Thursday, May 7, 2009

What I Learned in Louisville

The All Baby & Child Spring Conference just wrapped up. It is a conference for stores who sell baby products. Over 3 plus days we had speakers, presentations and a mini trade show. I was asked to be a presenter when the conference was scheduled but got bumped for a presentation on the new CPSIA law and how it affects baby products.

Twenty of the four hundred plus attendees dragged themselves into a room set up for 300 to hear the latest interpretations of this expensively pointless law. But since I wasn't presenting, I chose to carefully observe the other presenters to see what I could learn. Here are the Do's and Don'ts from Louisville.

Don't give a presentation where all you do is read the ample text on your wordy slides. Give me the handout and quit wasting my time. I'm not two any more. I can read. Yes, one presenter put up slides full of text and then read them to us, often poorly because he couldn't decide whether to read his laptop with reading glasses or turn his back and read the screen without. It's been a long time since I rated a presentation poor. I pray it will be another long time before I do it again.

Don't plan a 90 minute presentation when you only have 60 minutes scheduled. As much as I like the information, I also want to get to the next presentation on time.

Don't start your presentation until you know the audio is working. Twenty minutes into a talk is way too late to find out half the room can't hear you.

Don't talk too fast. Yeah it may be your style, but I was out of breath just trying to keep up with you. I haven't learned shorthand and taking notes was useless.

Don't promote your book until the end. I'm not interested in buying until I know what you're selling.

Do something surprising to get my interest. Rick Segel giving away a copy of his book to the first person willing to go against the crowd was a brilliant idea (and I'm not just saying that because he gave the book to me). It got everyone to pay attention and realize that dissenting voices exist and are not always wrong.

Do give me action steps. Paint me a picture of what to do next. Mike Rayburn taught me to say, "What if..?" whenever I am presented with a challenge. It was our buzzword fr the rest of the evening. George Whalin gave me a list of traits of a great manager, things I need to develop in myself or hire & train in my employees. I like concrete stuff that helps me plot a course of action.

Do something unique. The most fascinating presentation was by Mike Rayburn. He's a guitar virtuoso, a comedian, and a motivational speaker. One of my colleagues asked me after the presentation if he was a musician who did comedy or a speaker who did music, or a comedian who did motivation. I asked what was the point. You see, there are plenty of guitar virtuosos, tons of motivational speakers, and a plethora of comedians. But there is only one Mike Rayburn who can combine all three seamlessly. If there had been a box above Excellent, I would have checked it for his presentation.

Do something fun. Rick Segel told great jokes that made us laugh out loud and helped get his points across. George Whalin put up a slide of a crazy guy in a superhero outfit that got a lot of buzz afterwards. Mike used humor and music, two of my favorites.

Do give me something to take home. I have a book, a DVD, two CD's, and three handouts of notes. Reading material for bedtime, listening material for the drive home, and training material for the next staff meeting. It's the trifecta of a great conference.

If you are doing a presentation, whether for a handful of co-workers in a staff meeting or a crowd of conference attendees, keep these Do's and Don'ts in mind. And if you're not doing any public speaking soon, why don't you come to my talk on Wednesday, May 20th. It's at 7:30 am at Jackson Coffee Company. The topic is How Ads Work: Understanding Branding and the APE. Not only will you learn some really cool stuff for your business, you'll get the chance to critique me on the stuff I've just posted and tell me how well I did.

See you there.

-Phil

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