Considering this aspect, providing an informal atmosphere should be a top priority.
For this setting, you can experiment with the stage design, maybe installing comfortable armchairs or sofas and dim, relaxing lightning.
Fireside chats could be the jewel of your event and bring everyone together to enjoy an informal, yet insightful experience. So prepare well for it.
Invite an interesting speaker and a highly skillful interviewer. Engage your audience before the event by encouraging them to share any questions. Focus on the dialogue structure, and last but not least, transform your venue (even if just for one hour) into a comfortable space similar to a cozy fireplace.