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Don't be that boring conference speaker

Recently I’ve attended some conferences and workshops happened in Colombo, and I thought of sharing some observations I made about the speakers of these events.

One of the main observations I had about these events is, the lack of respect by the speakers towards the audience.

When I say, “lack of respect”, I don’t mean the speakers being openly disrespectful to the audience in their speeches. But, respect comes in many different shapes.

If you are invited to speak at an event, you should at least have the decency to spend few hours of your time to be prepared for your speech.

In most of these sessions I noticed, the speakers did not have a clue about who their audience is. They have not researched enough about the topic that they are speaking, or about the type of audience they are speaking at. If they are given 20 minutes to speak, they keep going on and on as if they have the whole day to speak.

This is a very serious issue, particularly if your audience is paying to attend the conference that you are speaking at. Even if they are not paying to attend the conference, they invest a good portion of their valuable time to come to the event expecting for something valuable in return.

I have few requests to the organizers, speakers and the attendees of these conferences.

If you are an organizer of an event like this; be very selective about whom you are going to invite as speakers. Don’t just go for the big titles and famous names. See if the person has a genuine interest to deliver some value to your audience, or if this person is just looking for some public speaking gigs just to boost their personal brand.

Give a very clear brief to the speaker about who your audience is, and very clear description of the content you expect the speaker to cover.

Be very strict with the time allocation, and doesn’t matter how a bigshot your speaker is, cut them off brutally after they exceeded their allocated time.

Panel discussions? Make sure you have not more than 3 panelists and the moderator. Also make sure the moderator is not fond of speaking by himself; this is a major blunder I see at many events. At least do one round of a panelist meeting before the event, to discuss the topics and the time allocation for each panelist.

Now, if you are a speaker of an event like this; here’s what I have in store for you.

Please, please, please, don’t assume that your audience is jobless. They do have other commitments as well, and they sacrificed a good portion of their day and sometimes even money, to come and attend to your conference speech.

So, be respectful to the audience and spend at least a good 8 hours preparing for your speech. As a rule of thumb, know that in average one PowerPoint slide is equal 2 minutes. This means, if you come to a 20 minutes presentation with a 40 slides presentation deck, you are going to struggle in managing time. Stick to no more than 5 major points in your presentation. Your mission is to deliver at least one value adding new knowledge to every participant. If you can achieve that, that’s a successful speech.

Finally, these are my requests to the attendees of workshops.

Don’t let the organizers and boring speakers to take you for a ride. If you don’t like a session you attended; complain! Complain directly to the organizers using the feedback forms, email or even face to face. If they don’t apologize or respond to your complaint, take it public on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Because, if you don’t challenge the people who always take you for granted, you will always be treated as just a bunch of dummies whom they want to fill the seats of their conference or the seminar.

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