Prepare Your Company Speakers as if You Really Give a Damn

I know you care about all of your event-related expenditures. So why doesn’t it show?

Tony Compton, Managing Partner

$1,000? How about $2,000? Or $10,000? More? How much did it really cost your company to have a presenter take part in the last industry conference, trade show, webinar or fill-in-the-blank event? Was the presenter’s demo or session part of a sponsorship package, or was it a solo appearance? Did you pay for a customer to co-present? Odds are you’ll have a hard time getting the “all-in” costs, and the harsh reality is that you’re spending time, money and resources on corporate presentations which quite often fall flat. Just because your people are out there giving presentations doesn’t mean that the efforts are paying off. In this case, activity does not automatically equal productivity.

True, under most circumstances there will be an expense report with time and travel-related line items, while Finance can provide invoice amounts for sponsorships and event-related costs. Marketing should be able to tell you how many people registered, and attended, and how many leads came as a result of an event. And don’t forget the financial modules in some marketing automation systems which can churn out detailed event-related reports. Pretty cool stuff. But hey, at the end of the last speaking engagement, your crew felt fortunate because a tangible spreadsheet of registered participants was delivered, and somebody uploaded the contacts into your CRM and Marketing Automation tools. Now the show’s over, and everybody’s in the system. Great! On to the next event!

Not so fast…

Imagine this scene: a well-structured conference with sessions presented by industry experts, held in a business-class hotel. You and I have been to dozens of these events. During a recent presentation, I took a look around the room. I observed the speaker, the slides and the audience, then started counting. I counted half the attendees using their laptops during the presentation. Moreover, some attendees were even using multiple devices during the presentation, and this behavior never changed throughout the conference. However, after each session, the audience politely clapped and it was on to the next one. All involved appeared satisfied. Detect a problem?

It’s Your Company, Your People and Your Budget

I started doing more math. What did it cost to send each one of these participants to attend the conference? What did it truly cost the presenters to prepare, take time out of their business week and travel to the event? And what return are the attendees, the speakers and the represented companies expecting? The presentation content shared throughout this conference was outstanding. Trouble was, half the audience wasn’t paying attention. It begged the question, “With so much time and money invested, does anybody really give a damn?”

This isn’t a sweeping indictment of all presenters, presentations and business conferences, and I know most, if not all, will readily say that they do indeed care. But it’s hard to see it, and hear it, in what’s given to attendees today. As somebody who has been involved with conferences and trade shows for over 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to have had a seat in the audience to watch and learn from some of the best presenters on the planet. The kind of presenters who can carry an audience across the finish line, even if the computer with the slides on it crashed 30 seconds before showtime. I’ve recorded positive feedback, and watched what an outstanding presentation can do for a company, and somebody’s career. On the other hand, I’ve also seen what a bad presentation or boring webinar can do, and the damage it can cause. Chances are, so have you.

If you spend money on sending speakers to industry events and have an interest in your bottom line, you understand the multitude of problems behind poor and lackluster presentations, these questionable investments, and how elusive getting a grip on comprehensive solutions can be. The pain that comes with allocating resources on speaking engagements with substantial costs and vague returns is common. It’s a problem that’s been made worse recently by: arrogant and cynical presenters; a lack of expert coaching for speakers who wish to improve their performance, but don’t receive the necessary support from corporate; seat-warming, multitasking audiences; and ostrich mentalities by those who could make a difference, but choose not to do so.

High-performing organizations don’t wallow in the excuses found in the fear of public speaking, marketing’s inability to answer questions about presentation preparedness and event metrics, and the resistance offered up by some on the inside. Neither should you. For far too long, we’ve become accepting of mediocre, uninteresting and even bad presentations, and the lack of due diligence by all involved. Few I know have the appetite for sitting through another hour-long session that disappoints in the first 10 minutes. What’s worse is how some executives carry on and don’t believe that it’s their people who fail to deliver and need coaching. It’s always the other guys who need help. Meanwhile life goes on, very little changes, and the competition outperforms ill-prepared public-facing presenters on a consistent basis. Yet in the next sales and marketing pipeline review and win/loss analysis, where does your company’s responsibility of making sure its people possess much needed presentation skills lie?

In my view, it’s time to act. Right now, you’re approving resources and expenditures to send speakers to the next batch of 2015 events, and it’s time for you to want to get full value from these investments. It’s time for you to prep your company speakers to meet the rigorous challenges of delivering outstanding presentations. It’s time for you to act, and act as if you really do give a damn.

Follow GettingPresence on Twitter: @gettingpresence, and stay tuned to this blog for insights and solutions from experts who have faced, and met, the same event-related challenges you face everyday. We’ve prepared speakers, and helped executives, salespeople and marketing leaders make the most out of business conferences, industry trade shows, customer meetings, and sponsored webinars.

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