At a recent three-day convention, Judith was slated to present the opening keynote for the next day and a workshop on communication the third day. It has always been her practice when time permitted, to come in a day early so she could hear other speakers, feel the energy of the group and if there is another main speaker, to make sure that she hear him or her.
It allows her to observe audience reaction to the speaker and the topic as well as the opportunity to link what I say with some theme within the speaker’s talk. My keynote would be around the title of one of her books, Stabotage! How to Deal with Pit Bulls, Skunks, Snakes, Scorpions & Slugs in the Health Care Workplace. Within that talk, she always references change—it’s one of the factors that seeds conflict.
The speaker had looked good. And then all the gimmicks came out. Special lighting, video, hiding gadgets within the audience, audience participation and moving around—lots of bells and whistles. Now, gadgets and gimmicks can be good … just don’t OD an audience with them. What was cute in the beginning became downright tiresome, almost boring. As Judith watched and listened, she felt that the speaker had given the talk so many times and that the choreography of it and her body movements were so canned that she could be having an out of body experience and still do her talk. Judith came away with, “I’ve heard this a zillion times feeling.” Hmmmm.
The next day, she was up early and so were 400 attendees. They were energetic and enthusiastic. Some were life-long friends within the nursing profession and multi-meeting attendees; others were new to the conference. What she also noticed, though, was there was no buzz about the previous day’s speaker. Nothing, almost as if she hadn’t been there.
The buzz after her talk lingered until the conference ended. Attendees would come and speak to her at my book table and share that they had just been talking with their friend and they loved it when she had said ______fill in the blank. The Buzz Factor … it’s important.
Because the group was running late from their lunch, which preceded Judith’s keynote, she had to cut up 20 minutes of her presentation. As a speaker, you must be flexible and adapt to just about anything, including chopping your own talk if necessary. Which she did … still, the audience listened, adsorbed and came away with relevant info for their workplaces.
To create the Buzz Factor, you can leave your audiences laughing, crying or thinking … but you can’t just leave them. Judith didn’t—her goal as a speaker has to always have entertainment, lots of humor but lots of meat that can be chewed on, processed, regurgitated—all loaded with ideas and concepts that can be implemented. Gadgets and Gimmicks can be fun … but they are like Chinese food—great during the meal, but after processing and gone too quickly.