Talking to yourself in the mirror can feel incredibly validating…and redundant. After all, you already know what you’re going to say, so the conversation can only go so far. The same thing happens when you have the same internal speakers present at your meetings, which is why it’s important to incorporate external perspectives.
Think of these people in the following 3 categories:
People You Serve
These are people your audience interacts with on a regular basis. In this age of customer service, hearing directly from this group can be a valuable experience. You can incorporate these presenters in several ways, depending on the speaker’s content, style and schedule.
Presentation – Invite a customer to give a presentation that supports your meeting’s theme. You’ll want to work closely with them to shape a story with all of the key narrative elements – characters (hopefully ones in your audience), a plot, a turning point (moment of suspense) and a resolution. If they are open to it, also schedule a moderated Q&A following the presentation for some valuable audience interaction. And don’t be shy about planting questions ahead of time to get the ball rolling.
Interview – When a potential speaker has valuable content, but is concerned about presenting, having someone from your executive team conduct an interview can be a possible tactic. The same amount of preparation is still important, but the performance anxiety that can sabotage even the best talking points, is reduced. And now framed as a conversation, the content is often more free-flowing.
Panel Discussion – Sometimes having a number of perspectives on one topic, or different chapters of a single story is more appropriate. This approach also alleviates the pressure on single presenter, particularly if you are concerned about their presentation style. The panel should have a moderator, who can not only provide a framework the discussion, but also be mindful of focus and timing for each panel member.
Video – Sometime, the logistic gods just aren’t on your side. Or a speaker is simply not comfortable onstage. Using video can not only get the story across, but can also provide a richer experience with the inclusion of b-roll and interviews to give a complete picture. If the story is particularly long or complex, consider using it as a 3-part runner throughout the meeting by diving it at key turning points or cliffhangers to keep the audience hooked.
People You Pay
If there is a book that your company or audience is reading – or should be reading – invite the speaker to deliver a keynote. By giving your attendees access to this level of expertise, you immediately add value to their investment- be it in time, attention, or money. Moreover, you shortcut their learning curve because these keynotes usually hit the highlights just hard enough to provide insight, yet are enticing enough to encourage people to learn more. Be sure to spend time prepping the speaker about your audience and objectives so that they can tailor the content. And ask about additional elements such as Q&A’s and book signings. These are things you’ll want finalized well in advance of your meeting.
People You Respect
Sometimes the best external speaker can be found right in your own backyard. People often think of “external” as meaning outside of the company, but we have seen companies successfully leverage the expertise found within the company, but at another division. The key to making these internal speakers resonate is to find success stories or outcomes that parallel your audience’s experience. These presenters provide valuable insight into the challenges unique to the organization and what tactics they used to overcome them. They can also strengthen the relationship between divisions and open the door to future collaboration and shared learning.
Audiences appreciate hearing a new voice. By working closely with presenters to develop the most targeted content, and choosing the presentation approach that best supports it, you’ll deliver external ideas that everyone will listen to.