My first speech was a baptism of fire!
As a junior lawyer, I spoke at a major client’s conference of about 500 engineers. Mine was the very last session of what had clearly been a long day. My talk was on the then new Construction Act (1996!) and was loosely based around some salacious celebrity gossip.
It went down a storm. It was easy to tell, easy to cut short to ensure the engineers got the bar on time, and a talking point for afterwards.
Read more about my speaking style here.
During my 8 years as the Professional Support Lawyer for Eversheds’ Construction and Engineering Team, I organized many speakers for and also spoke at each of our annual conferences. I also read every single one of the evaluation forms, and was determined that I would only book speakers who got consistently excellent feedback.
I quickly understood that even presenters with awesome expertise and excellent speaking skills often commit one of four sins:
- Great content but no interaction – in the post-lunch ‘graveyard’ spot, these speakers are liable to send their audience to sleep (Chris Z).
- Great content but not for this audience – an eminent speaker introduced his keynote to his audience of solicitors complaining about lawyers, and ended up facing 80 disgruntled faces!
- Great content, probably – but the audience was distracted by a festival of bullet points, animation and power point trickery, so no-one could focus on the main points. These speakers are little more than time-fillers.
- Great content – but far too much content for their session duration. These speakers annoy the organizers and later speakers by making the programmer run late (a cardinal sin) and the audience because there is not time to ask questions and no-one can recall the main points.
If you are organizing your own conference, then please download my quick guide to make life easier for you, your speakers and your audience.