Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Speaking at #SXSW? Do Not "Michael Bay" Your Next Presentation

Hollywood director Michael Bay infamously failed in his presentation for Samsung at CES.  The teleprompter failed and he could not express what inspires his own ideas, and he froze.  He walked off stage.  The Samsung executive who shared the stage with him was at a loss.  The presentation (a product launch) flopped.  The video has gone viral.

Professional speaker Scott McKain did a great job on his blog of explaining how and why this event failed with his post "This is why you hire a professional" (and much of that responsibility fell to the event organizer, Samsung, who selected Bay).  While not all speakers need to be professional presenters, we should not assume everyone is comfortable on stage.

Soon the tech and marketing worlds will come to Austin, Texas for the SXSW Interactive 2014 and there will be thousands of presentations.  Nobody wants to flop, but my experience in attending SXSW for nearly a decade (I missed last year) is that more of the talks are "bad" than are "good".  Most are okay, as they are smart people with interesting information.... but just because someone is smart, or has done something cool, it does not mean they are engaging speakers.

If you going to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2014 there is plenty of time to make sure you are prepared to deliver a good presentation. 

However, too many of those who will take the stage at this event (and other events all over the world) will suck.  Yep, they will range from average to awful in their presentation skills.  There will be little preparation and most will not be audience focused.  Too many will attempt to "wing-it".  The actionable information and inspiration the attendees desire will be missing, while speakers try to prove they uber-intelligent on their topic.  

Speaking at a major event brings opportunity to present yourself as an expert, but if you are awful at how you communicate with the audience you will not only miss this opportunity, but you can crater your reputation (and your video will join Mr Bay's in infamy).  A great topic and business experience are not enough.  Successful and smart professionals regularly bore audiences.  

We live in a polite society, so most will never hear the feedback of what the audience really thought of their session. They will be told "great speech" or "nice job", and leave feeling they rocked the house.  

If you are going to speak at SXSW you need to start thinking NOW about how to ensure you are not one of the many presenters who will SUCK. This conference has a tradition of people walking out of sessions that do not meet their needs, and nobody wants to see their audience pouring out of their breakout session ten minutes after they being.

Hire a coach, and/or practice at least a dozen times in front of a live audience and video camera.  If you have been selected to present, this is a commitment you owe to your audience.  It is selfish to "wing it", and it is a crime to be horrible when you could have taken steps to improve in the two months before arriving in Austin, Texas for SXSW.

The best TED speakers are said to invest 45-60 hours in preparation for their talk.  My guess is that the majority of speakers at SXSW (and most other events) do not invest much time in practicing. 
If you do not care about the audience, drop out NOW!!!

If you are going to be a speaker and you stumble across this post.... PLEASE care about your audience and do not suck on stage!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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