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Kick The Habit Before You Speak

Vu Chung

While planning various conference programs for our clients for the new year, I reflected on the highlights of the conferences I attended in 2010. The first thing that came to my mind was this one session I attended where one of the panelists, whom I will call Mr. Popular, couldn't detach himself from his mobile device. I thought he was extremely rude, not only to the audience, but especially to the other panelists.

To kick off the session, each panelist delivered a small speech about his/her background. Mr. Popular was third in line so you could imagine what he was doing while the other panelists were making their introductions. When it was his turn, he looked up, put his device on his lap, and gave the audience a quick elevator pitch. Once done and the next panelist started his speech, Mr. Popular lifted his device up again and started tapping away. The panel was interactive. The moderator did a very good job at facilitating the questions from the audience and challenged the panelists with his own questions. He would direct certain question to a specific person. Mr. Popular was called upon a number of times, which forced him to put down his phone. I didn't listen to him. I was so turned off by his behavior that I couldn't be bothered to listen to what insightful information he has to share about the industry. All I wanted to do was to stand up and ask him if he had better things to do and more interesting people to see. My brain completely tuned him out. To this day, I still don't know his name or his company except for the image of him slouching in his chair with his head down.

I'm bringing up this story because it is a new year and with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas recently kicking off the new conference and tradeshow season, we need a gentle reminder of basic etiquettes and do's and don'ts. The fact is your communication or marketing team, or even you, have worked very hard to secure a speaking engagement at a key industry conference. A bad habit like constantly checking your mobile device can ruin the opportunity to be a well-respected thought-leader. If you are reading this blog, then I assume that you know the benefits of being a speaker at an industry conference, so I will spare you the lecture. But, I will leave you the following presentation reminders as a gift for the new year.

  • Do introduce yourself, but don't be promotional
  • Don't present to your audience; interact and get it involved with the conversation
  • If you really have to use slides, don't read from them
  • Slides are good if you're presenting a very technical subject, but use as little as possible
  • Do present yourself as the expert, but avoid using jargons, technical words and acronyms
  • Do rehearse, don't wing it
  • And this last one is for Mr. Popular: Be courteous to other presenters

Please feel free to add your do's, don'ts and pet peeves in the comment section.

Happy speaking, y'all! CJP

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