Let me share with you a story, if you will, that a long-standing client told me recently:
“I woke up and walked out of the conference room into a crisp, clear evening breeze. The sun was shining and it had obviously been a glorious day to be out in the open.
But I had spent the whole day in a hotel conference room trying to listen to a succession of speakers. Furthermore, my firm had paid $850 for that privilege.
There were two immediate questions I needed to answer. First: why on earth had I done this when I had spent most of the time sleeping or at the very least not paying attention to the presenters? Second: Is there something that could be done to improve the presenters so that I would feel that I had spent my firm’s money wisely?
The variety of answers to the first question must be fairly common to most people. The conference brochure had promised speakers covering some topical subjects which my company had felt would be of interest to us. The speaker’s credentials were impressive. They represented well-known organisations. We had often talked about raising our profile by submitting one of our Directors to speak at a convention. Surely if the audience sees where they are coming from then we should get good advertising and new business from that.
Now, as I shook myself awake, I wondered if that last observation held true. Had I been impressed by that solicitor who read his script and whom I followed for about two minutes? On the contrary, I almost felt that if I did need someone of his specialisation I would do my best to find one of his competitors in the hope of finding someone more interesting and understandable. And what of the character of the eminent director of that large corporation who galloped through a set of complicated Power Point Slides? Did I have any feel for the strength of the man? Was I inspired by his grasp of his job and his subject? No.
What the speakers did, here, was the reverse of what my company had expected. Not only was I not impressed by the speakers and therefore their organisation, I was, in fact, turned away from them.”
The glaring fact from this story is that if speakers at conferences and events do not engage the audience in a way that the audience enjoys listening and remembering what they said, then the exercise achieves almost the opposite of what the speakers hoped for; which is to attract more clients. By boring the audience they develop a large number of people who will look elsewhere for business.
Like golf or tennis, unless you can hit the ball well and consistently it is no use knowing which clubs to use and the tactics for each shot. Speaking is a physical skill which is only of any use if it is executed well.