The Smart But Dull Conference? Does Content Stand Alone?

April 7, 2012

Is content king?

I continue to see the discussion around the meetings industry about "content versus style" when it comes to speakers. I have long argued that there should be no disagreement on this topic, as it is not too much to expect both from those who make presentations at events.

I would never argue against content. That is crazy talk. However, there seems to be a fear of "pure motivational speakers" taking over the meeting world. I am not even sure what that means. Without content, there is no motivation. "Fluff" cannot stand alone. We need and want content.

Yet, all speakers should be motivational. Without a level of connection with the audience, and the ability to move people to action, you just have a book report.  

The speakers set the tone for the whole meeting and create the threads that are weaved into the overall experience. Besides, what is the opposite of "motivation"? (Discourage?, Disincentive?, Deter?, Suck the energy out of the room?)

With all the talk about content over experience, I have not seen a conference organizer advertise their event by saying "Our speakers are monotone, dry and might suck the energy out of the room and make you wish for reruns of "Punky Brewster", but dang it, they are smart."

Nobody looks forward to attending the "Smart But Dull Conference"

This does not mean that every presenter needs to be a professional speaker or trained orator. I am saying that seeking only content can leave a hole in what the audience desires and deserves. There are many experts who do a great job of sharing their information clearly and concisely with audiences and create a positive learning experience. But there are others who suck.

Vetting speakers and understanding their level of experience is key.  I had one planner tell me she does not want to be offensive by asking industry leaders for references or a list of speaking experience.  This means she has no idea how many times people have ever spoken publicly. Would you hire a band to play at your event without talking to people who have heard their music or seen them play?  What if your band only decided to learn to play instruments recently? Ouch. (Trust me, you do not want me to play guitar at your event!).

Content is important, but so is experience, style and communication skills.

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