Over lunch last week I found myself in a dining room filled with 100 people; 50 of them want to sell to the firm the featured speaker represents. They came to lunch that day find out what he was doing to help them sell to him. When they learned nothing (or nearly nothing), I’m left wondering, how does that change their desire to do business? And for those that weren’t interested in doing business with him specifically, how does it impact their perception of the firm?
If you aren’t preparing your executives for speaking, how is that impacting your business opportunities and reputation? What opportunities are lost or missed by executives giving poor or poorly planned, off-the-cuff presentation? And worse, what potentially carefully nurtured opportunities are soured by this display of inefficiency?
Probably more than you think and can hardly afford.
Before you shoot the speaker for this mistake, remember that the organization is equally to blame. Take these simple steps to head off disasters:
- Speaker preparation – It may sound like a novel idea but have your speakers run their ideas and presentation outline in front of marketing before they go. Even if they plan to largely improvise, force them to identify key points or an outline. This helps prevent both parties from looking stupid.
- Speaker abstracts – Better than just screening their ideas, ask marketing to provide speakers with topics. At any given time your marketing and PR department probably has 3-5 campaign ideas in the hopper. These can easily be boiled down to an abstract that any executive who is in the loop should be able to talk about. This paves the way for an easier presentation for the executive and helps maintain some synergy between where you are putting your marketing dollars and the public words of your executive.
- Speaker training – Most every PR firm and a great many in house PR pros have adequate experience to provide speaker training to your executives. Tips on everything from what to wear to what to do with your hands go a long way towards improving the confidence and the results.
- Speech writers – Not just presidents and politicians but real life business professionals still have speech writers working up topics and concepts for them. These can be greatly detailed word-for-word presentations or just an outline or PPT presentation. Once again these props not only boost the confidence of the speaker but ensure the delivery of a consistent message.
- Approved speakers – Depending on the size of the organization, the topic or subject matter you deliver and the overall demand, it may make sense for your organization to actually have a list of approved speakers. These are folks who get the speaker training and preparation, a copy of all current abstracts and access to speech writers when necessary. They may not be compensated specifically by your firm for speaking but they might have it identified as part of the stretch goals for their job. They are confident, professional and make you look good – all things that your sales team will appreciate when they show up in front of a carefully nurtured prospect.