When I was asked what I thought was an excellent question at the interview for my current role, how would your colleagues describe you?, my response was “quiet”. Not believing this to be a particularly desirable quality in most employer’s eyes I qualified it by explaining that it doesn’t mean I can’t do public speaking, just that I don’t believe in wasting words unnecessarily.
Myself and an ex-colleague (though I hesitate to use the term, she is also a friend) have been invited to give a conference presentation on a HR Analytics project (more on that soon). The Introduction to Teaching I attended on starting my new role advised us to think about the best teachers you’ve had (and the worst) in shaping your teaching practice, and I’m doing exactly the same in framing this speaking role. I thought back to those presenters I’ve seen who’ve really engaged the audience to a level where, nearly a year later, you remember not only their general message, but specific phrases too. Conversely I also recalled times when I’d been bored to tears by speakers who appeared so promising on paper. Over a cup of coffee my co-presenter and I discussed how great speakers achieved the former (the elusive audience engagement) and avoided the latter yawn-fest.
Two of the best presenters I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing were at last year’s 2014 CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. They were very different in not only their content, but their style of delivery, yet I took something away from both.
First was Kevin Murray. I loved what he had to say so much I immediately purchased his book on leaving the auditorium. However, reading it really does not convey how, in real life, Murray’s storytelling draws his audience in, compelling a very emotional response.
Then there was Stephanie from Laughology whose devices were not just (perhaps obviously) humour, but movement and interaction. Again, I subsequently subscribed to the Laughology blog, which is always very entertaining, but not half as good as seeing Stephanie live.
Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity, having secured a highly coveted place on the Blog Squad for this year’s CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition, held once again in Manchester in November. Laughology is back on the billing but I’m also thoroughly looking forward to what will no doubt be some great new speaker. If I could emulate just some of their qualities in my conference presentation delivery, I would be extremely happy.