A friend attending a conference populated by, designed for, and speakers taken from the populace of highly technical folks (i.e., geeks) related this story, which I found to be both funny and enlightening.The conference runs from 900am until almost 1000pm each day. The body, mind, and bottom can take but so much. The speaker pool was clearly chosen for their knowledge, not their delivery skills (as another friend shared, “In this arena, it’s easy to stand out as a presenter“). Hour after hour of PowerPoint presentations, being read to, fonts too small, and dozens of bullet points crammed into an hour slot.One speaker gets up and starts with an apology (he hasn’t been reading): “I’m sorry, I don’t have any PowerPoint slides.” The crowd erupted into a spontaneous cheer! The speaker looked surprised — it wasn’t intended as a joke — and continued on.What can we learn from this? First, the audience clearly doesn’t WANT PowerPoint. So why do they get it? Well, all the speakers use it, so that must be what I have to do, right? Our first clear violation of Rule #1. Second, if we do something that STANDS OUT, the audience will remember us. When I asked my friend about the other presenters, it didn’t take more than a few seconds to relate all he could remember — the content wasn’t of interest to me and he knew enough not to get into that, and there was little that stood out from the presenters. If we want to be remembered as speakers, we need to stand out. Lastly, when we provide true value and give people what they need and want, we can expect a response. Not polite clapping at the end response. A truly gut-feeling, eye-popping, head-nodding response. Decorum and social mores may dictate something other than clapping or cheering, but as a presenter, we know when we’ve connected. And that connection is always something to strive for, whether selling widgets, explaining technical code snippets, getting kids to listen to us, trying to inspire folks to live better lives, or any other message we have.
Provide for the audience’s needs and wants. Connect with THEM.