photo by: Chris Brogan
Earlier this year, I MC-ed a fantastic social media conference. It was the first time I saw Chris Brogan speak in person and I was really excited to hear his thoughts about the industry and to glean some speaking insights, as he is one of the top rated and sought after speakers in the marketing space.
Here are three awesome speaking tips I picked up from listening to him:
Chris commands a sizeable fee, in a healthy five figure range. I was on the speaker selection committee for the event and we had a few discussions about who to feature as the headliner. Chris’ reputation and general sentiment we picked up online was very positive and definitely shifted us in his direction. That said, speakers of that caliber tend to have a matching ego, with inane demands and general non-friendly behaviour. We didn’t really know what to expect as most of the communication was completed through his assistant.
If you read Chris’ blog (we even run on the same WordPress framework), you can get a sense of his business approach as well as how he communicates with his community. It was immediately clear that this is the way he carries himself in real life – which was truly refreshing. There is not an iota of pretentiousness or holier-then-thou attitude, just one person who happens to be an expert in social media relating his experiences and insights with a group of peers. One of the first things he mentioned was “The difference between an audience and a community is which way the chairs are facing [Tweet this]“ and it rang true throughout the event.
In a room of 250 or so marketing and PR professionals, Chris is the equivalent of a rock star. Now, I’ve been to a number of conferences both as a speaker and attendee and I can verify the existence of a forcefield of I’m-Too-Good-To-Talk-To-You that some speakers tend to emit. I’m sure you’ve had experiences where a presenter would brush you (or your question) off without batting an eyelash.
Since he was introduced in the morning, Chris made it crystal clear that he was here for us, for the audience, for the organizers. He encouraged everyone to reach out and connect with him at networking breaks and after the event. He was real in his approach and although he was never swarmed, Chris made a point of meeting quite a few people and engaging them in a genuine one-on-one conversation, answering their questions and offering insights. This set a great, friendly and comfortable atmosphere for the day.
Kick ass and take names
In a lineup of four keynotes and a panel discussion, Chris was scheduled to go last. The anticipation had been building up through the day and the organizing committee had high expectations. Then we got thrown a curve ball. It turns out that as other speakers presented, Chris was taking notes. He came up with a whole new presentation on the spot, while sitting in the audience. And it rocked.
But here’s what really stood out. As he got rolling with his speech, Chris frequently referred to members of the audience, their specific situation, addressing each one by name – seamlessly weaving them into the presentation. This technique isn’t necessarily groundbreaking or new – but it was a very effective way to focus everyone’s attention and it was memorable for the folks who made the effort to meet him. It made a great impression on the audience and strengthened his brand as a genuine, down-to-earth professional.
If we were to boil down the above ideas into super simple speaking tips:
- Make sure you are genuine in all your communication (website, twitter or while on stage).
- Take some time and connect with individual members of the audience.
- If you can, weave some of those individuals and their stories in your presentation.
Do you use any of these techniques in your presentations?