Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trend experts and futurists, a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. Steinberg is among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops and seminars for Fortune 500 firms, and the founder of travel + lifestyle magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked™. His website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
Take it from a business speaker who’s presented at hundreds of events and conferences: Professional audiences are among the most sophisticated, demanding and well-informed groups to whom you can ever present. Happily, business executives are also among the most receptive to and interested in hearing you or your organization’s message. Authoritative insight, fresh perspectives and innovative solutions are often prized amongst company leaders as a vital wellspring for business growth and transformation.
The good news for meeting planners and presenters hoping to make a mark with the executive crowd is that despite commonly held misperceptions, you’re not there to solve anyone’s problems overnight, but to merely steer those closest to the situation toward asking better questions. Following are several ways you can do just that — either as a business speaker or when working with a business speaker for any occasion.
No two businesses are alike, nor operating realities. Getting to know and understand organizations, the products and services they offer and changing industry landscapes within which they operate is crucial.
Presentations should always be customized to the individual firm or event and audience level, taking into account attendees’ day-to-day challenges and concerns, and incorporating stories or learning that address or parallel viewers’ hands-on experiences. Where multiple stakeholders, departments and initiatives are involved, it further helps to couch presentations in terms that are universally applicable. What matters is context and strategic takeaway, not granularity.
Taking time to truly understand each organization, the area in which it does business and shifts of the professional playing field — not only helps establish trust and empathy, it makes you a more capable speaker on the platform. It also makes you better equipped to both realistically frame points of concern, and provide tailored insight and learning that allows attendees to gain new perspective on them.
Events incorporating speakers are often designed to offer motivation, inspiration, authoritative input, fresh perspective, underscoring of key themes, a rousing kick-off for new initiatives or some combination of each. All situations imply a positive sense of growth, change and momentum — points which should be reflected in the passion and verve you bring to the stage and reflected in actions taken even when outside the spotlight.
Where appropriate, speakers should make a point of arriving to meetings or conventions early, staying late and speaking with attendees. If it helps, consider yourself as much a participant as any stakeholder. By truly taking the time to listen to others on hand, not just talk at them, you empower two-way dialogue, gain insight and receive valuable feedback that should be incorporated into your presentations, presenting a sense of timeliness and dynamism.
The problem with canned talks or cookie-cutter speeches? They feel as if you’re talking at an audience, not with them — and, especially in the case of sessions which occur in the middle of event programs, look at best indifferent if salient points made in earlier sessions aren’t addressed. Whether by participating in conference calls and putting questions to on-the-job experts prior to day-of programs, or making a point of attending panels you’re not featured on, always go the extra mile — as successful business speakers can tell you, it reflects in the end result.
Being on the day-to-day frontlines, attendees and key stakeholders are better attuned to the reality of their own scenario. They also have a vested interest in seeing you succeed — so why not get them more involved in presentations?
Many simple strategies can help you boost engagement, awareness and takeaway, e.g., inviting observers to participate by submitting questions and suggestions prior to your presentation. Alternately, you might ask them to tape and send you commentary in the form of videos, podcasts or testimonials — all of which, like the above, can be incorporated into your programs. Feedback and input can help more effectively inform and steer the direction and content of your speeches to provide greater value for the end viewer. Hearing from colleagues or managers within one’s own company also helps programs hit closer to home for attendees and demonstrate how the topics you’re speaking on impact organizations on a more relatable and personable level.
Even an act as simple as requesting questions from your audience up-front and touching upon them when presenting shows that you’ve taken the time to better address key points of concern. It all adds up to more compelling, relevant and well-received presentations — and reinforces that you both value your audience’s contributions, and have gone the extra mile to ensure that their voice is being heard.
Like any good public speaker knows, inspiration and motivation are key elements of running a successful business — but so are a sense of hard-nosed practicality and eye for operational detail. As important to executives as the raw facts and figures associated with any scenario are strategic considerations and real-world context. Accordingly, case studies and practical examples can prove powerful touchpoints in any presentation.
Many businesses and business owners are dealing with commonly recurring issues such as: managing growth or change, attracting and retaining key talent and juggling shifting consumer patterns. Few may possess insight beyond their specific vertical or industry as to how other organizations are successfully adapting to and addressing similar challenges faced by leaders across the board.
To this extent, underlying themes and metaphors can help you paint a broad overarching framework — however, concrete examples and comparable situational analyses should serve as the rungs which more effectively tie messaging together. That doesn’t mean anecdotes need to be dry or boring; all can provide helpful storytelling devices that underscore key points and drive sustained audience attention. It pays to support your claims with facts and show how they apply in context — and can make powerful statements when designed to better resonate or ring familiar.
The outcome of a successful public-speaking program shouldn’t simply be providing the motivation and inspiration needed to overcome the challenges an enterprise faces. It should result in attendees walking away with the knowledge needed to capably and immediately act upon both.
Note that even a single 60- to 90-minute session is enough to provide audiences with a wake-up call, shift in mindset and the basic tools needed to begin putting new insights into practice. While opportunities such as seminars, master classes and workshops certainly provide extended forums for corporate speakers to help drive positive learning and skills transfer, it doesn’t take hours to spark audiences’ interest in researching and exploring subjects further. Brief though they may be, even passing presentations provide an opportunity to provide powerful tools for driving awareness and embracement of new models or methodologies. Often, all it takes is a starting point and subtle nudge in the right direction to prompt further self-guided research.
Having used the techniques above to better connect with audiences, communicate the value of key messages and drive positive momentum — you’ll be well on your way to climbing the corporate ladder. I&FMM.