Will you take the SAJE Speakers’ Challenge?

I attended an event last week; it was a great event, all except one speaker. He was speaking on behalf of the platinum sponsor AND essentially, he did a product pitch. It was just awful and long before the end of his presentation, I wanted him to stop. It was so bad; the entire audience was squirming in their seats from the boredom and tedium of it all. I am constantly baffled that executives do not understand how to present in an exciting and engaging manner, and I’ve heard a lot of presentations.

young distorted business man isolated on white
young distorted business man isolated on white

What did he do wrong? He constantly referred to his company and what they are doing in this space. He did not educate me or excite me about the potential of this new technology. He did not show me the future of where it’s all going. He did not refer to any examples of great applications of this technology (a.k.a case studies.) He did not address a single challenge businesses are facing when seeking to adopt this technology. And the worst thing? He criticised other vendors in this space, but even worse than that, the ones he criticised were also sponsors, and therefore speaking at the event. It was very tacky and I believe, one of the worst “crimes” a speaker can commit. He just got it all wrong.

However, during the Q&A session, this guy was brilliant. He obviously knows his stuff, was able to get people excited about what this technology offers, and if he could just translate that knowledge and enthusiasm into his presentations, he’d be gold. I don’t know how people can’t “hear” the discomfort in the audience – the squirming, shuffling of papers, scratching, hushed conversations – it increases in volume the longer you speak. Definitely a sign you’re on the wrong track and should wrap up ASAP.

So I’ve been thinking about this and have come up with a new challenge for speakers. If you know of any great speakers, pass on this challenge because I would love to do some informal market research and share the results.

The next time you are speaking at an industry event, one where there is a specific theme, can you speak without mentioning your company – AT ALL?

That is the SAJE Speakers’ Challenge.

Here are the rules:

  • The next time you do a presentation, you must do it without referring to your company AT ALL. You ARE allowed to present on corporate templates, featuring your company logo, but that is the only reference to your company allowable. The only time your company should be referenced is when you are introduced by the compere – that’s it
  • Introduce yourself, including all of the wild and wonderful things you have achieved in your professional life (and personal life too if you’ve been really interesting,) but do it without mentioning the company you work for. This will force you to be creative and relevant
  • I’ll use a technology presentation as an example, because it’s closest to my heart. From this point on, your presentation must be focused on the future and where you see it going in relation to the technology/solution you are presenting about
  • Start with a big picture view, where we’ve come from, where we’re all going, and the great opportunities it will deliver
  • It must highlight what you think is hype and what you see as the real tangible business benefits
  • Give delegates a roadmap – “this is where most businesses are, this is where we’re all going, these are the steps I recommend you take” – in other words, a list of priorities
  • It must address the legitimate fears your audience might be facing – loss of jobs, loss of power, outsourcing, offshoring, etc… and it must be honest about these challenges. There is also a benefit here – all new technology evolutions deliver new opportunities – so highlight the opportunities because this will help alleviate fear. Don’t squirm away from this stuff – it is top of mind for most executives in the audience and they are looking for guidance on how to manage these challenges and win
  • It must focus on successes in the market (case studies,) and how businesses are using the technology to achieve greater business benefits and growth
  • It must focus on how the technology/solution can help them be personally successful – show them how they can be champions and they will surely love you for it
  • Be funny, but be relevant with your humour – not all jokes travel well
  • Never, ever criticise anyone else in your field, or another competitor, but especially never criticise another sponsor – it just makes you look childish 

So there’s the challenge. Who’s up for it?

And if not, cut this out and refer to it when you develop your next presentation.

What do delegates want when they attend an event?

The sense of accomplishment that comes from a day well spent, based on the flow of presentation take-aways – all aiming to answer the following:

  •  Education – “what is this product/service and how will it make my business more profitable/successful?”
  • Clarification – “there is a lot of hype in the market, can you explain clearly what this all means to my business and how it will impact my bottom line?”
  • Positioning – “we’ve been told we need to consider investing in 10 new products this year but only have budget for two – why should this technology area be in my top two?”
  • Maximize – “due to limited budgets, how can I get better investments out of existing infrastructure?”
  • Proof – “what examples do you have of success – what went well, what didn’t, what did you learn?”
  • Localized – “what examples of success do you have locally? Any examples we can reference when considering our decision?”

If you can get your audience engaged and thinking, or if you can really challenge them, or maybe even have them sitting on the edge of their seats or laughing, you will be swamped after your presentation and your marketing team will be thrilled. And you can do this all without ever mentioning your company. I promise.

Who’s up for the challenge? I look forward to sharing some speaker feedback with you.

Andrea Edwards

Managing Director


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11 thoughts on “Will you take the SAJE Speakers’ Challenge?”

  1. As we know, many attendees are at an event for the networking experience. A vendor focused presentation has an amplified impact of alienating attendees because they will speak to each other about how much of a sales pitch it was.
    The real shame is that this problem has been around for years, and people have not solved it, either organisers or actual vendors.

    1. Hey Phil, you are so right! But I live in hope that people will learn to give great presentations – not just so they benefit, but so that the audience starts to really enjoy and embrace these events. That’s what it’s about. Appreciate the feedback. Cheers

      1. It is more than just face to face presentations. The same principle applies to webcasts, phone meetings etc. Make it relevant make it real. Audience will be turned off quickly regardless of event format

  2. Great Article . Easy and Fast to read. To the point. Entertaining & Insightful…. Nice One.. One i will remember ! –

  3. Great post on an audience member’s perspective on presentations. The questions you have asked are ones which presenters need to answer, not share what they simply know. Only when we start putting ourselves in the shoes of the audience can we hope to make an impact on them.

    1. Cheers for the feedback and ain’t no truer words been said – success in great speaking comes from putting ourselves in the audience shoes when preparing a presentation. I am baffled why so many never learn that lesson.

  4. Bravo, Andrea!

    You know, there’s a special place reserved in presenter hell for people like the ‘speaker’ you mentioned.

    10 START
    Sweat dripping, and with 2 mins to show time, they’ve just one more teeny weeny change to make. Gotta get Acme Inc. typed into slide #99 (Helevtica, size 48) and brand their name into the assembled sheeple for ever bwaahahahah! But, wait a minute; the file’s not saving, the notebook has hung, their audience waits in total silence and still the rostrum is empty.
    GO TO STEP 10

    I like your challenge and would add only this to a review of a script before giving it… try to get the you/us ratio to tend to infinity. Attendees WILL definitely remember that…

    And, in my humble opinion, your rules also apply to most of the b2b white papers a company will produce.

    Alas, every time I open a product/vendor pitch disguised as a white paper, I get as irritated and bored as that audience ‘forced’ to listen to the boring me-me-me speaker.
    And marketers wonder why so many white papers go unread and end up gathering digital cobwebs…

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