The CEO of the advertising agency delivered the opening keynote speech at the marketing conference. He seemed like an appropriate choice. His career in the industry was impressive and the company he founded was enjoying industry buzz. You would be right in thinking that this would be an enjoyable and informative presentation.
Spoiler alert. You’re about to be disappointed.
His presentation offered entertaining case reviews from the world of advertising. A few of those campaigns were produced by his company. Like many marketing speakers, he also included at least one Apple story. That felt a like Deja vu. Still, his insights were noteworthy – if not original.
The close to his speech was disappointing. He ended with these four lines.
Enjoy your conference.
Thank you for your invitation to speak.
Am I supposed to take questions?
What a pathetic close!
Let’s examine each of those four lines.
“Enjoy your conference”
That’s a bland and uninspiring statement. That felt like the lackluster statements you hear from insincere retail clerks admonishing you to “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you for your invitation to speak”
More bland and meaningless words. Clearly he didn’t take time to think of something more helpful to say to the audience.
The person to thank for the invitation is the person who invited him. The place for that would have been a private conversation with that person. The audience didn’t invite him. They simply attended to hear his message.
This was thrown out as an afterthought. Clearly he didn’t plan to take questions. He looked confused at this point.
“Am I supposed to take questions?”
Now he definitely sounded confused. After he asked for questions he hesitated and posed this question to no one in particular. Clearly he didn’t talk with the conference organizers to clarify their expectation or the parameters of his presentation. This question portrayed him as a fumbling presenter – not the leader they hoped he might portray.
This person had impressive credentials in the advertising industry and as CEO of his own firm. But, the audience might be thinking “How can a man with a successful career be so careless as a presenter? Was he simply lucky?”
This CEO didn’t know how to end his presentation. That was curious because as the head of an advertising firm he stressed the importance of telling stories. He emphasized the need to sculpt three components to your stories; opening, body and close. But he didn’t do that with his presentation. Both his opening and close were disasters. I wonder if he delivers a better close when pitching to prospects.
Apparently, this was a case of “don’t do what I do – do what I tell you to do”.
What can you learn from this keynote speaker?
If you are the invited speaker
- Demonstrate the lessons you want the audience to learn
- Recognize the importance of the opening and close to your presentation
- Talk with the event organizers to be clear on the expectations and parameters
- Assume that somebody important might be in the audience
- Prepare and rehearse – don’t try to wing it
If you are the conference organizer
- Don’t be celebrity-struck by the CEO – clarify your expectations
- Don’t assume that a successful CEO makes an ideal keynote speaker
- If you haven’t heard the person speak, you don’t know what you’re getting
- Just because the CEO is speaking for free doesn’t make it a good deal
- Do your homework with the speaker – before and after you invite them to speak
The close is important to the success of your presentation. It’s the last words that the audience hears and when done well can leave them with a lasting impression. The close might summarize your key points, reinforce the message, offer them hope or encourage them to take the next steps.
People forget much of what you say but they tend to remember first or last impressions. For me the last impression overshadowed the points he delivered earlier.
What do you think survivors of the Titanic remembered most?