4 ways to hold more effective fireside chats

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Whether you’re hosting an industry conference or an all-hands company meeting, fireside chats are a great way to engage various speakers and add an interactive element to your presentation. Although these conversations are more informal, they are also structured enough to provide valuable information and make the most out of guests’ time.

Here, we will talk more about what fireside chats are, some of the benefits of incorporating fireside chats into your next presentation, how to hold more effective fireside chats, and some questions to ask to get the conversation going.

What are fireside chats?

Fireside chats are informal yet structured chats between a guest and a moderator. They can be with industry thought leaders, key performers, employees, or CEOs. The goal is to provide an informative, interesting chat in a different kind of presentation format.

The term “fireside chat” originated in the 1930s. With the hopes of putting the American people at ease during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt went on the radio and hosted a more casual conversation about what was going on. Although he wasn’t actually around a fire, that’s the feeling listeners got. It was a more casual alternative to the formal presentations they were used to hearing.

Fireside chats can be used during internal meetings with companies, at conferences, or at industry gatherings. Let’s look at why you should consider adding a fireside chat to your next company meeting or event, some tips on how to hold a more effective fireside chat, and questions to get you started as you develop your agenda.

The benefits of fireside chats

There are many benefits of hosting a fireside chat at your next event.

  • They’re more casual. For some guests this might help them open up when they would otherwise be hesitant to take the stage. With a more casual setting, fireside chats encourage honest and transparent communication.
  • You may have more luck scoring some bigger names for your events. Major thought leaders and influencers have enough on their plate and while they might want to speak at your event, the idea of creating a deck and speech may turn them away. With a fireside chat, you prepare all the questions ahead of time so your guest doesn’t have to worry about creating their own presentation. With less preparation on their end, they may be more willing to join your gathering.
  • They offer your audience a refreshing break from long, sometimes stale presentations. Fireside chats are similar to conversations and with this casual setup, the audience can sit back and enjoy the information.

How to hold more effective fireside chats

If you’re ready to ace your next presentation by including a fireside chat, here are a few tips to help it go as smoothly as possible:

Create a casual space

With all of the stages,  lights and giant projectors, traditional presentations can feel a little overwhelming. The goal of a fireside chat is to make the moderator, guest, and audience feel more comfortable so encourage this by setting up a nice, cozy space. Most fireside chats have the moderator and guest sitting in comfortable chairs. Dim the lights, throw some decorations on the stage, and grab a cup of coffee for the ultimate casual chat.

Encourage the audience to participate

The best fireside chats incorporate live questions from the audience. Poll Everywhere can help you generate audience questions in real-time. You can even present them for the guest to see and answer.

Have a conversation

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Fireside chats are similar to traditional interviews, but the important difference is that fireside chats should encourage more casual communication. The priority should be a back and forth dialogue between the moderator and the guest. This two-way conversation makes fireside chats more effective and more enjoyable.

Be prepared

Although fireside chats are a more casual form of presentation, you should still be fully prepared before the event. Your fireside chat should be a thoughtful conversation that covers important information about your guest. Before hosting, do your research on the guest, make a list of questions to ask, and prepare for any curveballs by running through the mock presentation with a test audience. This will ensure that your fireside chat flows smoothly.

Questions to ask during a fireside chat

Speaking of making a list of questions, we’ve compiled this list of popular fireside chat questions to help you build out your agenda. These questions are more general and should be catered to your guest specifically, but they will help you start thinking about what you want to cover. You could even crowdsource questions from the audience using Poll Everywhere.

  • How did you get started in your industry?
  • If someone wants to enter this industry, what are three pieces of advice that you’d give them?
  • If you could change anything about your career path, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing about this industry, what would it be?
  • Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
  • Where do you find inspiration and creativity?
  • How do you encourage creative thinking from your employees/coworkers?
  • What are some of your or your company’s core values and why?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

To help your guest prepare, send over your fireside chat questions before the presentation so they can start thinking about their answers.

Fireside chats are informal, informative, inspiring, and can improve your presentations or meetings. Sit down, relax, and learn from your guest as your audience interacts along the way.