It was just terrific to watch him do this. We were both at a meeting of “meeting planners,” presenting ourselves as possible speakers for their conferences. There were a number of us there for that purpose. Each of us were given about five minutes at different points during the day to strut our stuff.
He was one of the first people I met that day, an experienced speaker. I asked him, “What do you speak about? Do you have a set of stock speeches?”
“Yes,” he said. “I do. But I’m not sure what I’m going to present when it’s my turn. I need to talk to some people first.”
Meeting planners are interested in three things. What’s your topic? How do you present? How much do you cost?
In five minute showcases, speakers can demonstrate stage presence and topic and hint at their fees. Many speakers show up with glossy “speakers bureau guides,” uploaded videos, and four minutes of their best “knock ‘em dead” stock speeches. It’s like a “battle of the bands” in which each lead guitar player, in turn, tries to blow the previous players off the stage with ever more complicated riffs. Start to finish, it’s pitch, pitch, pitch.
So, during the breaks, when the meeting planners were milling about, talking to those of us participating in the showcase, I watched him.
At the beginning of each interview he would say, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you and others at the meeting to find out about what you do. I’m here to learn and to reflect what I’m hearing in my comments to you this afternoon.”
Then, instead of addressing the “three things,” I heard him ask questions like, “What issues are your conference participants most concerned about? What are your thoughts about programming for next year? How do you work with your team to select speakers?”
At the end of each interview he would say, “Thanks, this is been helpful. As I said, I’m here to learn. I appreciate your time.”
I happened to be in the room during his presentation. When he got up to speak he said, “Thank you, I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you during the course of the day and learning about your conferences. I’d like to give a brief summary of what I’ve heard before I talk about how I think I could be helpful to you in building your audiences.”
He spent about two minutes summarizing what he’d heard through his interviews… and then said, “and here’s how I think I can be most helpful.”
And then he described three topics that he thought might meet the needs of many of the meeting planners in the room. Hearty applause at the end of his showcase.
Later, I asked him, “So, do you really have stock speeches that go with those three topics?”
“Yep, he said. “Two out of three.”
So, even ‘though he will probably end up delivering one of his stock speeches, his message to the meeting planners was clear: “I will work with you to make sure your conferences are successful.”
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