My career as a speaker was built during the "Great Recession". Before the crash I was advised that if my desire to be a professional speaker was real, I should change topics, as teaching people how to engage, network, build connections, etc... was "fluffy and nobody would pay" for that topic.
Enter 2008 and 2009. The economy plummeted and people were being laid in near record numbers. Business professionals were scrambling either to find their next job or to show their extra value to their employer to avoid being the next one to be let go.
Those who were finding success attributed their career stability to their networks. All the news outlets were running stories about the power of networking, and the topic was considered anything but "fluffy". While I had not had years of experience as a speaker, my take on how to make, grow, and keep your business relationships touched the problem faced by so many people. Associations who were hungry to provide real value to their members hired me to present and I created win / win relationships with several organizations that have continued to work with me or refer me to this day.
Over the last two years I have again begun to see the eye rolls from meeting planners (and more so from the conference committee members) about the topic of connecting with people. The reality is in our busy and tech crazed business world the need to establish long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships is more important that ever, but in a strong economy people do not see the immediate need to connect.
Yet we live in very uncertain times. While the stock market and job numbers are showing strong gains, there is little trust in what is ahead. The division in our society over the current state of affairs in Washington DC (and the world) leaves our economy vulnerable, and people are talking about when the bottom may again fall out.
If people are worried about the economy, they should be taking steps to recession-proof their careers now. Too many of us (myself included) did not adequately understand what 2008 / 2009 was going to be like and how long it would take us to regain our previous income levels. Conversations these days are often full of questions about what is coming, but I am not seeing many people actively making plans to be ready for the less favorable economic possibilities.
All opportunities come from people and there is nothing better to ensure that you will bounce back in the face of adversity than having established a network of people who will be there to help out in good times and bad. The problem is that our social media crazed world has lead people to think they have more powerful connections than they really do. A like, link, share, or follow means nothing if there is not a real relationship behind it.
Earlier this year I spoke at a conference of successful business leaders who were among the most "self confident" people I have worked with in my career (read that as: nice, successful, and arrogant). While my presentation went fine, a few of them complained to the organizer that my focus on the importance of connecting with people was "old fashioned" and "dated". They voiced their belief that this was not top of the list to take their companies to the next level. My belief is that when you choose people you always find victories, especially over the long run. When I think about the business sector where these CEOs operate, they will be among the hardest hit if their is a correction in the economy. To lessen the importance of the relationship side of growing a business will leave many of them struggling or bankrupt.
Everyone is vulnerable to the possibility of a stall (or fall) in the economy, and business leaders and associations should be exploring what is next. Cultivating a culture of connecting is not only good for today, but will help prepare everyone for any bumps in the road.
Choose people everyday, as there may be a time when you need them to help you. When the economy stalls is not the time to start networking.
Have A Great Day
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Sunday, August 06, 2017
I will admit, not all professional speakers like being the Master of Ceremonies for a conference or other live event. Speaking and hosting are two very different skills, and the amount of time and effort that has to go into being the MC of a multi-day event does not equal the value in the amount paid for the services. Keynotes pay more when you look at the "per hour rate".
Plus the greatest skill many speakers possess is how quickly they can clear out of the conference after they finish their on-stage talk. Too few stick around and chat with the attendees. An EmCee has to be "on" not just up front in the general session, but in the hallways, at coffee breaks, during meals, at happy hour, etc...
I like serving in the role of EmCee. I like it a lot, and it is a growing part of my business. It is especially cool when coupled with a keynote and my "Conference Catalyst" program, as I know in these combined roles I can help set the tone for the whole event. It is a big responsibility, but it matters to the success of a convention.
Over the years my approach to being EmCee has morphed. With all the changes in the meetings industry I am undertaking the most intense effort of study and content curation of my decade long career. Last year I wrote a one-man show as part of an exercise in storytelling (which spun out my new keynote "The Paradox of Potential") and this week I am taking my first workshop in Stand Up Comedy. While I am not looking to create a comedy routine, there is much I can learn from comics that will serve my audiences in the future.
A conference is no longer a series of presentations. It is a show, but most people who speak at events are not yet aware of these showtime expectations of the modern audience. Thus, the EmCee must become the thread that runs both personality and audience engagement throughout all aspects of the agenda.
Becoming an astute observer becomes more important than ever for the master of ceremonies. To identify the core learning objectives in the general sessions and some of the featured break-out sessions is paramount to the success of the event host. "Content Weaving" and "Summation" are becoming what separates the professional from some random board member or employee who fills the host role.
As with any new undertaking, the commitment to the long-term is my biggest focus. There is too much a stake to imagine my fresh path will be enough for the avalanche of changes that are impacting the business side of meetings. Yet is is somehow exciting to know that what got me to this point in my career is not what till take me to the next level. To stay relevant we all must keep learning.
Meeting organizers all have different opinions as to what is important for a successful meeting, and some see a master of ceremonies as just an extra expense. But the most innovative in the business are telling me that hiring 'the right EmCee' (not just anyone) is now becoming a fresh priority and an area they are giving more value in the budgeting process. Having a solid host means they do not have to worry about every detail while also having to manage an EmCee who is not experienced in the planning and execution of a conference.
I foresee that I will be working in the meetings business for the next 15 years, and it is clear that more changes are coming. I expect the role of EmCee to grow, thus I am working hard to expand my offerings. Stand Up and Improve classes are just a part of it. I need to crystallize my skills at summarizing events and observing what is impacting the culture of the conference (and beyond).
Meetings are a combination of learning and human engagement, and I am well suited to serve audiences who care about both while also living the story of the experience.
Have A Great Day.
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
6 Reasons to hire a professional master of ceremonies for your next event. When you make your attendees a priority you realize the investment in an EmCee is minimal compared to the impact on your event experience.
Hear episode 278 of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast.