Same Same … But Different

SameA recent discussion in the National Speaker’s Association Facebook Group addresses the problem of the lack of originality in many speeches. The discussion was prompted by a LinkedIn article by Richard A. Moran which highlights the repetitive use of the same case studies by speakers at business events. The author requests:

Let’s broaden the conversation and stop talking about the same companies – usually Apple, Zappos and Southwest Airlines.

Instead of the same old stuff he wants:

…to be motivated, not sorry I don’t work somewhere else. I want to know how I can improve, not how a brilliant leader did it a few years ago somewhere else. And, I want genuine advice that might include some practical tips about how to be better and what pitfalls to avoid.

Professional speakers and speechwriters are in total agreement. Their comments show they understand the importance of delivering content that is unique, different, and ensures their message will be heard above the noise. (Since the NSA Group is a closed one, the names of the contributors have been removed.)

  1. The problem is a global one – same old stories, same old case studies, same old messages. We need to use our own stories, our own research, and if we must talk about companies, use current news stories.
  2. It’s best to tell stories from our own experience. It’s what I do in my own talks and it’s what I encourage executives to do when I’m helping them with their speeches. Not only are those stories going to be original, the speaker is going to be more connected to them.
  3. Speakers must bring us a very different idea or way of doing something we’ve not heard before. I can honestly say few exist per my life’s experience. The same ingredients in a food processor still yield pretty much the same outcome–no matter what order you add them. Real Thought Leaders make us think long after the book, podcast or event. I believe great speeches have a beginning, a middle and a definitive end. I also know there are three presentations happening simultaneously: the one you planned, the one you executed and (most importantly) the one they take away. Our own stories and the lessons we share keep our content fresh and unique, as long as we continue to study how to connect the dots in a way the audience most relates to.
  4. As a speech writer for others, I want to take their experiences and create a speech based on them, not on what can be found in college business textbooks. Not all case studies are as they seem.
  5. We live in an age where everything changes quickly — we have so many examples to share.
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Guest Posting: How Not to Introduce a Speaker, by Adam Grant

Adam GrantAdam Grant is Wharton’s youngest full professor and single highest-rated teacher. He has been recognized as one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite social science writers. Previously, he was a record-setting advertising director at Let’s Go Publications, an All-American springboard diver, and a professional magician. Adam is the author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. This post was first published on his LinkedIn Influencer page and appears here with his express permission.

How Not to Introduce a Speaker

by Adam Grant

When I attend a presentation, the first thing that captures my attention isn’t the speaker or the material. It’s the person who introduces the speaker.

After giving a few hundred speeches in the past year, I’ve been struck by the variety of ways that different people introduce the same speaker. Some introductions energize me and seem to leave the audience excited to hear from me. Other introductions inadvertently make it more difficult to deliver a successful speech.

In my experience, the best introductions avoid three mistakes:

1. Don’t read the speaker’s biography. Much of the time, introducers walk up to the stage with a written biography, and proceed to read it verbatim. This is a mistake for several reasons. First, it’s boring. Bios are usually written to inform, not fascinate. Second, a typical bio is far too long to hold the audience’s attention. The goal is to pique the audience’s curiosity, not cover the speaker’s entire life history.

Third, even if introducers are armed with a short, punchy bio, they usually trip up when trying to read the words. This often happens to me when I’ve tried to read introductory remarks, leaving me mystified: why can I give a 45-minute speech from memory without missing a beat, but stumble through reading a few words that are right in front of me? (One explanation comes from classic research by psychologist Robert Zajonc: the presence of an audience enhances performance for well-learned tasks, but hinders performance when we’re novices. We’re used to reading silently, not out loud in front of large groups, and the arousal interferes with fluent processing.)

Instead of reading a bio, I like it when introducers highlight a grand total of three or four interesting tidbits about the speaker. Here’s one of the best intros I’ve ever received: “Adam Grant is a Wharton professor who has advised leaders ranging from Google to Goldman Sachs to the U.S. Air Force. He’s the author of Give and Take, and he used to perform as a magician.”

2. Don’t give away the speaker’s content. On numerous occasions, during the introduction, I’ve watched presenters turn white as a sheet. The introducer steals the thunder of the speech by giving away a punch line, a surprise, or a memorable quote. This has happened to me several times recently. One of my most requested speeches introduces three styles of interaction: givers (helpful), takers (selfish), and matchers (fair). I poll the audience: which group is least successful, and which is most successful?

Then, I reveal an unexpected conclusion from a decade of research across multiple industries. Givers are more likely to finish last… but they’re also more likely to finish first. It was a bummer when the CEO of a Fortune 500 company introduced me by announcing that I would be speaking about how good guys finish first.

Goodbye, element of surprise! Goodnight, audience interaction. Hello, pivot!

My rule here is clear: introducers should avoid the content altogether. It’s fine to explain the relevance of the talk to the audience. Just tell us the purpose of the presentation, or the topic of the speech, without divulging the message or the conclusion. You can also create a curiosity gap, as described by Chip and Dan Heath inMade to Stick. Pose a question that the speaker might answer, and the audience will be intrigued to find out more. For my speech, it works well when introducers simply say, “Today’s speaker will challenge our assumptions about what drives success” or “Adam will ask, ‘Is giving the secret to getting ahead?’”

3. Don’t make the speaker sound superhuman. I’m thrilled to share this idea with you, because the next paragraph is going to be the most profound argument you’ll read this week.

Many introducers wax poetic in superlatives about the speaker. This is a good idea in principle: extensive evidence shows that whether the speaker is a teacher or a leader, high expectations can fuel self-fulfilling prophecies. When the introducer emphasizes what’s impressive about the speaker, audience members are more likely to be smiling at the edge of their seats. This can enhance the speaker’s confidence and reduce self-doubt, and then a virtuous cycle ensues. The audience is more likely to engage with her insights and laugh at her jokes, further enhancing the speaker’s confidence and ability to command attention. If something goes wrong, the audience will be more forgiving.

Yet an over-the-top setup can lead to what social scientists call a self-negating or self-disconfirming prophecy. In a nutshell, if the audience’s expectations are too high, there’s a greater risk of a gap between anticipation and reality. If the introduction is too glowing—like my tongue-in-cheek opening sentence above—the speaker will have a hard time living up to it. To paraphrase one of my mentors, Jane Dutton:

It’s better if the introducer under-promises, and the speaker over-delivers, than vice-versa.

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UK? OK!

Here’s more than you ever needed to know about what differentiates England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland from Great Britain and why vestiges of the British Empire are alive and well in isolated parts of the world like the Falklands.

Explained brilliantly by C.G.P. Grey.

Watch the video and be informed!

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Book Review: Cold Cream, by Ferdinand Mount

Cold Cream CoverA memoir by a shy and retiring British aristocrat with the unlikely title Cold Cream: My Early Life and Other Mistakes would not usually grab my attention, or warrant a review in this blog.

However, Ferdinand “Ferdy” Mount’s autobiography is a delightful book filled with tales of a vanished world. He grew up a member of the British upper class. His family was never wealthy, but he was in line for a Baronetcy and they had enough money to send him to private schools and on to Eton and Oxford. Throughout his life, relatives, friends and acquaintances saw to it that Ferdy was alright. His career required “the oxygen of influence” from members of the Establishment who take care of their own. After working as a children’s nanny and gossip columnist, he did a stint as a leader writer on the now defunct newspaper the Daily Sketch. Following his time as a newspaperman, Ferdy then spent a few haphazard years assisting various Conservative Party politicians with reports and considered running for Parliament in a half-hearted way.

Margaret Thatcher

Then, out of the sky blue yonder, on p. 281 of his life story, the phone rings:

By the time Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister I had long ago abandoned any thought of a political career and had happily settled for a life of writing anything that came to hand or mind. So it was a total surprise when her economic adviser Alan Walters rang up on 3 March 1982 and asked whether I would care to come and work for her.

He’s offered the job of running the policy unit and Number Ten Downing Street.

Mount comments “…I had never run anything and had zero experience of the workings of government.” Not a concern to the Iron Lady.

It transpired on meeting Mrs. Thacher that there was a fundamental misunderstanding: he thought of himself as a policy wonk, she hired him as a speech writer. Oh well, thinks Ferdy, “…I suppose many marriages have started on a worse basis.”

His description of life inside Number Ten is astute and hilarious. The strategic position of the gents loo allows cabinet ministers respite from their colleagues. He details where Dennis Thatcher keeps his golf clubs, how the residence of the Prime Minister was accessible via a back stairway where he could slip last minutes notes in the PM’s briefing boxes late at night, where the Downing Street cat sleeps. He confirms the accuracy of the way the Civil Service is portrayed in the BBC series Yes Minister.

Speechwriting at Number Ten

Mount reveals the “full horror” of the speechwriting process in preparing for major events.

The first draft I served up was there simply to be torn up and binned, while she began to think what she might actually want to say.

Politicians would submit jokes for his consideration. They were ignored.

Eccentric members of the ruling class would offer suggestions for speech content, including one who “sported a thin Mafioso moustache and grubby tennis shoes under a pinstripe suit (who) claimed to have a squad of West Indians on roller skates whom at a moment’s notice he could despatch all over London to find out what word on the street was…”

In addition to speech content, Mrs. T. needed coaching in delivery:

Her ear was unfailingly tinny and, though she could be devastating and inspiring in unscripted harangues, the sight of a written text would make her freeze. Even though the words might have been of her own devising…at first reading they would fall lifeless from her lips.

A “portly, fruity” playwright “redolent of the old West End” was there to advise on delivery:

‘Come on, darling, they want you to show you really feel it.’ She would look at him, bewildered but dutiful, the novice on her first engagement in rep.

Preparing her address to the annual Conservative party conference in a year when she was not challenged for leadership (that would come later) bemused Mount. Thatcher spent 18 hours preparing “for the one speech in the year in which she was assured of receiving a rapturous standing ovation.”

The final version of the speech contains none of his “smart phrases” but has the conventional “more direct, brutal way of putting things that she felt comfortable with.”

He acknowledges that speeches like this are where politicians focus their energy because they are about the “mechanics of getting and holding power.”

The humble manner in which Mount tells of his time in the corridors of power make this a delightful read and a lesson in the many ways speechwriters can function. Recommended.

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Guest Posting: Speaking Up – Surviving Executive Presentations, by Rick Gilbert

Rick Gilbert is the founder of PowerSpeaking, Inc. and the primary developer of PowerSpeaking (the workshop), HighTechSpeaking, and Speaking Up: Presenting to Executives. He is the author of Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations and has authored articles in over 100 national publications on communication. Before starting PowerSpeaking, Rick held management positions at Hewlett-Packard and Amdahl. Before that he was a psychologist and a university instructor. His PhD is in Humanistic Psychology. This article is reprinted with his express permission.

Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations

by Rick Gilbert

Speaking Up CoverYou are a smart, high-potential middle manager rocketing up the corporate ladder. Your team is working on a project that could catapult your company ahead of the competition. All that remains is to convince senior leadership to give you the funding to make it happen.

You walk into the C-level presentation room with your 30 PowerPoint slides. Almost immediately, a full-blown executive food fight starts. You look to your sponsor for help, but she isn’t paying attention. The executives drift off agenda as you fumble with your slides. You wonder, “What the hell just happened,” as you are politely dismissed from the room. Leaving the building, your dream of corporate stardom fades quickly.

If you are in middle management, you live with daily ambiguity, lack of control, and even chaos. To get anything done, you must present your ideas to people up the chain, and those presentations can be brutal. Careers and projects can come unwound in a matter of minutes if a presenter at the top level doesn’t know the rules.

Like an anthropologist in some mysterious far-away land, for the past ten years I’ve been working to discover the secret rules that govern the C-suite. Doing interviews with over 50 C-level executives, I’ve pieced together this puzzle. What we’ve learned in this research could save your career, your project, and even your company. So, what are the rules?

The good news: the rules are simple and easy to learn:

  • You have 30 seconds to get to the point;
  • You must present with confident (not slick) style, lately called “executive presence;”
  • Present like a jazz musician: improvise;
  • Dump the slides and have a discussion.

Unfortunately a staggeringly high number of mid-level people (67%, actually) march right into top-level meetings and shoot themselves in the foot by:

  • Not saying what they want at the beginning;
  • Being too aggressive or too passive in their delivery;
  • Rigidly sticking to their scripts;
  • Having too many PowerPoint slides.

The cost of a 67% failure rate is staggering. If you are presenting to the top five people in a mid-sized company ($6 – $8 billion in revenue), the executives around that table are costing the share holders about $30,000/hour. Do the math. Two or three meetings a week at a failure rate of roughly $20,000/meeting, can cost hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars/year in lost productivity. These stats come from the executives we’ve interviewed.

As you walk to the front of the room and take your place at the head of the oval mahogany table, you better know the dynamics and history of that C-level group. It is not your meeting. You are a guest at their meeting. They can treat you with respect, or callous disregard. In surveying middle managers, we’ve learned there are “Seven Deadly Challenges” you need to be prepared for:

  • They cut your time
  • They get distracted with their devices
  • They have an executive food fight
  • They change the topic without warning
  • The key decision maker walks out
  • They engage in side-talk
  • They have a fast-moving energetic discussion

Executive Presentation Survival Tips

Know the culture. Check it out with your sponsor. Talk to others who’ve presented to this team. Keep in mind the reality of the stressful world top-level people live in. They are very bright, time pressured executives with little job security. Their average job tenure is 23 months. They are under huge financial performance pressures. At the end of the first year on the job, if the stock price goes down, there is a 73 percent chance the new CEO will be fired, according to a report in the Harvard Business Review. However you are treated in the brief moments of that critically important presentation, whether with appreciation for your contribution, or with disrespect, it is not about YOU. They have bigger issues to deal with.

As one HR executive put it:

I’m a tool of management. My job is to give senior executives information, lay out a set of options, or maybe ask for a decision . . and then leave. I’m not there to be their buddy or to get pats on the back. A presentation isn’t a personal development opportunity or a chance for increased visibility. I’m there to do a job. And that job is to help prepare the executives to make the best possible decisions for the company.

Seeing your presentation in the cold hard light of day will help you be successful. It is not about a promotion. It is not about being friends with the executives. It is about helping them be more effective.

If you follow these tips, the chances of getting what you want and being someone they trust go way up. You will be seen as having “executive presence.” Since you will get the funding, you will become a hero to your team. Your career prospects will brighten. Good luck.

For a peek inside the book and to hear from some of the people who have been through Rick’s workshop and senior executives he has interviewed, take a look at the video below.

Speaking Up Book Release Party from Rick Gilbert on Vimeo.

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Why corporate storytelling sucks

Andrew HillA provocative article by Andrew Hill in Tuesday’s FT skewers the current focus on storytelling in executive communications blogs (like mine!).

Hill notes that companies like Microsoft and SAP have people on staff with the title “chief storyteller”. He dismisses the interview that Steve Clayton conducted as a walkabout with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as “anodyne”.

Moving on, he highlights the danger that corporations will construct unrealistic myths with a “a coherent plot…no implausible twists, or awkward gaps” to tell the story of their success which leaders then become trapped in. The risk is, he claims, that corporate storytellers start to believe their own stories.

I’d argue that while there’s some truth in Hill’s admonitions, he over-eggs the omelet in criticizing the desire of communications professionals to tell stories. To achieve even a modicum of success in this endeavor is something to applaud. As welcome relief from the endless march of PowerPoint slides displayed in meeting rooms worldwide, a real story is a rare treat.

The Heart of Storytelling

In fact, I’ve noted that a previous Microsoft storyteller, Justina Chen, has described in detail the messy, complex and conflictual nature of telling the story of the Xbox team who had to deal with games consoles catching fire and other challenges on the road to success. Chen, a successful author who knows what captures the imagination, recognizes the power of overcoming adversity in telling a good yarn:

Don’t be afraid of discussing failures, the crucible moments in the company history is where we see character emerge. Speechwriters can research the times the company has failed and show the lessons, the backbone, and the spine of the organization…

Of course, no company is going to write the corporate equivalent of a Bleak House, or a Gormenghast. When our daily bread is at risk we prefer tales of success to dystopian failure.

Propaganda

WWI PosterIndeed, I believe Hill’s critique is more appropriate if broadened to encompass the similarities between modern corporations and authoritarian regimes or even Fascist states. There’s the common themes of veneration of the organization over the individual, devotion to a strong leader, perpetual competitive engagement as a key motivator of “the troops”, and a fevered dedication to territorial (or market-share) expansion. Propaganda is employed as a tool of conformism and control.

Hill’s critique of “happy ending” storytelling is a really critique of corporate propaganda. Many specific propaganda techniques are deployed by corporate PR and communications professionals: the tireless repetition of an idea, appeal to fear uncertainty and doubt, jumping on the bandwagon, inevitable victory, black and white choices, the cult of personality, demonizing the competition…and so on.

Transmedia

Hill acknowledges the positive origins of corporate storytelling in the work of Stephen Denning. He also references John Hagel of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge (where U2′s guitarist hangs out?) who has suggested:

…it may be healthier to think of business stories as open-ended narratives in which everyone participates, rather than finite tales told by a single raconteur to a passive audience. But he points out that “narratives cannot be crafted by PR departments [and] existing institutional leaders are generally poorly equipped to take on this opportunity”.

When highlighting the importance of context and narrative, Hagel points to the democratization of the means of production of stories:

Digital technology provides all of us the ability to define and communicate narratives in rich and textured ways. Video and audio tools and platforms supplement conventional text-based forms of communication, and put them in the hands of everyone. Of course, the democratization of communication poses its own challenges. While it helps us to frame and communicate our own personal and institutional narratives, it makes it more challenging to frame social narratives that can unite rather than fragment us as we seek to learn faster by working together.

This is supported by my own experience at companies like Cisco where an internal YouTube-like service allows all employees to tell stories. This “show and share” initiative opens the floodgates to immersive storytelling and transmedia where not only the Führer, or CEO, is the focus of the story.

Authenticity

At the end of the day, Hill admits, it is a question of the authenticity of business leaders’ communications, which face innumerable barriers. With Dilbert filling George Orwell’s role in satirizing authoritarian empty suits, the time for “writing with courage and character and grit” is now. But that’s the focus of the column to the right of Andrew Hill’s on p.8 of the March 18 FT.

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Guest Posting: The West Wing Whirlwind, by Jan Sonneveld and Rune Kier

Jan Sonneveld and Rune Kier are government speechwriters in Holland and Denmark respectively. Rune Kier Nielsen is on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Jan Sonneveld is on Twitter and on LinkedIn . This article is reprinted with their express permission.

Storytelling – The Whirlwind of The West Wing

by Jan Sonneveld and Rune Kier.

The West WingMyth has it that a TV series made possible the presidency of Barack Obama. An apparently Latino presidential candidate Matthew Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) inspired Obama’s story: a largely unknown minority congressman, running on a liberal platform, breaking all expectation to become President. Obama followed his fictional friend two years later – or did it follow him? In stories reality and fiction are hard to separate, so let’s call it The West Wing whirlwind. Because if the story of Matt Santos can affect reality, then so can other West Wing-characters, like Toby Ziegler or Sam Seaborn. In fact, they did.

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We are two speechwriters, from two countries, with one story.

Rune Kier worked with diversity and communications in Danish capital Copenhagen. Through The West Wing he came to see political speechwriting as his means to create social change. The inside-look at government made him believe in cutting the red tape to deliver powerful political ideas with effect beyond the podium. Meanwhile in Holland, another speechwriter in the making was being inspired by The West Wing. Jan Sonneveld had worked in government communications for years until The West Wing reignited his passion for government as ‘a Powerful Force for Good’.

The fictional storytelling of The West Wing presented a believable ideal to us, a story where cynicism was beaten by big beliefs. In essence, it did what any good speech should do: it opened new doors to how we see the world and how we act towards it.

The West Wing was not the first to do it. In South Africa one episode of the television series Soul City had a whole village rise up to protest domestic abuse and collectively stand by a battered women. Afterwards something incredible happened: Real villages followed the example of their fictional role models. It broke the silent acceptance of domestic violence by showing that another reaction was possible and desirable. The same happened on issues like prejudice towards AIDS and abuse of alcohol.

Growing piles of research suggest that storytelling works regardless if it reflects reality. It’s how our brains are wired. When we receive pure information our brain activates the limited parts designed for processing numbers and language. Listening to stories however activates the very same neurons as if we were experiencing the story ourselves: in our brain, we instantly become the protagonist. That is why stories have such an enormous impact on our lives, whether we realize it or not. Even fictitious, they are only inches away from lived reality and so they can come to be reflected in reality in a storytelling whirlwind.

The West Wing inched in on us and shaped our reality guiding us towards political speechwriting. With a reality already affected by a story we took the power of storytelling to heart. Danish and Dutch politics is commonly seen as a dirty, cynical business. Politicians might start their careers with lofty aspirations, but in the fog of daily politicking those dreams easily become invisible to the public eye. In The West Wing, Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn fight as speechwriters to preserve government’s big ideals and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau urges speechwriters to keep their idealism. Working with speeches, our central task is to cut through the noise to communicate visions that connect the speaker with the audience. For us, storytelling is the ideal way to do it.

And then the West Wing whirlwind took another storytelling spin. Inspired by The West Wing and its influence in our own lives, we use storytelling and cultivate our idealism to fight ever-lingering cynicism. For Sonneveld it enabled him as well to help a close friend and local politician to shape his ideas and word for an inspiring TEDtalk.

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For Kier, The West Wing inspired to weave together statistics from WHO and expert climate scenarios and form the storytelling of Climate Change and the Story of Sarah – a story of changing health and an urgent call to the medical profession. The speech was published in Vital Speeches International and nominated for a 2014 Cicero Speechwriting Award.

The West Wing story might not perfectly reflect White House reality, but it affected our reality none the less. And then the whirlwind blew again, when (like fictional Sam Seaborn) Jon Favreau in real life left The White House and started writing a TV series about young, idealistic people working on a government campaign. His story will look back to reflect his reality at the Obama campaign, but it will also looking forward to affect and inspire the reality of others, just as The West Wing did to us. Reality makes story makes reality makes story. That is why the storytelling whirlwind can bring real change – and give hope for a better world.

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Presentation Skills for New Leaders

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of running a workshop on presentation skills to a group of 17 Fellows of the New Leaders Council of Silicon Valley.

New Leaders Council logoThe New Leaders Council works to recruit, train and promote the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow — trendsetters, elected officials and civically-engaged leaders in business and industry who will shape the future landscape. NLC recruits Fellows from outside traditional power structures and equips them with the skills necessary to be civic leaders in their communities and workplaces. Their mission is realized through the NLC Institute; the nation’s premiere political entrepreneurship training program.

Workshop DiscussionAs part of a weekend of training on communications, I held a workshop on presentation skills. My talk listed the mistakes to avoid, proven ways to create an outline, how to gather content that supports an argument, and presentation tips.

It was refreshing to hear how the young people who are Fellows in the program plan to use communications in their future leadership positions in corporate social responsibility, labor councils, immigration defense, nonprofits and politics.

We worked on the idea of using the “power of three” to quickly outline a speech with three main points. We also reviewed the importance of stories in presentations and the ways in which social media can be used to take the pulse of an audience on a topic before, during and after a presentation.

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It’s a freelance life

The clever folks at Garlic Jackson Comedy have made a telling video about the freelance life.

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Standing Out from the Crowd: The Secrets of Interactive Meetings

The Saturday meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association featured two interactive sessions that helped professional speakers stand out from the crowd.

Sarah Michel: How to be The Session Everyone is Talking About!

Sarah MichelSarah Michel, CSP is a meetings architect with over 15 years of experience designing one-of-a-kind meetings that matter. Sarah showed us you how to collaborate directly with audiences to generate deep meaning. She built on many of excellent suggestions in the report she helped author: Conference Connexity: Delivering on your Networking Promise.

From taking charge of the seating to allow conference attendees to interact freely, to chunking down content into shorter segments so that attendees have plenty of time for small group discussions, Sarah walked the audience through a number of ways to deliver on the promise of networking time (the main reason many people attend live events).

She used a model of how the brain learns and retains information. We start by receiving information (from the presenter) and then integrate it by reflecting and making connections. More powerful integration occurs when we make sense of the content and finally we gain maximum benefit if we test ideas by speaking or writing about it.

She had us discuss how we can encourage attendees to develop their own ideas about the content. I worked with my table mate Rick Gilbert who shared that middle managers at his executive presentation courses brainstorm and role play solutions to engage C-Level audiences.

Sarah shared a useful report that her consulting company has written for conference organizers on ways to improve the experience of attendees’ networking experience.

Sarah is a believer in really scaling back the amount of content in presentations to allow for a third- to two-thirds of the total time to allow for interaction between audience members to connect and discuss content instead of just listening and note taking.

Jim Carrillo: Innovative Video Skills

Jim CarrilloPast Chapter President Jim Carrillo led a hands-on workshop which demonstrated some basic, powerful and effective video skills. As speakers, we are all able to articulate our message. Video is the easiest way to amplify this message to the world: on social media, our own blog or website, as training aids for our presentations.

Jim forcefully made the point that we have reached the point in time when video captured on the smart phone is available to anyone. Gone are the days when formats had to be translated, cables hooked up from camera to projector or any of the other large or small barriers to getting video done. Now it is a simple matter of point, shoot and post.

He encouraged us to take simple, low-cost, steps to produce effective video. This includes:

  • Always hold the phone in landscape mode so that the video fills the screen on YouTube.
  • Lighting matters, but a simple lamp with paper clipped over it as a diffuser works.
  • Sound can be captured close up with a built-in mic. Fir distance, invest in something better.
  • A simple web-around backdrop or cloth held by willing assistants cuts the clutter in any room.

Jim demonstrated all this with a few volunteers and created a compelling video on the spot in minutes.

Jim Carrillo video

Jim has made resources available on his website. Check it out and you’ll see the results from his training session as well as find a host of useful tips and tricks. I recommend it!

Thanks to Sarah and Jim for one of the most useful Saturday mornings I’ve spent in a good while.

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