When you are asked to speak to an audience there’s an assumption that you know enough about the topic to do it justice. The audience will assume that you can at least strike an appropriate balance between confirming what they know and adding some juicy – and relevant bits that they don’t!
The organiser should ensure that you’re the right speaker for that topic and that your knowledge can be delivered at a level that suits that audience.
Sadly, not all topic experts are good speakers – why should they be? By the same token many talented speakers don’t have a niche topic that’ll attract an audience and their oratory skills could remain undiscovered. Perhaps unfairly, having expertise on an attractive topic comes first, so more often than not the job at hand is to turn a subject expert into an interesting speaker.
Referral, reputation or good marketing – which might include some good video footage of the speaker in action, are the main reasons professional speakers (those who charge a fee) are booked. Proof of expertise may be backed up by published articles, a regular blog or a book or two. If the organiser is relying on a Google search then evidence is required that the speaker can deliver their content in a compelling way.
The business presentation gig (as opposed to a keynote speech) is usually handed to the manager with the expertise – who often has limited speaking skills, let alone an ability to use visuals properly. It therefore follows that more often than not it’s the delivery of any presentation that requires the most work rather than the content preparation. But usually the content gets over 90% of the attention, and the delivery less than 10% if any at all.
Perhaps this will explain why interesting content, in an age of searing technology is so often poorly presented. Many of our content experts simply do not grasp the importance of delivery.
When you’ve attended a really good speech, it can be a riveting experience. Often when a business presentation is done properly, it may not result in an obvious “Wow”, but rather, because of its simplicity, a seamless path towards securing the intended business.
The debate about whether delivery or content is most important will probably never be conclusively settled, because they are both important. Here’s what I know: audiences will be lured by the promise of an interesting topic and after a vintage performance they’ll clap their hands in delight.