How to make your event less dead and more TED! By Blaire Palmer

Speaker Article

This week we were very lucky to have the incredible Blaire Palmer write for us all about how to make an event a little less dead and more TED!

Read on to get Blaire exclusive tips and tricks to a more incredible event!

I love going to conferences. Just as well since, as a keynote speaker, I spend vast chunks of my life inside auditoriums, banquet rooms or windowless, airless conference centres.

I’ve seen countless Olympians, celebrities, TV personalities, and professional inspirational speakers over the last 17 years as I wait for my slot and it’s always thrilling to be in their vicinity.

But no matter how exceptional your external speakers, it’s the Leaders from the host organization– the CEO, the FD, the head of the major transformation project, the primary advocate for an upcoming change of strategic direction – that make or break these events. This is the opportunity for them to talk about what really matters to everyone in the room – their own jobs, their own business, their own future. And it’s an opportunity, frankly, that’s often missed.

I’ve been delighted and inspired many times by superb, funny, insightful and beautifully constructed Leader presentations. But I’ve also felt small parts of me die (you know what I’m talking about!) during the inevitably Powerpoint heavy, monotone, meandering sessions that not even the presenter is getting any pleasure from. You’re never getting that part of your life back.

You’ve worked so hard to make the event a success that it makes sense to support your internal speakers in their preparation too. And while it can be intimidating to suggest to the most important person in the business that they might like a bit of input on what they are going to say, most know that they have one chance to land this message and they really don’t want to miss it.

Speaking isn’t that hard…

The truth is that being an effective and engaging speaker isn’t that hard. It’s just that it’s much, much easier to be an ineffective and disengaging one. And while there are many ways to make a presentation (and a presenter) better, it’s not necessary to re-think everything in order to get a vastly improved performance.

When I’m helping senior Leaders to prepare for a big speech we will work on everything from body and voice to the emotional journey of the presentation and how to handle the unexpected. But even if your Leaders can’t free up the time for such an intensive experience here are 4 tips that will help any senior Leader think about their presentation differently, to great effect –

  1. Know The Purpose: The best speeches have a clear purpose. The speaker has considered what they want the audience to take from the presentation and what they want the audience to do. Rather than the primary purpose being to inform the audience, they’ve gone a step further and thought about the response they want. Do they want the audience to take some action after? Do they want them to feel differently about the topic? Do they want them to share the key messages with people who aren’t present? Do they want them to get angry or feel reassured? Defining the purpose helps you write a better presentation and focus your message. It stops you meandering, giving too much information or boring your audience because you are clear in your mind what you want from them.
  1. Think About Visuals: The best presentations don’t rely on any visual other than the presenter. Especially in the case of senior Leaders speaking to their own organization, the presenter is the most powerful visual because he or she can connect in real time with the audience. Even an emotionally moving video (and there are some wonderful ones) can’t do what a live person in the room can do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have slides, videos or imagery. But think about what they are there to do. They aren’t there to replace or duplicate you. They should only be there if they add another dimension.
  1. Turns Of Phrase: When each key message has a soundbite associated with it it’s much easier for the audience to remember what you’ve said. But more than that, a nice turn of phrase helps the leader keep their message simple, and simple is good. Simple can be repeated. Simple can be remembered. And, after all, that’s what you want isn’t it? Think “If I had to summarize this point so my Grandma would be left in no doubt about what I mean, what would I say?”. Chances are you’ll come up with something pithy and clear. A quote, a punchy statement, a word you’ve invented, a simple question…any of these can help give your presentation a bit of drama, make it memorable and ensure people actually understand what you’re trying to say.
  1. Connection with the Audience: Finally, the best speakers treat the audience like real human beings. Too often nerves or just lack of awareness cause a presenter to ignore the audience sitting right in front of them and speak almost to themselves. The best speakers think “What can I do to get the audience to participate more? How can I connect with them and keep them connected? What will I do if the energy feels a bit flat? How will I stay alert to the time and not run over?” If you build connection in to your presentation when you’re writing it you won’t have to worry when you’re on stage about how to regain their attention. You’ll have them in the palm of your hand.

The cost of getting all the right people in the room together, the PA, the catering, the venue and the external speakers are partly why it’s important to get this right. You don’t want to waste money. And if the message doesn’t land it would have been better to spend the money on something else. Bacon butties all round perhaps?

But there’s a more compelling reason – the lost opportunity cost. A flat, predictable series of speakers has a hangover effect. People go away disappointed and tired. Their full inbox awaits them and the investment they made to come to the event is far outweighed by the work awaiting them when they return to the day job. Alternatively an event where the Leaders really plant their messages in a memorable way has an exponential return.  The stories about a great event, the repetition of key messages, the energy that was created in the room and the respect that is generated for the internal speakers who, on that memorable day, galvanized the organization ensures that the momentum of the event is easy to maintain…and it’s easy to justify the investment again next year!

Blaire Palmer is a former BBC Journalist and, as a speaker, author and coach for senior leaders, is now a world authority on the future of leadership. Get in touch with us to find out how to book her for your next event or ask her how to get the most from your internal speakers.

For more information or to book…

020 7582 3048