Everyone's attended useless presentations. My guess is that 90% of all the speakers I've heard have fallen into one or more of the gaffs below.
Now events are often worth going to for the 10% of speakers that are worth listening to. There's often a useful tidbit here and there among the rest as well. But speakers would be better off resisting the most common traps. Here are some tips drawn from my own experience as a speaker and, more importantly, sitting in the audience.
Which is sad. Hundreds of attendees have paid and given up time to learn something only to be confronted with information that's just not useful. What's up with the speakers? It's really the show organizers fault. The Medical Spa Expo for example is put on by Reed Exhibitions, a business that organizes conventions and expos as a venture. They find a group in the market they're interested in and, voila, instant show. The politics that go into picking speakers are profound. The first presentors are a resouce to the company putting on the expo. They tend to bring in their friends and keep out the competiton.
#1. Speakers: No, you can't pitch your lovely company
If you're presentation is really a sales pitch (i.e., your company markets goods or services to the types of people who attend this show), your chances of making it worth sitting on a folding chair for an hour are extremely slim unless you:
- Have your clients speak with you and eliminate all the tricky little references to your company.
- Present new research thats usefull ot the audience and give it away.
- Present tactics, jobs, mistakes, etc., anything with numbers. The more, the better.
- Run a workshop at the conference.
- Pitch your physicians or other professionals who are completely and thoroughly unrelated to marketing and sales.
#2. Consultants: No tired speeches about your glory days.
Show attendees sit in multiple presentations on the same topic. At medical spa expos it's the marketing baby. Show organizers know this (which is way they often swap postal lists with each other for promotions). They'll pad the schedule with medspa consultants who did lots of stuff in the past but don't own or run a clinic now. If the resume doesn't currently include something other than consulting, it should. This is a lucritive field. Consultants don't make the money or have the info, owners do.
#3. Experts: Avoid overviews
Great -- you've noticed there's a presentation about a topic that promises to pull back the curtin and let you into the good stuff. What you get is not an expert with hands-on experience but a novice with strong opinions about the topic. In either case, the expert and the psuedo-expert, the overview speaches are useless in the daily operations and growth of a business. That's what blogs are for.
#4. Don't ignore format
Most shows tend to focus primarily on one particular type of presentation such as group panels, intensive workshops, case studies, roundtables, etc. Stick with what you're supposed to be there for. Here's a link to Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 powerpoint rule. Required reading for anyone presenting anything anywhere.
#5. Copywrite or sell your presentation
The last time I saw this I was at a Thermage presentation by Virginia Stevens M.D.. Doctor Stevens was presenting information for performing Thermage treatments on the body for a packed room of docs. Everyone sat speachless while Dr. Stevens literally flew through her presentation without pause, questions or clairity. The reason became apparent at the end when Dr. Stevens last slide showed the ordering information available for the presentation on her website for a mere $295. The Thermage sales people were horrified and apologized to everyone (out of hearing of Dr. Stevens).
If you're going to accept the invitation to present, then present, don't sell. You just piss people off.
#6. Let go of your ego
Yeah, you're the expert. But the audience is smart too. Prancing around as the man with the plan will get you used and discarded. I sat on a panel with one doctor (remaining nameless here) who bluntly told the audience that he had the ego of any three men. (He was completely believable too.) But that was the end. The audience totally tuned him out an he was forced to elbow his way in to answers. Everybody has an ego. We just don't want to hear about yours.