I delivered as well as attended various sessions at the ASAE’s Annual Meeting here in Atlanta last week. In looking through the agenda, there were a lot of clever & catchy session titles. Few were strong, many were OK, but a lot were just plain weak.

Here is the problem: the ones with catchy titles get people in the room, but even if the presenter has the delivery skills (Big IF), the lack of meaningful content or relevant context will compel attendees to get up and walk out, or if they’re really trying to be polite or can’t escape the room, leave the session wondering “where was the beef?”

Unfortunately, many meeting planners and session presenters are spending more time and effort on the sizzle and not enough on the steak! So, here are a handful of ideas that I thought may be useful to you if you’re either attending or are planning a gathering soon:

1. Expert First, Speaker Second! PLEASE make sure the people in front of the room have the experience to not just regurgitate their content but actually defend their positions. If the presenter is green, the presentation loses much of its impact! And dear speaking colleagues (this really is a profession!), please don’t confuse the order.

2. Few Are Interested in a Book Report! Anyone can read a book and summarize it (didn’t say well!) Very little value for the audience to simply get a series of book summaries. Where does your experience come in? Where are your unique insights?

3. Title of the Session Must Be The Packaging. Wouldn’t you be utterly confused if you opened a bag of potato chips and there were beef jerkies inside? Yet how often have you sat in a session and scratched your head asking, “am I in the right room?” Keep it simple and tell them what you’ll share – succinctly and directly!

4. Less Rah Rah, More Pragmatism. More and more of my clients are demanding practical, pragmatic, takeaways vs. the pep rally. I appreciate the theoretical – important to understand where the idea came from, but also give me an application (case study or example) and best practices on implementation (how can I do it)? Can I also add, please – less cute and more realism aligned with the challenges and opportunities of the audience? An executive today described one of the sessions he attended as “juvenile!”

5. Let Them Opt-In To Learn More. Not everyone needs to have or get every presentation so stop creating massive download site, handing out USBs or CDs of all of the content. They don’t need it. They’ll never read it. Instead, give the attendees a URL where they can download your presentation or collect biz cards and send them copies. If they opt-in, they’re more likely to want, read, and hopefully implement the ideas in the presentation material.

At the end of the day, how was your audience better off because of your presentation? That’s the only question that really matters! Did you improve their condition. If not, please stop wasting people’s time with useless multi day meetings and “tweet/noise-experts” who have no business being on any stage!

Your events and speakers are ambassadors of your brand. Are you building brand equity or diluting your brand with the attendees, executives and sponsors alike?

Make it a great week.

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