I’ve attended thousands of events, whether I’ve organised them, participated in them, or just been there to listen, and there is one thing that happens far too many times. The speakers are mind numbingly boring; to the point you’d rather put red hot pins in your eyes than sit and listen for another second.
Thankfully, most people are too polite to leave an event, or would rather not draw attention to themselves by leaving, so it’s rare that people walk out of the room mid-presentation. But if people didn’t have these social graces, I could imagine the hordes running for the doors.
The worst thing is many people do leave events early because of boring sessions, often missing out on the great presentations scheduled for later on, and it is all because speakers need to learn some very important lessons.
The first question you need to ask yourself, before accepting a speaking position is, am I the best person for this job? I appreciate that CEOs, MDs and VPs are often required to take on the mantle of speaker and many times, audiences expect this, BUT if you do not have a flair for public speaking, maybe you shouldn’t do the job? Maybe your head of sales is gregarious and comfortable on stage and he or she would do a better job? Or maybe it’s someone really junior who just has the character to grab an audience’s attention?
The other potential is someone outside of your company, like a customer or a guru in your business? This can go wrong too, and I’ve witnessed some painful customer presentations, but as you invest so much money in events – be it organised by your company or sponsored – it’s worth getting everything you can out of it. Therefore, the first thing to do is to make sure the best person is speaking to win the audience’s attention.
The second important thing to keep in mind is DON’T DO A SALES PITCH! Don’t even mention your company. YOU DON’T NEED TO! If you do a fantastic presentation, anyone in the audience who was “grabbed” by what you said is probably going to want to speak to you afterwards, speak to your team at the event, check out your Website, or whatever they do next, but they will be in touch. The key thing is to talk about something that is really relevant to your audience.
Try talking about a solution that solves a problem your audience is facing? Or talk about customer experiences with your company – but not what you did, the benefit they got from it. You do not need to go into any detail about anything you offer. Trust me, if you win the crowd, they will come.
Talk about the world, trends you are seeing and starting, solutions that are open to businesses/people, predictions for the world, whatever you can think of. Make it interesting, make it engaging, and make it funny – but funny is dependent on where you are. All cultures find different things funny, so if you are an American speaking in Asia, your gags might not go down well. If you are an Indian speaking in the UK, the same might be said.
But that’s part of the decision making process in appointing a speaker – who is the person that can win the crowd, has the local sense of humour to entertain them, and the smarts to hit their sweet spots? That is how you make a decision on who should be speaking.
Oh, and if you bring an American or a European executive over to Asia, PLEASE give them local content to present. It’s great knowing what’s going on in other parts of the world, but in Asia Pacific, they want to know what’s going on in their part of the world.
So make it relevant, make it entertaining, make it funny, win the crowd and they will love you for it!
Here’s to exciting events in the future.