Nightmare! Your key note speaker is paralysed with fear…

A couple of months ago I was chatting to the organiser of a conference.  He was very excited about one of the speakers.  They had a great story to tell.  The subject matter was spot on for the theme of the conference.  But there was a problem.  This particular speaker was paralysed with fear.  They would and could speak but their fear and sense of discomfort while speaking would mean they would pitch up with hundreds of slides and talk at them rather than engage the audience.  What to do?

Well you could argue that the decision was easy.  Not book the speaker.  If you are an organiser you really want to make sure that the people you book are not just competent but confident and compelling as well. And this is true. The second decision would be to suggest to the speaker to get some training and build some skills.  And long term this is also a good strategy too.  As regular readers of this blog are aware I recognise that just because you know some ‘stuff’ doesn’t necessarily mean you can stand up and speak about it effectively.  Learning some skills, tools and processes to allow you to teach, share or sell your expertise is a sensible approach.  In this case though time didn’t allow.

The organiser and I put our heads together.  And came up with what was a really successful and creative solution to the problem.  And that was to run the presentation as a ‘Conversation with…’. The organiser became the interviewer, the speaker became the interviewed, the slides  (pictures only) became the backdrop.  And it worked.  The message came across loud and clear, the interviewee was calm and relaxed and really ‘shone’ and the audience were delighted that a day of presentations had been broken up with this different approach.

How is this helpful if you are not an organiser?  One of my clients said to me they felt really confident if people asked her questions and she replied as opposed to a formal presentation.  My suggestion to her was to imagine the questions she could be asked and then ask them and answer them herself. The result was a high energy presentation punctuated with rhetorical and direct questions and a relaxed ‘flow’.  Try it out and see.  And if you are an organiser having a varying approach to pulling the day together is yet another string to your bow.  Good luck….




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