I got this great tip from marketing innovator Seth Godin. I think its a good one for anyone putting on a conference or large meeting. Like Seth, I attend many conferences and the time and manner in which the organizers are thanked is not effective or efficient. Seth has a small improvement I plan to adopt:
Approximately 5% of the official welcome speech consists of a litany of thanks. The list is impossible to remember, said too fast and dull. Not only is this a total waste of time for most attendees, it doesn’t even satisfy the core objective, which is thanking and rewarding the folks who helped. And it certainly doesn’t encourage others to look forward to helping out.
The solution is pretty simple, thanks to Powerpoint and digital cameras.
Prepare for the talk by taking pictures of each person. If they’re shy, you can even do photographs in groups of two or three. Good photos, clever photos, funny photos… photos that are interesting are best.
Then, create a new presentation. Put each photo on its own slide, preferably with a well designed ID below it (it should be on a black box, with a nice sans serif font reversed out. Like you see on cable TV news.)
String one after the other. Build a dissolve transition between each one. Program it to put up a new slide every two seconds–don’t go too slow!–and to loop the presentation.
Ten minutes before you’re due to start, while everyone is finding their seats, run the presentation. It’ll cycle 5 or 10 times before you start speaking. When you get up, start your presentation and just dive into the meaty stuff.
Every single person you feature will be famous! “Hey, I saw you in that loop!”
And you won’t have wasted your valuable presentation time.
— from Seth’s Blog by Seth Godin