I attended the American Bankers Association’s Annual Conference in October in New York City. One of the sessions on the opening night was a vendor showcase, where seven presenters were each given five minutes to present their solution. There was an open bar and the session was standing room only.
Now, as a professional speaker, I am always interested in watching other presenters give presentations. I just like to study the craft. I know speaking is more of an art than a science, but just like art, there are some basic rules and “not to do” elements.
The first speaker rocked, had a smooth delivery and easy to read and understand visuals. Another speaker constantly poked at his inability to be a good speaker. Now self-deprecating humor can be very effective, but only in moderation. Stop telling me how poor a speaker you are and instead, spend the time and effort to improve your speaking ability.
One of the companies had a slickly produced video and then spoke for 20 seconds. I thought the video was fine, but in this format, it fell a bit flat. Did they do the video because they could not speak effectively for five minutes?
A couple of the speakers were very ineffective, lots of throw away words and too many “ahs” and “ums.”
Then there was the speaker who was going to do a live demo. In fact, the presenter made a point to tell everyone he was going to achieve showing off his product within the five minute time frame. It was as if he was making this the equivalent of creating a risotto on an episode of Chopped.
Within the first 20 seconds, you could tell something was wrong. The screen image was flickering and unreadable. Now, let me stop here and say speakers cannot always be responsible for A/V issues. In this case, there was an A/V team and I am sure they tested out everything prior to the event. But, this presenter was plugging in his own laptop and it wasn’t working. After about 30 seconds of apologies and frantic unplugging and replugging cables, he still produced no usable image. What would you do in this situation?
What I would do is have a backup. I would be ready to stand on that stage and deliver an impactful five minutes of content, with no visuals. But not this presenter. Literally after more than two minutes had passed, they finally got the image correct. But, by then, the crowd had begun their own conversations and were completely disinterested in the presentation.
So he launched his pitch, soft spoken and barely heard over the chatter. It was another several minutes before the crowd settled down to listen. So we are now watching his demo … which is awful! The “live” demo screens were impossible to read or understand. He was talking about data modeling but the user interface had bad colors which were impossible to read. I mean painfully tiny fonts. I can’t imagine this would have been a pleasing U.I. even for an individual user working on a laptop.
Maybe there is a reason to do a live demo. But, it had better be awesome and compelling and you better be ready to stand and deliver when the A/V goes south. Always be ready to roll without having to rely on technology.
To cap off the worst presentation of the night, this presenter had a false ending which had people clapping (at least the few did) too early. Understanding the basics of speaking and speaking mechanics is a key for any organization who is going to pay big bucks to participate in a session such as the one at the ABA conference.
It’s not hard or expensive to dramatically increase your speaking skill and confidence. But in the end, if you can‘t be sure you can stand and deliver, especially when things go wrong, then hire a professional speaker to advocate on your behalf. You’ll be glad you did!
Also published on Medium.