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Friday, October 24, 2014

Anyone Paying Attention? - Opening Keynote

An illuminating article in the Atlantic offers startling news about what occurs on the other end of your conference calls. Here is an excerpt:

"A new survey from Intercall, the largest international conference call company, finds that when I occasionally zone out on conference calls, I'm participating in a national pastime, not unlike baseball. More than 60 percent of Intercall's respondents admitted to doing other work or sending an email while on a conference call. More than half the people on the line are eating (hopefully on mute). Just under half are in the bathroom (hopefully on mute!). One in five are shopping. One in 11 are exercising. Six percent are taking another call."

By implication, the issue likely extends to webinars as well. What this means for each of us is that we need to be highly compelling if not riveting to capture and hold the attention of the people on the other end of the line. Nothing less will do.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coffee for Coffee Fiends - Opening Keynote

An astounding one half of all American adults spend $1000 on coffee every year. So, it appears that long and generous coffee breaks at conferences are likely to prove popular.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Powerpointless - Opening Keynote

Based on one study, what audiences find irritating about Powerpoint presentations:

   * speaker read the slides 60%
   * text too small to read 51%
   * text too wordy 48%

   * poor color choices 37%
   * moving text or graphics 25%
   * irritating sounds 22%

   * complex charts 22%

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Heed the Introduction as Written - Opening Keynote


Do your conference speakers a favor: tell your introducers in no uncertain terms not to improvise. Many introducers offer an ad-hoc lines, which squelch a speaker’s planned opening. One of my introducers once added his own line to my introduction. It was his attempt at a joke. It was lame, fell flat, and went nowhere. It also conflicted with my intended opening line, and I had to quickly adjust.

I know of one meeting planner who asks introducers, "Can you deliver this introduction as the speaker has requested?" If the introducer does not pledge to deliver the introduction free of these remarks, the meeting planner finds another introducer.

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Confusing Action with Interaction - Opening Keynote

in Special Events Blog has penned a masterpiece that every speaker and ever meeting planner ought to heed for evermore:

Kanye West is a stand-up guy. Literally. He got a social media thrashing -- call it a Tweeting beating -- by insisting that all attendees at a recent concert in Melbourne stand up to show their enthusiasm for his event.

It seemed he just couldn't stop. He hectored some attendees who continued to sit, which compelled one guest to hold up her prosthetic leg to prove she had an ample excuse to stay seated.


Kanye is not alone these days in demanding that audience members participate -- or else. I'm old-school enough to believe that I can sit quietly at presentations so that the speaker who is smarter than I am can make me smarter, too. And as it happens, there are many, many speakers who are smarter than I am, so I have many opportunities to sit quietly.

Instead, I've been ordered by presenters to stand up, perform jumping jacks, and turn to the total stranger beside me and share some private facts about myself I've never shared with anyone else before. Hmmm … no.

Presenters these days seem gripped by the fear that unless everyone in front of them is in motion, then nothing is happening. But this is a mistake. They are confusing action with interaction. True audience interaction means the audience members shape the presentation. Their input should rule. Indeed, ordering audience members to stand and speak is just the flip side of ordering them to sit down and shut up.

As the wonderful writer James Thurber noted, you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meeting Planners who Hinder - Opening Keynote

As a speaker, every once in a while you encounter a meeting planner who doesn't give you the fundamental information that you need to be successful. This happened to me at a speech in Winnipeg to an insurance support group.

I was scheduled to speak for 90 minutes. Prior to my session, attending salespeople would be returning from lunch at the company's headquarters. There would be some announcements and a few awards before I went on.

Predictably, the lunch ran a little long. People continued to arrive back at the conference until just before the afternoon session; everything was going to be pushed back 15 to 20 minutes. I wasn’t concerned, because I had experienced this many times.

I took my seat in the far right of the front row. When the introducer mentioned my name and that I was going to be presenting that afternoon, I stood up and positioned myself along the wall adjacent to my seat, waiting for him to conclude his remarks. Instead of concluding, he gave several brief announcements for a duration of more than five minutes. He then cited several individuals in the room and called others up to hand out awards. The award ceremony lasted for more than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I was still standing along the wall, smiling, and politely applauding along with the audience. My energy was dissipating. It had been more than 25 minutes and I had no idea when it was going to be my turn to speak.

After even more announcements, I was finally introduced, but now this after-lunch audience had already been in their chairs for 30 minutes. This, of course, was a disaster in and of itself. Most people need to go to the rest room 60 to 90 minutes after lunch. With them being in their seats for 30 minutes and me planning to speak for 90, it was a guarantee that by the end of the two hours, people would be dying to go.

As I began, I realized I needed to ramp up my energy level. The audience was already in a slump, and now I was not my normal, high energy self. The session went fairly well, but it wasn't one of my better performances.


The meeting planner was oblivious to the whole situation, and there was no opportunity after the fact to converse. In retrospect, I suppose I should have sat down once I realized how long the award ceremony was going to take. It seemed, however, that it was just about to end, mostly because the people giving the awards were not adept at what they were doing.

Hereafter, for after-lunch sessions, I will grill the meeting planner about the precise agenda and timing.

Every speaker experiences some seemingly unavoidable misunderstandings. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons why public speaking is one of the least desirable activities among adults. This far into my career of paid, professional speaking, a situation of this sort should not have happened. I suppose it could have been worse.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Increasing Social Isolation - Opening Keynote

Dateline 2007, with dramatic overtones seven years later:

"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago," says Shankar Vedantam, a Washington Post staff writer. "And a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

Has Facebook, Twitter, or social sites picked up some of the slack?  A little but not much. The implication for meeting professionals: the need for face-to-face meetings will never die. People will be amenable if only to stem some of the tide of the growing feeling of isolation in their personal lives.

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