Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Robotic Keynote Session – How to Put Your Audience to Sleep!

Have you ever attended a Conference Keynote Session, and watched a speaker read their entire presentation from their laptop computer?  Needless to say, it is not an energetic, or engaging experience! I’m thinking there must be some truth to the idea that, before God invented Tylenol PM, there was the “Robotic” Keynote Presentation.  :)

Earlier this week, as I’ve mentioned in a couple of blog articles, I attended the MPI “Meet Different” Conference, as a virtual participant.  Each day the program was kicked off with a keynote session.  On Day Three (Tuesday) MPI attendees were “introduced” to the intellectual thoughts of author Marty Neumeier, best known for his “whiteboard” books entitled “The Brand Gap,” “Zag” and “The Designful Company.”

Marty Neumeier

Mr. Neumeier has a reputation for being a “maverick thinker,” an innovator, and a brand strategist.   According to Peachpit, a website for publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people, his mission is to “incite business revolution by unleashing the power of design thinking.”

Without a doubt, Marty is a very intelligent, knowledgeable guy, with laser insight into the pulse of innovation.  Unfortunately, his stage presence, and delivery as a public speaker leaves much to be desired.

For the first 35-40 minutes of his presentation, at MPI, Marty maintained direct eye contact with his laptop computer while speaking to the MPI audience.  It was a painful experience, for virtual attendees, and about fifteen minutes into the presentation he lost me.  I went AWOL (Attending Without Officially Listening)

Thankfully, Glenn Thayer, Superstar Emcee for the MPI Event, woke us all up by snatching Marty away from that podium, and laptop, shifting to a more engaging environment…  two bar stools on the stage.  The transformation was instantaneous, and magical.  Here’s why:

  • Changing Marty’s focus from the laptop, and the podium, to the audience had a “right-sizing” effect.  Immediately there was a connection!
  • Marty’s energy level skyrocketed, as Glenn’s engaging interview style converted the conversation, from lecture style to conversational.
  • Without the distraction of a computer, and relying purely on his instincts, Marty now addressed questions and comments (from both Glenn and the audience) naturally.
  • There was a positive change in Mr. Neumeier’s facial expressions, and listening to him speak, there was a noticeable difference in the emotion/passion behind his comments.  Allowed to speak purely from his heart his words were both interesting and sincere.

Marty Neumeier & Glenn Thayer on Stage (Thanks Cameron Toth)

In my opinion, Marty Neumeier is a talented author, and an intellectual thinker, but public speaking is not his strong point.  Fortunately for MPI, they hired a “champion” Emcee, who instantaneously understood what needed to be done to turn this situation around.

Question:  What are your thoughts regarding this situation?  What do you think could have been done better?  I look forward to your perspectives!

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }