Like most people who work in technology, I go to a lot of conferences and see lots of key note speeches and break out talks. Some are great, some not so much.
I had to do a talk myself recently to some students. I did my research on preparing and delivering the perfect talk. Lots of stuff about not standing behind lecterns, telling anecdotes that are relatable, don’t create us and them scenarios, creating visually stimulating slides and using video.
In the following two weeks I attended two events. The first was the Digit Fintech conference and the second was the graduation ceremony of the School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Both were great events and each had one presentation that stood out.
At the Fintech event, the CEO of a new challenger broke all of the rules I had learned in my keynote speech research. He stood behind the lectern. He had one slide which had the bank’s logo and his name. He didn’t tell gentle fun anecdotes and he did create an us and them between the big banks and his bank.
It was like watching Rhod Gilbert giving a speech on banking.
I guess it was his irreverence for the established way of doing things that has underpinned the progress of the bank so far and I thought it was refreshing. Many in the room might not have, however, I doubt he really cared. He is clearly a man on a mission and he says it like it he sees it – no superfluous flashy stuff – and very much outside the status-quo.
At the SSE graduation, all of the graduates gave a presentation about their enterprises. All were passionate and all used slides and video, except for one – Alison. She is a social entrepreneur and puppeteer by trade, and her presentation was so vintage it was innovative. She created a 19th Century-style winding panorama – think hand-drawn horizontal cinema reel – which turned her learning experience into a fantasy drama.
I’ve certainly never seen anything like it before in the kind of professional event setting it was held in. The paintings of illustrious bankers on the walls of the Lloyds Bank of Scotland HQ on The Mound in Edinburgh may remember the format but I doubt the like has been seen there since those paintings were real people – if ever! A dramatic story that people could relate to, told with an irreverence of the expected way of doing things.
So why am I telling technologists about the least digital presentations I’ve seen of late? Because the people delivering those talks connected with people. They didn’t have to follow the rules of creating a connection because they understood their respective audiences and what they wanted.
As somebody who runs a technology consultancy, I constantly have to remind myself and those around me that what we do revolves around people. It’s people that buy our services, people that use our solutions. If we are positively impacting people, then it doesn’t matter how many formulae or rules for success we follow or break – we will ultimately succeed.
And just in case you’re wondering how my talk went? I followed the rules and tried my best. Next time I’m sure I’ll do much better.