SXSW is a mega conference/festival for geeks in Austin, Texas, United States. Mega means over 10,000 attendees. I came here to see what’s happening at the geek edge of presenting. To observe the interface between presentations and technology.
But what has been most in my face is that the best presenters I saw care! They don’t care about themselves – they care about their audience, and they care passionately. I’ll talk about each of these three best presentations.
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
Chris and Julien are co-authors of Trust Agents. I’ve previously admired Chris’s authenticity and his willingness to take risks when speaking. This was my first opportunity to see him live. Chris and Julien’s modus operandi was to have a loose structure and then riff around those themes, bouncing off each other. They’re both quick-witted and funny and it led to some great laughs. They spoke with intensity – like they were underlining each statement. But most important they cared about their message and about us as an audience.
Dan Roam is author of Back of the Napkin.. This was a presentation he was giving for the first time, based on his new book Vivid Thinking. His caring came through in the depth and rigor of his thinking. Compared to Chris and Julien, He’s quiet and serious – but riveting. In a future post, I’ll talk more about some of the ideas from his talk.
Gary Vaynerchuck is the author of Crush It. Gary greeted every person who came in and thanked them for coming. Then after 10 minutes of speaking he turned it over to Q&A – this is with an audience of two thousand people. To ask a question you had to line up behind a mike. When a woman was clearly struggling with nerves, he invited her to come up to him and just talk to him quietly and then he repeated the question and answered it to the whole audience. When he didn’t have an answer, he was straight. After the presentation he was there for another 45 minutes answering questions for all those people who hadn’t got to ask him a question earlier. Among them, was a mother and her 8 year old son. She’d taken her son out of school for the day to see Gary speak. The mother asked Gary if he could record a short video to show to her son’s teacher. Gary asked for the teacher’s name and then spoke directly to her on the video. It was sweet and moving.
Gary is known for his passion, but what I saw was his genuine caring for each person in the audience.
So here’s what SXSW reinforced for me. Your style as a presenter doesn’t matter. Whether you’re funny or serious, loud or quiet doesn’t matter. Just care for your audience.
How to Tame your Fear of Public Speaking
In this video-training series (plus workbook with transcripts) you’ll learn:
- The three things you must know BEFORE you begin to tackle your fear of public speaking
- Why the positive-negative thought classification doesn’t work for fear of public speaking
- The two powerful self-talk tweaks that can make an immediate difference.
I’ve read all three of the authors who’s talks your discuss in this post. The passion and caring are clearly what makes them popular…and…good ideas.
Yes, I knew them all from their writings before seeing them live. What impressed me is that they walk their talk.
…now sitting at Seedcamp Barcelona and thinking that many of the speakers would benefit from your help… sadly it is total lack of practice that is the biggest gap between horrible and engaging.
Oh dear! I feel for you. Olivia
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, unfortunately I missed SXSW. I just finished Dan Roam’s “Unfolding the Napkin” and I feel like I’m a whole new presenter again.
It would have been great to meet you! Maybe next time? And I’ll check out Unfolding the Napkin.
Audience centered – What a concept!
Kind of like ‘Customer Centered’. And how many businesses never get this concept!
Thanks, as always, for your Post, Olivia.