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Whenever I am asked to share slides before a session I am presenting at, I politely decline. Here is why you should stop asking.
I quit sharing slides before my session with the event planner/manager/organizer/education manager in 2009. I was to present at a roundtable of top/senior (and all those fancy titles) event professionals.
After preparing like I never did in my life and creating what I still think is an awesome presentation, I was asked to share my slides. I foolishly accepted.
These were the comments I got:
I hope you don’t mind but I sent your presentation to the chair of the session, these were his comments:
- he thought there were quite a lot of slides and wanted to check that you weren’t going to read off the screen.
- he also wanted to check that there was detail and not too much general principles as it is a group of very senior marketing directors from large, sophisticated and thought leading marketing based organisations. He was also very concerned about the slide which said:
“The events industry needs a bit of a shake up. The recession highlighted a problem that has
been around for a while. Lack of creativity, lack of substance, lack of innovation”
I think this probably needs changing as it could annoy a lot of people – some of whom are doing brilliant, creative and innovative marketing! Some may actually have more practical experience of this then any of us I know a couple of people attending who know their direct marketing better than most and might not share the sentiment of your opening slide.
If you've met me at an event somewhere around the world, you know I am no shy guy. I speak my mind and in general have the ego required to do the job I do.
Nonetheless these comments seriously hurt my confidence. At the time of that email, I had already spoken at few events and with top audiences but I was still a speaker in the making.
A Tough Relationship
I also pointed out what you should look for when hiring an awesome speaker.
Whenever we ask someone to talk at our events we sign a contract of trust with the aim to deliver a great experience. It is perfectly understandable how everyone involved starts feeling nervous about the whole process. The variables are so many they test even the most experienced professional.
Yet my point is that asking for slides is not the solution. It's just the beginning of your problems.
Let's look at some ways to approach the issue differently.
What You Speaker Should Provide
I won't be talking only about the busy event professional. Actually I will start from the speaker. This is because I LOVE the #eventprofs category and I know exactly how we got to this point: the guilt is equally shared.
- Invest in design. If you are a professional speaker and use slides to present, make sure they are well designed. If this is your job, hire a designer. If you are starting out, use tools such as HaikuDeck or Canva. You should be able to demonstrate that you know the importance of visuals, because when Rebecca says this, she is right.
- Show your slides on Slideshare. Being a speaker without a Slideshare channel is like being a blogger without a blog, a Vlogger without a Youtube channel, an Instagrammer without an Instagram profile, you get the picture. Your mission is to make the event professional comfortable with your previous presentations, the content within them and your style in general. Not having a Slideshare channel is usually the top reason why you will be asked your slides.
- Have Videos of Yourself Speaking. It is vital to give a feeling to the hiring party that you are comfortable presenting. A video will usually be the decider for most event professionals. So have it there on your Youtube channel, website, blog or wherever applicable.
- Do Your Homework. Work for your event professional and their audience. Ask questions, ask to brainstorm, ask about how they envision the presentation, keep your perspective but make it about them, not you!
Note: the tips above refer only to those speakers who use slides. I can already see comments about how great you could be without slides. Yes you can, but it is not the subject of this article.
Stop Throwing Your Insecurity onto Speakers
Ok now onto us #eventprofs. Do you know what was the deal with the person that sent me the message above? She wasn't sure. She wasn't sure I was the right speaker for her top managers. She wasn't sure I was capable to handle that audience. She wasn't sure I could deliver a good presentation. Probably she read I was Italian and was expecting some incomprehensible gibberish in a strong pizzeria accent about social media and events.
She read my notes, she freaked out and contact her chairmen to make me feel even worse about the content I was about to present. Essentially she was trying to pass her insecurity to me. And she partly succeeded. She made me feel inadequate and uncomfortable. I almost canceled the event (which, I forgot to mention, was a very expensive event to attend, but of course with no speaking fee - you know how it is).
So what could have she done differently?
- She should have searched for my name online. Researching your speaker online will give you a lot of indication of how to select the right performer. Their videos or content will provide a clear overview of their presentation style and how they interact with the audience. If they have profiles on social networks, looking at how they respond and interact will highlight their interaction style.
- She could have checked my Slideshare channel. She would have got a taste of my presentation style and she would have read the comments of top event professionals who felt positively challenged by my provocative statements and inspired to rethink how to plan their events. Slideshare is always a great channel to test what reaction slides provoke in audiences.
- She could have talked to me about her concerns before 'hiring me'. If there is something a speaker should do before the talk is to manage expectations. Brainstorming and honest discussion are crucial before slides are out.
- She could have taken the risk. Sometimes the job of the event professional is to take risks. To try something new to inspire attendees. Taking a risk is never easy and requires guts. Results could be great or catastrophic but essentially an audience (even when paying a lot of money to attend) is rooting for the speaker and they want them to succeed. We should drop our controlling behaviour for a minute and let change happen. If we've done our research right, good results will always come.
So What Happened?
The day before the event I was really shaken by the conversation. I was about to cancel. I had a chat with my wife and decided to take it as an opportunity, something that could stimulate me to do even better (beware, I am not suggesting you should motivate your speakers this way).
The presentation was great and most of the audience came at the end to express their appreciation. I published it on Slideshare and it collected thousands of contacts and thank you notes. The presentation became the basis of my book Social Media for Events, which was downloaded 10,000 times in 3 weeks.
I haven't shared my slides ever since and I won't share my slides before my session at your event, but the real question is are you gonna ask me to see them?