Call me crazy. Call me naïve. But this I believe: no one should have to sit and listen to someone speak for more than 20 minutes (Thank you, TED, for agreeing). Whenever I see a panel or a keynote scheduled for that magical 50 minute timeslot, I heave a sigh of disappointment. It makes me feel sad for the presenters, and seems like yet another collective waste of everyone’s time. So, to quote our President early on in the campaign trail, if “We are the change we’ve been waiting for…” how can we change such an ancient, engrained way of approaching conference content?
- Be the change. Just because the conference planner has told us we have 40 minutes to speak doesn’t mean we have to speak for 40 minutes. They simply want you to wow the audience for 40 minutes. You can make a choice to be different, to approach the content from a completely fresh standpoint.
- Get creative. Most of the time, the audience is just as interested in talking to each other as they are to hear you speak. It’s nothing personal, it’s just human nature. Create a format that honors this reality. Speak for 10 minutes. Given the audience some provocative questions to discuss in groups. Call them back. Ask for people to share their findings. Speak for another 10 minutes. Repeat. Now, you’ve not only given voice to some wonderful insights and stories, you’ve created camaraderie within a group that may not have otherwise talked so freely.
- Get focused. By having less time to cover your material, you have to be ruthless about what the audience needs to learn and remember. Establish a flow and a structure that guarantees the information you need to deliver actually lands with the audience.
- Spread the word. Let’s be honest with each other about what is working and not working about how content is presented. The next time you’re prepping for a panel on a conference call with your other panelists, mix it up… suggest a little bit of audience interaction. Have some fun.
As I always say, and truly believe – presenting to a group of people is an honor, and not something to be taken lightly. Let’s start a revolution. Care to join?