Friday, August 24, 2012

The Best Speakers Tell Stories

I have said it before... and I will say it again:
"Just because someone is smart or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on stage"
The argument over content vs style in conference speakers is silly.... as it is not too much to expect BOTH from those who present.

Yes, information and learning are key factors to a good presentation, but alone they are not much worth remembering.  While in advance of the event people claim that content is king, when they are sitting in a long presentation they desire some speaking style embedded inside the person talking.

Often we sit through presentations that are simply data dumps.  I recently experienced this and I watched as the speaker proved his credibility and sited study after study.  There was nothing in his presentation that was about the audience.  It was just statistics and quotes coupled with charts and graphs.  While the speaker had a naturally pleasing personality that came through in his talk, he had not invested any effort into polishing his style to connect with the crowd.  He referred to his own book so many times that most in the audience wanted to scream "YES, we know you wrote the book".

I do not think anyone in the audience was challenged to think or ponder.  It was just information.  There was no call to action, but worst of all there were no stories about how his theories work in the real world.  A whole presentation without an single anecdote.  He made it clear he was the smartest person in the room, and if that was his goal then he gets an "A+".

People learn through stories.  If we look back to ancient times the tribal leaders did not show pie charts and excel spreadsheets. They told stories.  We are wired to remember stories.  I once read about a study referenced in Discover Magazine (July 2010) that said that the brains of story tellers and those listening actually sync up.   Without stories a speaker is not necessarily on the same page with those listening.

If a speaker is a "Talking White Paper" then we miss out on the ability to have a meaningful experience.  Data without a story is orphaned from the stage.  The speaker is cutting it off from being effective.  If we only are there to receive data the speech is better served as a PDF that is emailed to the audience.

Most people understand my reference to the "Talking White Paper" because that is who takes the stage at countless events.  We do not love these talks, but we get caught up in the "smartness" and fail to complain.  Thus we get the same thing time after time.

"Talking White Papers" are often forgotten before the attendee's heads hit their pillows.  Those who can create an emotional link through the use of story are remembered into the future.  It is not just about the speaking style (YES, YES, YES - we want content).... but it certainly makes a difference in how we experience the conference attendee experience.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

1 comment:

thomsinger said...

I had an interesting conversation with someone who thought that speakers who only give data are better. She did not think style had any place and hates it when speakers are funny or clever.

I am pretty sure that is not the norm... but what do you think?