Monday, August 08, 2011

Training The Speakers For Your Conference

Successful organizations go beyond the "same old / same old".  They do not limit their future because of the past.  They implement new ideas and encourage their people to expand boundaries.

I was recently hired by an association to conduct a webinar for the presenters at their upcoming conference (the event is in two month).  The days of experts taking the stage to deliver data dumps are long gone (or should be).  Audiences today expect more from speakers at conferences.  Not everyone on the agenda can be a seasoned professional speaker, but everyone who presents should be invested in delivering value.

My mantra is "Just because someone is smart or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on the stage".  The ongoing argument between content and style in speeches is bullshit.  It is NOT too much to expect both!!!  Audiences want to learn, but do not want to be bored to death.  They expect to have a connection to the person on the stage.

The association I am working with has adopted a TED Talk style format.  Their morning session will involve six presentations with each speaker having twenty minutes. But TED is about more than short format presentations. To "wow" an audience in a limited time frame the presenters must know their points and purpose.  Preparation is key.

We are used to hour time slots at business events and speakers often take the whole time to connect with their audience.  Longer format talks are easier to create and deliver compared to short talks.  I find it takes me three times as much advance preparation for a short format speech as it does for an hour.

To create a meaningful conversational presentation you must be audience focused.  Everything you do must be crafted to have impact.  Your preparation time will be ten to forty hours in advance of the conference.  If you are not planning to dedicate the time needed to create a great speech, then do not accept the invitation to present.

Things to remember:
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Take a few minutes back stage to mentally prepare
  • Show, don't tell
  • Edit out the fluff
  • Have a strong opening and close
  • No need to tell them what you will say, and what you said.  Just tell them once (with power)
  • Leave your ego at home
  • Meet the audience in advance
  • Stay after you are done to talk to everyone who wants to meet you
  • Let your personality shine through
  • Conversations have no scripts
  • Humor is good, not jokes!
  • What you wear matters
  • Do not hand out your PPT slides in advance
  • Fewer words on PPT is better - pictures are best
  • Your presentation is an experience for the audience
  • Never run over time
  • Be authentic
How many conferences have you attended where the planners conducted an training for the presenters?  I think this was a great idea, and a trend I expect to see from more meeting planners.  If the speakers find little ideas that work for them and incorporate them into their talks then the whole audience wins.  I do not expect that any of these industry experts will become powerful and experienced speakers from one 90 minute webinar, but I am confident that each of them will be stronger on stage because they have thought through the meaning of their presentation.

What do you think?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Larry said...

Excellent points Thom. Your post is almost serendipitous because Rocky Mountain ProductCamp is making this happen before our next event for all the reasons you stated.

Thanks for your support during ProductCamp Austin as well.

Steve Susina said...

Great insights, Thom!

Having attended quite a few events (as both a speaker and an attendee), I'd like to add one more thought: Be prepared to adapt your presentation and/or comments based on the context of the event.

--Attend the opening keynote and reference the main themes in your talk. The keynote sets the overall context. Showing how your talk fits within it is helpful for the audience.

--If you're on a panel, don't spend three minutes to essentially say "I agree with everything just said." If you're offered the second comment to a question, be prepared to extend the point with some new insight.

--Take advantage of the fact that you met the audience before your talk and reference their points as they occur in your presentation -- show you care about their thoughts and ideas.

Anonymous said...

I wish every conference hired someone to train all their speakers.

Dave Lutz said...

Thom, great topic! More conference organizers need to invest in their industry speakers. It's a huge opportunity to raise the bar and value of conference education.

In addition to the excellent tips in your post and in the comments, I'd add that learning could be improved if the presenter is able to engage the audience in small group discussion. So often, information from the stage is quickly forgotten if the participant is not able to discuss and consider how it applies to them.

Preparing for a brief talk like TED, is huge work! What's awesome though is that prep and rehearsal can really sharpen ones skill-set for delivering relevancy and learning at a deep dive session.

Keep the great posts coming!

Eugene Sepulveda said...

great list, Thom