I was at the USC/Harvard business schools sponsored Business Growth Conference 2010 in Anaheim this past Thursday. The conference revolves around everything business, from how to startup a company to finding financing, planning growth, and executing an exit strategy. It was an informative event and one I would consider attending again.
I heard two keynote speakers that day. One was captivating, the other dull and uninviting. However, both were memorable. I’ll describe below each aspect of the presentations that made them dull or captivating. You decide how you want to be remembered. (SELECTION HINT: You want to captivate and motivate, not put your audience to sleep.)
The captivating speaker used these effective techniques to get our attention:
- Asked Questions and Used Humor: He started his speech with a series of questions and humor that helped us relax. He released some of the tension for some of us wondering how he became successful and how plans to sustain that success. This was especially important since he’s quickly becoming a well known and successful businessman and author.
- Used No Notes: He used no notes and connected his slides and thoughts through the stories he told. These where personal and professional stories that helped us see him for the person he was. As a result, the presentation felt more like a conversation than a speech. I felt like I was sitting next to him at my table while he told me his stories.
- Didn’t Read the Slides: Though this may seem a similar point as the previous, it’s not. He had many slides, but he didn’t read the bullets, though he mentioned them. They were there as both reminders for him and key stress words for the audience to remember. He used a remote to control the slides, but he did it very deftly so that we weren’t distracted by his hand movements.
- Moved Around: Given that he wasn’t reading the slides and that he had no notes, he wasn’t tied to a single spot, like the podium. Instead, he moved around on the stage comfortably. He pointed to various parts of the room, looked at different people, and generally made each section of the room feel involved and a part of his presentation.
- Took Questions: Toward the end of his presentation he took questions. However, before doing this, he asked the audience to think about a question he had for them. What was a welcome surprise was that after he took several questions, he went back to the question he asked the audience and answered it by making a few final points and showing us his last slides. It was a clean and powerful finish that summarized his current passion. It was effective enough that I took notes and wish to follow up.
- Spoke in a Monotone Voice: The dull speaker spoke in the same tone from the beginning to the end. This didn’t change whether he was describing exciting, challenging, or downright depressing moments in his life and business. Half-way through the presentation, I couldn’t help but look at my watch, the day’s program and wonder where I had to go next, and how quickly could I get there!
- Relied Heavily on Notes: He used nothing BUT notes in his speech. What’s worse, he didn’t know how to turn the pages. As opposed to sliding his notes to the left as he finished reading a page, he flipped each page. This was distracting and it highlighted how he was, in fact, using notes.
- Gripped the Podium: Since he had nothing but notes, he remained at the podium the entire time. What’s worse, he was gripping the podium as though his life depended on it. Now, it may very well have been that he had aching feet or back. May be he needed the support, but his walk to the stage and away from it told me otherwise.
- Showed Commercials: I was mildly interested in how his company was doing and how he had helped it recover in tough economic times. What I didn’t appreciate was that he showed us two company commercials to “demonstrate” his company’s target audience and their activities. I could just as well watch that on TV! I know I wasn’t the only person who disliked this tactic, given I heard similar grumblings as I left the room.
- Avoided Questions and Humor: He spoke all the way to the end of his time. He never engaged his audience by asking rhetorical or standard questions, nor did he take any. He used no humor whatsoever. In fact, his speech was just that: a recitation of corporate speak. I felt more like I was hearing someone read parts of a company 10K report, then an inspiring leader’s story! Please note that the last thing you want to do is read to a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs that come to be inspired by your success! They can just as well read your company 10k report or a business article online to get a status report on your company health. So, leave it out.
If you haven’t realized, please let me make this crystal clear: I suggest you AVOID using any of the “Dull Speaker” techniques, unless you want to be remembered as an un-engaging speaker with no interest in a conversation, but a dictation.
What Do You Think?
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