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Opening Keynote

Friday, March 24, 2017

Your Listeners Need Warming Up - Opening Keynote

Some of the best speakers I know employ a tried-and-true technique for warming up an audience: getting them to offer applause, three times, early in the session. For example, I recall someone effectively using this approach:

"Let's give a hand for the food service people who prepared and delivered our breakfast this morning. Also let’s recognize the people at (organization) who flew me in to be here with you. How about a round of applause for them? Last, and certainly not least, how about yourselves? You took time out of your busy schedules to be here. Let’s have a round of applause for everyone here."

At this point, what audience wouldn’t be focused, ready to listen, applaud, and have a good time?

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

When the Meeting Planner Hinders - 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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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Stay on Schedule - Opening Keynote

Strive to be the one speaker at their meeting or convention who gets the meeting back on schedule. If you were scheduled for 60 minutes and you're given 42, still end at the original time, on the button.

It's an old saw that few speakers are ever penalized for speaking too little. Many are penalized in the minds of their listeners for speaking too long. You can become a hero to the host or meeting planner and possibly the larger group, by getting them back on track.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Advantages with Speakers Bureau - Opening Keynote

Key advantages of working with a speakers bureau include the following:

Should the situation arise in which you are not happy with the speaker's performance or any other aspect of your interaction with the speaker, you have a legitimate third party, the bureau, to handle your concerns. You are in a position of even greater leverage because it is in the bureau's best and long-term interest to ensure that you are happy. The bureau's loyalty is to you – you are the customer – not the speaker they assign to meet your needs. Some speakers never quite understand that, but the bureaus have a very clear understanding of who signs the checks.

In the rare event that the original speaker cannot make the appointed date, the bureau can more easily get you the right back-up speaker than if you face this task by yourself, especially at the last minute. Many bureaus require speakers to sign various pledges indicating, for example, that they will abide by certain travel expense limitations, not use offensive or off-color language, and so on. In this manner, working with the bureau affords many more protections than you might otherwise have when working with a speaker directly.

The bureau can also help enforce your policies regarding selling from the platform and engaging in other types of promotional behavior. A small percentage of speakers will flat out upset the tone of your meeting by using a portion of their time in front of your group to engage in aggressive marketing. The incidence of this happening when retaining speakers through a bureau is far less, and for the most part can be eliminated all together.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Don't Confuse Action with Interaction - Opening Keynote

in Special Events Blog penned a masterpiece two years ago that every speaker and every 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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Monday, February 06, 2017

Low Savings, Increase Amenities - Opening Keynote

Last year most consumers spent all they were paid and then borrowed to spend even more. Nugget for meeting planners: include more amenities at meetings so that participants don’t end up paying more out of pocket.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

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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