I have been working in the industry for a while now and my view has definitely evolved as to the role of the speaker and their purpose in a conference especially since the recession.
Our favourite question and it comes in various guises is ‘what is the return on investment from the speaker’ – now this might come across as business speak but to me the fundamentals of this question are, what is the point of the speaker and what value will they bring to the event. Now there might be many reasons to have a speaker such as bums on seats, bring gravitas or wow factor to an event and plenty of other reasons but in this blog, I want to focus on conferences where companies or industries are looking at change in its various guises, the audience is coming whatever and this is about the content of the speaker.
I know I used this word in the last blog but I bring it up again now
My view is that keynote speaking is the 21st Century version of consultancy. Let me just re-emphasise this statement, my view is that the traditional form of consultancy whereby some very clever experienced consultants are parachuted into the organisation to refine or redraw company processes which are then handed over to the senior management and cascaded down through their organisation is not forward thinking and of a bygone era.
Why do I think this? Well, I do have personal viewpoints and clear biases based on my experiences (happy to share if anyone interested) but more importantly I am basing this on the trends I am seeing.
When the recession hit, companies reacted as per historical practices, they looked at their workforce and how they could cut costs. But, although we were told the world was falling off a cliff, it didn’t for all companies and suddenly companies that were surviving were left to deliver high quality with fewer workforces. We saw trends talking about empowering the workforce, ‘intrapreneurship’ and various other new ways of thinking but ultimately it was realisation that the employees had so much more to give, both so that they would enjoy their working life better as well as improve the productivity of the company.
So, how does this relate to speaking – my view is that the aim of the speaker is to deliver takeaways for the audience so when they return to their ‘every day’ job, at some point in the future they remember what the speaker said and adjust their working practices for the better both for themselves and for their company. This little step change but continuous improvement is the lifeblood of the organisation and means the company improves. The critical part is that these is owned by the individuals and not the traditional method where the management own the processes and the workforce are ‘told’ what to do and thus are not fully engaged.
I can explore this in more detail but am just trying to give a flavour to my thoughts on the industry.
On this basis, I call the speaker a consultant, giving the delegates some practical help to improve and change. But what does this mean for us as a bureau? Well, if the focus is switched to being about content and takeaway, we really need to know our speakers and what they deliver. I refer you to the excellent blog by Rhona – http://www.speakerscorner.co.uk/blog/the-benefits-of-meeting-our-speakers – but that dovetails with the requirement for speakers to step up and understand what they are delivering and why. This is a change in the industry which is just beginning but I am eager for the change to snowball which is basically, if the speaker has nothing to say then they shouldn’t be speaking. Our role in all this is to make sure the clients are getting the value they are looking for which comes back to my previous blog post and Rhona’s blog post as to what we do and why we do it.