I do a lot of public speaking to a wide diversity of groups.
If you think about it, to be good, a speaker needs to know precisely what he has to offer a particular audience. Likewise, an audience needs to know what they should or should not expect from a speaker. It falls on the event producers to make this transaction work and all too often, it seems to me, the producers focus on promoting, using a speakers name in that area, while giving little or no attention to helping a speaker understand audience needs and expectations.
I'm just back from Saratoga Springs, NY, where I was the keynote speaker for GlobalSpec a vertical search and supply company for engineers. This was their partner appreciation day, mostly vertical and trade publishers.
I felt like I hit it out of the park as their closing speaker and the feedack I've received has been very favorable. I'm usually well-received, but this time, it felt like I could address attendee questions and concerns on the impact of social media on their respective businesses.
I'd like to take all the credit, but the point of this post is that the producer invested so much time and energy in letting me know in advance about the audience. This was Bruce Bergwall, GlobaSpec's senior biz dev director, who first contacted me in February, and a few months later, began an ongoing process of getting me to understand GlobalSpec, it's partners, their relationship with each other and why they wanted a social media person to speak.
Here's what Bruce did.
- Prior to contact, he had read Naked Conversations and my blog. He knew about me and what I had to say before we actually talked.
- He talked to me by phone four times for nearly two hours, telling me about attendees and what they did and what they knew about social media.
- He walked me through the GlobalSpec CR4 site so I could understand where the company was heading in terms of social media. He was candid enough to let me avoid missing sensitivities.
- He had me talk to another guest speaker to ensure we would not collide and deliver the same insight material to the audience.
- Expenses were paid promptly, which is much rarer than you would think.
- I received attendee bio informaton before I arrived. This helped me to adjust my talk to the specific audience.
- Bruce reviewed my presentation the day prior to my giving it. He made two suggestions which improved how I would be received.
- Bruce arranged for a walk-through of the room, the day before I presented, so I could understand the mechanics of the event and modify my habit of walking all over the place when I speak.
- In advance of the conference, Bruce had sent out a couple of questions to attendees, regarding what they were doing with social media and what their concerns were. The session started with the attendees answering the questions. As I listened, I changed my presentation, including it's title to focus specifically on attendee key issues.
- His assistant on the project, Karen Kenyon and Bruce were extremely attentive to my wife and I, giving us advice on places to go in the area and where to eat. We were included in all entertainment activities and were generally treated with respect and cordiality. This is less often the case than you might think.
I write this, not to gloat on this particular success. Nor does GlobalSpec stand to gain much by my touting their virtues. But I do hope a few conference producers might catch this and think a bit about how they can better prepare their speakers and thus give their attendees greater value with just a small investment in time and focus.