Last Friday, I attended the IMCNE (International Management Consultants New England) ThoughtLeader Conference as both a learner and a presenter. I learned much more than I expected. The key to my learning, or — better yet — my remembering, happened at the general session entitled Speaking to Different Audiences.
It was presented by the well-known experts Tom Kennedy, former Boston on-air celebrity and current Executive and Communications Coach and Suzanne Bates, former Boston on-air celebrity, author of Speak Like A CEO and current President & CEO of Bates Communications. During an exercise, Suzanne presented a worksheet with “My Agenda” atop the right column and “Their Agenda” atop the left column. Of course, the lesson learned is that as consultants it is never about our agenda; it is always about their agenda.
After lunch, I presented on Traditional vs. Social Media: Which Work Best for Promoting Your Ideas? About 10 minutes into my presentation, someone raised their hand to ask a question (I thought). But to my surprise, she had no question. Instead, she said: Your presentation is really good. But we already know we have to embrace Social Media. What we need to know is how.
So, without any hesitation, I tossed away the presentation that had been advertised and the one I had been asked to make (and had rehearsed for weeks), and transitioned into the one my audience wanted to hear. At the end of the session, attendees came up to thank me, to praise the presentation and to ask for assistance in launching their social media efforts.
Thank you, Suzanne, for reminding me that my agenda matters not at all. It is always about their agenda. And thanks to the attendee who had the wisdom and courage to tell me what their wants and needs were. Without her, I would have given the presentation I prepared for; instead, I gave the one they wanted. And isn’t that what we should do?
P.S. Here is what the presentation’s promotion materials said: What are the pros and cons of promoting your ideas and business via traditional media vs. social media?
They didn’t care about the pros and cons; they wanted to hear about the what and how. I suspect more that a few of us have became frustrated with speakers who don’t want to be interrupted with questions and comments and won’t change their prepared remarks no matter the audience and its comments or body language. Those speakers are intent on delivering the presentation they prepared. And they do.
Interesting… but what would have happened if instead they turned their power over to the audience?