In early history, golf was reserved for the royals, played with sticks and pebbles over natural landscapes.
During the Industrial Revolution, golf clubs and balls became mass produced and inexpensive enough for more of us to chase the little white ball around a fairway, rough and other hazards. Today, there are millions of golfers in the world and thousands of professionals.
So what does this have to do conferences and events? Everything. And I’m not referring to conference golf tournaments either.
With more than 28,000 golf professionals, who are recognized as experts, these are the best of the best. Each April, approximately 90 golfers tee off at the Masters. These masters are unsurpassed at executing, at performing.
However, this doesn’t mean they are necessarily masters at teaching or presenting golf. In golf, it is well understood that mastery of play and mastery of instruction exist separately.
David Leadbetter is probably one of the best examples. He’s well-known as an excellent golf teacher and coach. If you want to improve your game, you go to him. Yet, if you were going to choose a partner in a match and had a choice between Leadbetter and any of the top 20 players at the Masters–choose one of the top 20.
Why? Leadbetter is a master at teaching. The top 20 have mastered playing the game.
Unfortunately, what is so clear in golf is not always so clear in the world of conferences and meetings. Conference organizers ask masters, those we know as subject-matter experts, to present when presenting may not be their strength. These masters know their skills inside-out. Yet knowing how to perform a skill and being able to present that skill to someone else are two entirely different things.
It’s possible to be a great presenter or coach and not be able to execute at the highest level. Only a few are able to do both equally well.
Why? Let’s return to golf for an explanation. To be one of the best in the world requires hours and hours of practice. Those best of the best focus on honing their skills. How they execute golfing has to be their focus. Teaching or coaching someone else becomes a distraction. They’d rather be doing it than showing someone else how to do it.
Similarly, the best presenters get their joy not out of their own play, but in helping someone else move to a new level. They know how to analyze each part of the game: grip, setup, swing, club selection, course management and more. They also know how to explain things in a variety of ways, so if one explanation doesn’t help the learner get the picture, another might. Great presenters have a lot of patience.
That doesn’t mean that golf teachers can’t play the game. They can play and frequently, they play it well. Yet, that is not their focus. Their focus is multiplying and replicating their knowledge in others.
So the next time you are considering people as conference presenters, ask:
- Is this candidate a presenter, a performer, or both?
- Are they more of an expert at their game or an expert at helping others improve their game?
- Is the potential presenter doing things to improve their skills to teach and present?
- What is this candidate doing to create the optimal learning environment?
- What is this candidate doing to ensure that what the attendees learn in their sessions transfers back to their game?
Think long and hard the next time you decide to secure the master or subject matter expert to present. Is that master as presenter in the best interest of your attendee or learner? Does that master really focus on improving their game or improving how they help others learn their subject? Will that master be able to help change behavior?
Understanding this fundamental concept that the mastery of play and the mastery of instruction exist separately, is foundational to a successful conference. Applying this concept, that some are good teachers and motivators, and some are good performers, accurately, can help conference organizers craft a great attendee experience.
We’d like to hear from you. How do you choose who gets to present at your conferences or events? What are some of the best practices for presenters and teachers? Think about some of the best trainers or presenters you’ve ever had. What made that person so effective?