Association Congress

Thursday, 24 March 2011

What Good Speakers Should Do

There are few things that I would profess to have done more than most people, but for better or worse, I have sat through more conference speeches than Julian Assange has had sleepless nights.

And it’s obvious to me: proper preparation prevents piss poor performance: it is undeniable. So how much planning should a good competent conference speaker do before he takes the stage and tries to enlighten, inform and engage an audience full of people who have paid a significant amount of cash to see him.

Should his secretary knock up a few slides that he reviews the day before? Should he wing his 30mins; unstructured and unclear on what he wants delegates to take away? Should he ramble on for half an hour in the hope that delegates are just happy to have someone, anyone,  do a turn on the platform?

If the average one day conference fee is around £400, and he is one of eight speakers, does he think this approach is worth £50 from every delegate? More per minute than attending a premier league top-of-the-table clash? More than Tony Bennett at the 100 Club? So, if you, Mr Speaker, are to provide this level of value (as well as of course not make an *** of yourself), there are a few things you should think about (dare I say advice?) before you speak at a conference:

1. Imagine the worst session and speaker you can remember and consider how pissed off you were. Try and be the exact opposite
2. What you want to say, is likely to be different from what delegates want to hear, and the latter is much more important than the former
3. Consider what is it that you want delegates to do back at their desk after they have heard your speech? Think: how can you make their company money; save time; save resource? How can you make their life easier? If you have taken up 30mins of their life, make sure it’s worth it for them
4. Take some time to understand how people learn and change your presentation to reflect that (more on this in next weeks blog)
5. Try and be interesting and personable
6. Have a plan to get some delegate engagement during your session

In order to include all the above – and I concede it is undeniably different for everyone – I would suggest two full days preparation for a 30mins talk should be your target if you are a fairly green speaker. It’s unlikely that you will be as entertaining or charismatic as Tony Bennett or as dynamic as the Man Utd front line, but at least you will have prepared and that may well go a long way to perfecting the 'performance'. Because remember: a good session is a performance, not a talk.