Friday, May 2, 2008

Speaker Etiquette

This is not an exhaustive list of subjects speakers should watch out for by any means. It's just a few things I've been thinking about lately after watching a speaker slip up at a recent event.

Remember Who's Running the Meeting

A good friend of mine was invited to speak to a group of local businessmen. Jeff, the leader of the group and also a friend of mine, asked if I'd like to come. I said sure. We met at the Golden Corral in Spartanburg.

When everyone got there, they went and got their food and sat down to eat. Part way into the meal (and just before the leader stood up) my friend blurts out, "So Jeff, how about we all introduce ourselves before I start my talk." You could see Jeff seethe for just a moment before he politely said, "We'll get to that in just a moment." This should be obvious, but when you are "invited" to speak, wait to be introduced before you take the floor.

Don't Pat Yourself on the Back Too Much

One of my main jobs is training sharpeners. I'm not the only person who does this in the states, but as you can imagine we are few and far between. I put together a show once for a large group of professional sharpeners in Richmond Virginia. One of my speakers, a very well known sharpener and excellent trainer, talked about all the sharpening awards he'd won in the past as he started his presentation. He even when so far as to say, "I may even be the most accredited sharpener in the world."

As soon as these words left his mouth one of the attendees grabbed me and pulled me out into the hall. He said, "Did you hear what he just said? He said he's the best sharpener in the world!" I said, "No he didn't," and then repeated what he said, but it was too late, he had already lost that sharpeners attention. How many more people did he loose in that audience with that one statement? Choose your words wisely.

Don't Be Stupid Like Me

Trust me, I'm no better! I had a similar foot in mouth incident to the one the sharpener in the last example had. I was asked to speak at a NASA Convention in Memphis. (The National Appliance Service Association, not the real NASA!) I had teamed up with another trainer friend of mine and we were each going to speak about our products for 30 minutes. Long story short, my friend lost track of time and spoke for fifty minutes. I was hot, but condensed my presentation into the five minutes we had let after I set up my equipment. Unfortunately, I was rather impressed with myself that I was able to pull the presentation off despite the lack of time. So when I finished speaking I foolishly said, "Give me a hand, I did a great job." As soon as I said that, I heard an older gentleman in the front row say, "Arrogant, " as he shook his head.

That made a big impression on me! I've strived to walk that fine line between confidence and arrogance ever since. Hopefully I've avoided stepping over that line more times than not.

You Only Get One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Don't make the leader mad! Don't put yourself on a pedestal and make your audience feel "beneath" you, and certainly don't do like I did! You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Once you lose your audience it's over. Remember, it's not about you, it's about them.

Image: rightantler

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