Being Different

I just helped with structure and delivery for a key presentation at a large multinational, multi-day industry conference.

The brief was to provide information on one particular current hot topic. During the session, five separate speakers would talk for 15 minutes each, be able to answer two questions straight after, before a general plenary rounded things off.

My starting advice was twofold;

  1. think hard about the single message you wanted to get across – a soundbite that when anyone was asked about what you presented, they could rattle it off (you mention it throughout), and
  2. think what the other four would present, and make sure you were 180° away from  that – my experience of such events is that everyone follows a similar pattern and to stand apart from that, is to stand out.

I got feedback just now, and the presenter was buzzing, praise for his approach freshly ringing in their ears.

Here were a few initial observations. I’d recommended that he run through his speil, out loud, and be brutal in trimming it down to ten (not 15) minutes. In the furnace of the event, he spoke for twelve minutes. Yet the average for the other four was an incredulous 32 minutes. How, even in this day and age, people can overrun as in this case by 60% is simply mind-boggling.

The longest speech got accompanied an eye-popping 47 slides. Apparently several delegates fell asleep during it. I’ve since seen a copy of it, and can report that it was black text on white backgrounds in its entirety, mostly bulleted slides, the occasional tabular stats and rare graph.

The package I’d helped with had nine slides. Three were just pictures, two had organogram style output, the rest pics and bullets. I’d have slimmed this even further too, as I considered many bullets to be superfluous, also detracting from the impact the figures included should have made. So plenty of scope for ever-punchier refinement.

And finally, when considering what the others would say, the consensus was that they’d all talk about the same stats and the same problems. So the thrust of this presentation was in the solutions being worked through, and the success they’d already made. It proved a devastatingly distinctive ploy.

The presenter actually ran out of business cards when pressing flesh afterwards, and told me that they now had 56 follow-ups to do with brand new contacts, all eager to pursue how they could do business together. A sure-fire winner.

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