Content From Within

Nick Gold 17 November 2014

So I felt it was time to get my writing hat on again and pen a few words, I would love to think that I have been sorely missed and rather than reflecting any deeper than that and being sorely disappointed, I will crack on with my thoughts…

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

We are coming to the end of 2014 and I am reading back my blog I wrote in June where I touched on the subject of content. My view on this gets ever stronger, how is it that almost the last thing that is discussed at a conference is the content?  In my one eyed view, surely planning the content and then working on how the production fits around the content is key.  A truly great experience is memorable (and when I say memorable, I am talking long term change) not because the staging is sensational or that the visuals are outstanding but because a person, a performance or a moment has captured the individual and swept them along to a place which stays with them.

I am now regularly speaking to both clients and speakers that the term ‘keynote speaker’( the traditional 45min-1hour speech with no thought as to the deliverables or ‘takeaways) is fundamentally flawed.  What our speakers are offering, let me correct that...what any external speaker should be offering at an event is the 21st Century Version of Consulting.  In my view, the keynote speakers are not only in competition against each other to speak at an event but are also competing against consultants who are traditional bastions of change for a company.

What do I mean by this?  To clarify with an example, traditional management processes are such that when change is required; an external consultancy company is engaged who redefines the processes and structure of the organisation to deliver more streamlined efficiency.  This is handed to the management who drives this change through the company.

But the question that has become ever more prominent over the last few years is who owns this change?  Surely not the employees as they have been directed to implement the change with no ownership of the processes.  Of course the management owns the change, but there has always been that nagging doubt over how you can own something which you haven’t created yourself.  The consultants don’t own it, they move on to the next job and the next company

This has always nagged at me and so my thoughts about the ‘21st Century Version of Consultancy’ come to the fore. Can the New Keynote Speaker instil, inspire even, everyone to take ownership of the change message?

If the role of the speaker is to deliver knowledge and inspire the audience, then any company having a speaker at their event must be looking for that speaker to inspire the audience take ownership of the message.  What does inspire actually mean; whether it means the person has a clearer idea of their strengths and weaknesses, whether the person enjoys their work more, whether the person changes the way they work and processes that underpin it?  Whichever way it manifests, the speaker will provide insights and takeaways that mean the delegates will formulate their own opinions and ideas.  This is true ownership of a problem.

Let me repeat that, this is the delegates owning their issues and engaging in the change required to solve these issues, not because they have been told to or have been given the change to implement but because they came up with the idea and the solution. The speaker has provided them the platform and base to allow them to do this.

This should be the role of the speaker so why are they are called keynote speakers – surely that underplays what they are doing.  They are consultants, educating delegates, providing information and ideas to allow the delegates to improve both themselves, the businesses they work for and hopefully (and not to get philosophical) society as a whole.

Why do I believe this? Two reasons I suppose:

Firstly, the reason I prefer to focus on is that I have seen great speakers have this effect on people and watched change start formulating in discussions during the coffee break after the close of a session.  The engagement and passion in these people is inspiring to watch and makes you realise the true value of a great speaker.  What a privilege it is to see people take ownership and the management to encourage this.

Secondly, is that if everyone these days is a speaker because you have written a book, been on telly, had an original thought or just had any thought; how can a client understand who the 21st century consultant is and who is the speaker we immediately forget about?  That is where a bureau comes in and apologies for the shameless plug but the independent unbiased advice about the speaker must suddenly become the most critical part of delivering an event or conference that resonates in the short and long term for delegates.

And that is where I stop wittering on.

Apart from one final thought, I started by saying the more things change, the more things stay the same – we are in a time of extreme change and yet everyone is still looking  for the answer, I suppose my point is that companies and individuals maybe need to realise the answer lies within and not handed out on a plate.

Picture: Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States 13 April 1972. Inaugural Ceremony for Third Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Santiago, Chile.

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