January 31, 2012

Too hot, too cold, or just right?

I recently attended a conference with my husband, and in comparing notes afterward about the sessions we had attended, I realized we had a case of the Goldilocks. (If you don't know the story, here's a brief version similar to the one I grew up with.)

One session featured a speaker who was bold and colorful. She swore, she used provocative images, she told stories and she challenged us to think differently. I would have enjoyed this presentation had she not been trying SO hard to engage us emotionally. She was trying so hard to be a rebel, to be cool and hip and shocking, that it actually inhibited my ability to connect with her emotionally. It felt like a big manipulative show, a big, dramatic performance. Too hot.

Another session featured a speaker who covered all the bases, had lots of facts and information and charts and diagrams. He had so much information, in fact, that he forgot to bring his personality. Good content, but dull and dreary. Too cold.

Then there was the third session. This speaker had interesting content that challenged conventional thinking, good visuals, stories and audience engagement. He was energetic and enthusiastic, but authentically so. It was obvious that this speaker is emotionally invested and is a passionate advocate for his topic. The level of excitement was high, but real. The material was varied, so there was no time for boredom; he had the audience's complete attention. Just right.

The key element of all three presentations was emotional authenticity. Without it, a speaker runs the risk of looking like an actor rather than a presenter, or in the case of the "too cold" speaker, looking like a cipher, an invisible forgettable person.

Have you seen these presenters before? Which one are you?

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