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How & Why To Host A Fireside Chat

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Simon Deignan2023-05-10

While fireside chats may originally have been used to ease the worries and calm the nerves of a nation, successful business leaders have likewise found them invaluable. The benefits of these chats are numerous but there are some crucial things we want you to bear in mind as you prepare to host your own.

Fireside chat

What exactly is a fireside chat?

Franklin D. Roosevelt may have inspired this type of meeting but his chats were somewhat different from what we see taking place throughout conference rooms and meeting halls around the world today. Fireside chats are meant to be informal and casual conversations with people who have interesting and compelling opinions. 

They are not like presentations, keynotes, or speeches; The guest speaks with the interviewer or interviewer in the presence of an audience, rather than presenting or speaking to them with little back and forth. Interaction comes between the guest and the interviewer with some input coming from the audience in the form of questions and answers. 

So remember a fireside chat is:

  • A back-and-forth conversation.
  • An informal conversation.
  • Can touch on a range of topics from the guests' backstory, their personal experiences, and their plans for the future.

And it is not

  • A prepared speech. 
  • A pre-planned presentation. 
  • A soliloquy by the guest.

What is the purpose of a fireside chat?

As previously mentioned, the point of a fireside chat is to offer something different from the traditional presentation or speech so many of us are used to sitting through. A more engaging one-to-one conversation with a speaker whose opinions, ideas, and stories will provide value to the audience is the ultimate goal. 

This guest ‘chatter’ should have observations that an audience will find both engaging and interesting. This does not necessarily have to be related to their direct line of work but a more broad conversation about life experiences and insights. 

The casual and informal nature of these chats means that many influential speakers prefer this format, potentially making it easier to book a bigger name for your event. While these chats can and should have some structure to them, they are meant to be more free-flowing than a panel discussion or a debate.

How to host a successful fireside chat

Now that we have seen what a fireside chat is and why it’s a good idea to organize one, you’re probably wondering what specifically you need to do to make yours a success. Well, we just so happen to have a few tips on that exact matter. 

  1. Find a great interviewer 
  2. Find the right guest
  3. Make it remote-friendly 
  4. Make it interactive 

1. Get an interviewer, not a moderator. 

A moderator is perfect for a panel discussion or a debate, but we need an interviewer for a fireside chat. Look for someone that can stick to a series of predetermined questions, but who knows when to dive deeper into something your guest has said or indeed not said. 

Think of a great talk show host and how they can draw fascinating tidbits, stories, and lessons from people all thanks to the questions they do and don’t ask. This is precisely what you need; someone capable of directing the conversation while keeping it flowing.  

2. Get an interesting and open guest

Not everyone interesting is willing to regale us with stories; conversely, not everyone open is interesting or insightful. You need to find a guest who is both. For this chat to be a roaring success it needs to be both informative and captivating. 

Searching for a speaker that can teach your employees, your executives, or yourself something new is a great starting point. Finding out if they’re an engaging and talkative person should be the second step in choosing a speaker. The two chatters will be one of the main factors that will make this event a success.  

3. Make the meeting remote-friendly 

We are rapidly moving towards a world where online and face-to-face meetings are no longer separate entities. The hybrid environment that we will all become more and more accustomed to will require us to adapt. If we haven’t already.

First of all, ensure that people can join remotely and that they will enjoy a similar experience to those attending in person. Video conferencing tools, sound, and cameras can be used to bring these fireside chats directly into people’s homes. If FDR could bring himself into people’s living rooms over the radio with his addresses then you can do the same with our modern technology. 

4. Make it interactive 

Getting the audience involved can be a tricky process, especially if some are in the room and others are logging on from another location. Whether it’s for a question and answers section or you want to get ideas for the conversation before the meeting, using a tool like Mentimeter can minimize the inefficiency that comes with opening the floor up to questions. 

Here's a template we made that you can use as inspiration.

Fireside Chat

Fireside Chat

Using Mentimeter as a survey tool in this scenario can also help guide the conversation in a direction that your employees will find most beneficial and compelling. You want to draw your audience into the conversation and a great way of doing this is by allowing them to ask questions, have their voices be heard, and interact directly with your guest and interviewer!

Fireside chat format

When it comes to Fireside chats, there are a few different formats to consider. However, the most effective Fireside chat format is one that engages the audience and creates a comfortable, intimate atmosphere. A great way to achieve this is to have an experienced moderator who can guide the conversation and ask thought-provoking questions. Additionally, having multiple speakers can add depth and diversity to the discussion. 

It's important to keep in mind that the length of the chat should be appropriate for the topic and audience, typically ranging from 30 to 60 minutes. Lastly, incorporating interactive elements such as live polling or audience Q&A can increase engagement and make the event even more memorable. Ultimately, the best Fireside chat format is one that leaves a lasting impact on the audience and fosters meaningful conversations.

Good questions to ask during a fireside chat

When it comes to hosting a Fireside chat for your company, asking the right questions is key to keeping the conversation engaging and informative. Here are a few examples of questions you might want to consider asking during the event: 

  • What inspired you to start this company, and what challenges did you face in the early days? 
  • What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned as a leader in this industry, and how have those lessons impacted the way you do business? 
  • What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this field? 
  • What are some of the biggest trends you see shaping the future of the industry, and how is your company positioning itself to stay ahead of the curve? 

These types of questions can help to spark thoughtful discussion and provide valuable insights into the company's history, leadership, and vision for the future.

So there you have it! 

Now you know everything we have to tell you about fireside chats! So if you’re ready to put these ideas into practice then get prepping. Oh and don’t worry though the fire is obviously optional, in case we didn’t mention that bit before!

If you are looking for ways to improve your next big or small event, we have the tools for you.

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