When securing speakers for you next conference or meeting, here are two things that you can do that will have an immediate positive effect on your conference education:
- Tell your speakers that you want them to build their presentations backwards.
They should begin by identifying the learning outcomes. What is it that they want their attendees to learn and remember after attending their presentation? Then build their presentations around those objectives.
- Ask them to identify the top three things they want their attendees to remember when they leave the presentation.
Three to five things is the maximum needed for a sixty- or ninety-minute presentation. No more! If your speakers have more than that, the audience won’t recall them and the presentation becomes an information dump. If the presenter can’t tell you the top three things that they want their participants to recall, succinctly, don’t hire them! Seriously! Run!
Here’s the speaker litmus test. Ask you potential presenters this question, “What three things do you want your audience to remember when they leave your presentation?” If you get a rambling answer that doesn’t clearly articulate the top three things, you’ve got a bigger problem. Your potential presenter does not know how to effectively communicate. They will do the same thing during the presentation…ramble and take rabbit trails.
Content-Driven Vs. Learning Outcome-Driven Presentations
Many presenters, especially industry speakers, often create their presentations by identifying all the stuff that goes into their session. They start with the content. Their presentation often becomes a smorgasbord, all-you-can eat, all-the-research-that exists, information dump that overwhelms the listener. Unfortunately, starting that way is heading down the wrong path. It’s building a content-driven speech.
Let’s imagine that you are taking a business trip to Washington DC. You land at Ronald Regan Washington National Airport. You rent a car and need to get to your hotel. How would you go about getting there?
An Outcome-Driven Presentation
More than likely, you started with the hotel in mind. You may ask for a map or directions at the car rental counter and look up the hotel’s address. Or you may use the Internet on your smart phone and type in the hotel’s name and address in Google maps.
The common factor in each of these approaches is that you start with the hotel, the destination, your outcome. Then you work back from the hotel to the starting point–the airport. Tada, you’ve just created a learning outcome-driven solution.
A Content-Driven Presentation
In this situation, you start at Ronald Regan Washington National Airport. You decide to pick one of the streets leaving the airport and start driving. You may pick up a couple maps at the airport before you leave. And you click on some links about Washington DC on your mobile device too. You also stop at several convenience stores along the way and buy some more maps of DC. And Virginia while you’re at it. Oh, and you need a Maryland map too, just in case.
While at the convenience store, you pick up pamphlets on sites to see and talk to the clerk about their favorite venues and best streets to take (most famous, most appealing, etc.). You want to add those streets and venues to your to do list. Who knows, you may come across those sights on your journey. As you’re driving down the street, you randomly turn on other streets. You hope that eventually you come across your hotel.
Sound crazy? It is! Very few people would use this process to get to their hotel on a trip. Most would take a shuttle or call a cab. But the process I described is exactly how many speakers plan their conference education sessions. It’s scattered, random and content-driven. The focus is on the speaker and the information to share. The presentation becomes a bottomless pit of information.
Encouraging Speakers To Begin With The End In Mind
If the DC hotel location is the outcome of the problem I proposed, then all the streets in DC are the content. How should your speakers narrow down their content and decide which street to take?
You decide which street to take based on those that will get you to the location. You use your objectives as the guide: get to the hotel. Streets that will get you there serve your purpose. Other streets are eliminated and avoided.
This is how you should encourage your speakers to prepare their presentations. Begin with the end in mind. Identify three things they want their attendees to remember. Build their presentation around those three points.
Starting with the end in mind may seem contrary to your goal yet it actually serves you. Having your speakers start with learning objectives first and then build content around those objectives will help them succeed.
What’s been your experience with speakers that use a content-driven approach? Why do you think a content-driven approach is ineffective? Why do speakers avoid learning objectives?