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Dear Speaker, I Loathe You. Sincerely, Your Event Planner

By Julius Solaris

This is a follow up to the article Dear Event Planner, I Hate You. Sincerely, Your Speaker. Time for event profs to scold sloppy speakers.

Speakers management

As I mentioned in the first passage of this minefield I decided to adventure in, I feel entitled for this writeup as I have been both event professional and speaker. This peculiar position does not give me the privilege of telling others what to do, but rather helps me to mediate between two worlds that do not speak enough to themselves.

If you haven't read the first part of my literary adventure, I invite you to do so. Mostly because the objective of these article is to improve a relationship not to please one or the other party. You can't fully grasp the underlying message behind my words without reading the whole articles and comments.

Comment Win

The first post has been an amazing experience comment wise. I don't recall any post over the last year being so commented.

Some were in complete agreement such as Traci Browne:

"I love the "exposure" theory. Come speak to my audience for free...you'll get some great exposure. Quickly followed by, use our slide template (um...I use Keynote or Prezi...not PP) do not put your branding, contact information on the slide or even remotely mention what you have done for clients in your presentations because we consider that selling. So where is this exposure?"

Some introduced another aspect of the problem, such as Rebecca L. Morgan:

"Having been an international professional speaker for 3 decades as well as an event planner, I understand why planners ask to see the slides. I often speak at events where 90% of the presenters slides are horrible. Poorly designed, too-small fonts, way over crowded w/info. The challenge is how to tell the speaker their slides are bad? So many speakers shoot themselves in the foot -- even professional speakers -- with their really bad slides."

Two Is The Magic Number

The above comments confirm that the speaker/eventprof troubled exchange needs a bit of collaboration from both ends.

Said that, I want to make sure that speakers listen to what I've got to say next. Too many times I've seen the following patterns as an event planner. Too many times I've rolled my eyes for yet another primadonna who forgot we are both members of the same race.

In fact I believe I've been that primadonna myself and I believe it is time to come clean.

This blog is primarily aimed at event profs and I realise I don't have as many speakers in my audience. Therefore my intention is to make this post, mostly aimed at speakers, resonate with you, dear event lover, so it can actually stimulate you to find alternative ways to work with your speakers.

At the end of the day, the success of our conference or meeting depends on this delicate relationship so let's make it work.

If you don't have time to read the post below, I've created an Haiku Deck for your visual enjoyment (thanks Kelly for the tip).

For the rest of you, here are some reasons why event planners hate speakers

Me: - me, - me, - me, - me

I hope you get the message. The focus of the event is not you, it's them, the attendees.

The reason why they've travelled long miles is not to live a cathartic experience of osmotic transference of knowledge.

They are there, as my friend Jeff Hurt says, to be Entertained, to Participate, to live Images and to Connect. This is what usually makes conferences E.P.I.C.

The audience expects you to entertain and inform. They also expect speakers to stimulate them with image rich and engaging experiences.

Talking about yourself does not help. Same goes with the next one…

Buy Now, Limited Offer

Advertising your product or service aggressively, constantly and ubiquitously in your presentation is just a let down.

It's a bulletproof method to annoy a multitude of people that turned up because they actually thought you had something to say.

If the aim number one of your presentation is promoting your business and collecting leads, you are effectively trashing the only chance you had to impress a well disposed audience.

Those speakers who believe in delivering value as their primary objective do not need to push their product. They will inevitably get asked at the end of their presentation. In fact they will always collect several leads.

If you need to make your newly released gimmick the primary message of your deck, you are spoiling your first date with dirty requests. C'mon don't make me be explicit.

Jokes Wrapped in Amazing Bullet Points

There are two problems with the above subtitle. Jokes and bullet points.

I've witnessed presentations with sad humour all over them. That ignites an awkward feeling in the room making both the presenter and the audience feel uncomfortable.

Good speakers know if they are funny and when to use humour. In fact sometimes it may help the audience to take a break and digest information better.

The use of bullet points is such a recurring theme in speaker criticism that I feel it is almost superfluous talking about it. Nevertheless I will stress again that the extensive use of bullet points within presentations annoys most audiences.

There are some instances when bullet points are needed such as for very long talks (3+ hours) but the behaviour that consistently upsets audiences involve a speaker reading bullet points.

This is a plain insult to the intelligence of those listening. They can surely read what is written on a gigantic screen so you are not really adding anything with your speaking. In other words you are useless, you are better off writing books than speaking at events.

Being Late and The Last Minute Connector

If the aforementioned items upset attendees, these two make event coordinators furious.

Showing up late (I've witnessed this so many times) it's a sign of disrespect to the other party. No matter the context, no matter how important and busy you are.

Same goes with last minute requests. A speaker that cares about the event s/he is about to engage with makes sure that everything is ready for the presentation days in advance.

Asking at the last minute for a Mac cable connector or for special arrangements is not conceived as business as usual. Of course contingencies happen, but poor planning and weak preparation is what make event professionals belligerant.

Helping Out on Social and Sharing Slides

If you've been hired by an event, you are supposed to support it. The success of the event usually means the success of your talk. Promoting the event, means promoting your talk.

Not co-operating on social means devaluing your talk to begin with. Good speakers supports to the best of their ability the event they will talk at. This does not have to be part of a coercive contract to tweet or to blog. It has to be an organic activity.

Not sharing slides after the event usually angers both event profs and attendees. If your content is so valid you are effectively giving up on the biggest opportunity to make an impact with your audience.

Having the deck pre-loaded on Slidehsare should be the norm. Then you will just share the link with your audience. Possibly during or at the end of your session.

Nothing to add on this one. It is as simple as that and you just need to comply.

Leaving The Room In a Second

Some speakers look more like 100m runners waiting for the go signal to escape the room. If you are good at what you do it is highly likely that the attendees will want to have a quick chat after your session.

Running outside like you're chased by zombies is not nice, after all the audience is there for you. It's a good thing, don't spoil it!

Not Respecting Your Slot

I've covered behaviours that drive attendees and event profs mad. This one specifically impacts on other speakers at the event.

If you are running late, you are effectively declaring war to the next speaker. Once again it is a matter of respect, no matter how important your message is.

Lately I've noticed this turned into a Twitter war. In fact the next speaker gets so upset that they head to Twitter to share the anger with their followers.

It is becoming quite a delicate issue. Being on time is important. The speaker after you needs to set up and get a feeling of the room. You are impacting on a very crucial time of the speech, but being a speaker yourself, you know what I am talking about.

In Conclusion

This marks the end of a two-post series on the speaker/event professional relationship. The balance of this special partnership makes or breaks an event.

I don't believe I've stated anything revolutionary in the articles, it's all common sense and both parties will agree these pet peeves can be easily avoided.

Respect, communication, collaboration and motivation are key factors to make this relationship work. Event profs need to trust their speaker more and speakers should honour that trust with motivation, preparation and attention to details.

I am sure we can be friends again. Deal?

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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  • François Jullien

    oh Julius do you LOOOOVE trouble 🙂
    Seriously, it is all true and I could put names on every item and sometimes the same name would fill several.
    Well there’s another thing and I did it recently, my mistake so… please Mister Speaker if something happens during your slide show or if the audience can’t hear you maybe it is not because of the hardware but because you know something is wrong with your speech and you have to point something out live and outloud to regain confidence… your bad, not theirs, you’ll be fine as you usually do or you would not be a professional…

  • Neat post. I think a whole lot of conferences could be a whole lot better for sharing stuff like this.

  • Hakins Meetings

    How about using the podium (with a captive audience) to push a personal philosophy regarding political affiliations and global events. The attendees don’t want it…especially when they traveled to be motivated for a Q4 sales strategy session.

  • Great post, and fantastic Haiku Deck! We couldn’t agree more with this: “The extensive use of bullet points within presentations annoys most audiences.”

    If speakers use Haiku Deck, they’ll not only be encouraged (ok, forced) to minimize bullets and create beautiful, visually engaging slides, they’ll generate a URL that can be easily shared with the attendees. (Haiku Decks can also be uploaded straight to Slideshare.)

    We truly value feedback! http://www.haikudeck.com

  • Ayu Azalea

    Love this! I so can relate to how you feel! 🙂 and your article really help me to curate better conferences next time!

  • Jublia

    Ahha! interesting post. You should do a event planner x attendee and attendee x speaker too 🙂

    Will be interesting!

  • Pedro Anderson

    Well said! Love the slides. Very important message, keep it up Julius.

    • Thanks Pedro!

      • Pedro Anderson

        No problem. By the way, I sort of disagree about handing out slides. I find a hand-out documents much more effective. Although there are probably some cases when slides speak for themselves (your slide above, for example) I think most slides can be confusing without the speaker.

        • Sure – I am not talking about handouts but about soft copy of slides.

          I believe these should be given to the audience. Not sharing slides is bad for both the presenter and the attendees.

  • thomsinger

    All true… but the one about not going over time is in need of blinking lights and arrows pointing to it (as to not be missed). when you go over time, you are stealing. That time you abuse either is taken from the next speaker or from the break that the audience needs (to go pee or to connect with each other). The planners need to make this point clear. One magazine editor I have worked with tells the speakers at her events that they have a one minute grace period. After one minute she is there with them, saying “thank you” (and she does it!).