Rather than hair plugs for my thinning dome or wheeling around in a sports car, my mid-life crisis has been to perform stand-up comedy.
It is a brutally humbling experience as D-list entertainers like myself are often subjected to heckling and other forms of audience torture. Yet, during the past year I’ve found my way into successful gigs at Georgetown University, Capitol Hilton, Sheraton Reston, Crystal City Sport Pub and MOCA Gallery, an artsy venue in Washington, DC.
Practice in the art of comedy has also polished my professional speaking. It’s true…how you say it is absolutely as important as what you say.
The topic has to be timely and relevant to the audience, yet industry event attendees desire to be engaged and entertained.
In 2013, I have been a featured speaker at corporate events hosted by Pitney Bowes, Polycom and the HR Leadership Forum.
When participating in a conference – either as a presenter or attendee – I take great interest in executive speaking styles. I happily repurpose what works for others and integrate it into my own approach.
This past week found me at the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego for GetConnected, the annual customer conference hosted by GetWellNetwork. Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) produces an online magazine called Transformative Health in partnership with GetWellNetwork.
My jobs at the conference were to promote the magazine to the 500+ conference attendees to attract new readers, and visit with GetWellNetwork’s partners to discuss sponsorship and advertising opportunities.
Those roles kept me busy, yet I did have an opportunity to attend GetWellNetwork CEO Michael O’Neil’s keynote address. Michael is a valued client and my company is compensated by GetWellNetwork. Yet, I write without bias or reservation that his keynote was masterful.
Here are six take-aways I plan to incorporate into my future presentations:
1. Establish a timely, relevant and concise theme. Entitled “The Soul of Innovation,” Michael’s presentation was meaningful to the audience because of the role they play to deliver health services in a rapidly evolving environment.
2. Make it personal. Michael is a cancer survivor, and during the presentation disclosed that he and his wife also lost a child 22 days after birth. This information was shared to establish an intimate connection to the topic.
3. Bond with the audience. Michael was quick to recognize that each attendee – health providers, hospital executives and a health system administrators – plays an important role in the adoption of innovative solutions for patient engagement.
4. Cite respected third parties to reinforce key points. Michael’s presentation included a quote on innovation from Steve Jobs, as well as video interviews with GetWellNetwork’s customers and employees. This commentary was carefully crafted and presented to reinforce a key message.
5. Get hands-on with the product. GetWellNetwork introduced several new product enhancements at the conference. Michael talked the attendees through each offering, and effectively demonstrated features and functionality.
6. Ad-lib when possible. Overly rehearsed speeches sound corporate and hollow. Michael was well prepared, yet effectively interjected humor throughout the presentation.
For instance, at one point when showcasing a product his hands were visible on the giant screens situated above the stage. Michael was quick to point out he’d never make a living as a hand model.