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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

How to Wow the Crowd

There is no better feeling for me as family business program director than after a dinner forum that featured a fabulous presenter. Everything falls in line from that: happy members and sponsors, prospects become happy members, great publicity and word of mouth, not to mention for the speaker: book sales, my praise landing you jobs elsewhere, me not growling after, etc.

There is no worse feeling than the opposite of the above. So please pay heed to these observations about what – in my humble opinion, and after both fabulous and horrific evaluations- makes for a great speaker:

  • A GREAT SPEAKER gets to the meat very quickly, spending very little time on personal history and throat clearing. Your allotted time passes very fast, so jump right in, and stay right in. Illustrating a point from your personal history is OK in small doses. The audience came to learn what you can teach- quench their thirst!!
  • A GREAT SPEAKER delivers what is promised in the promotional materials, so that the audience goes home with practical gems of information that can be implemented, and theories that can be applied in a realistic and useful way. Presentations that are off-topic (even if well delivered) are seen as false advertising
  • A GREAT SPEAKER is well rehearsed, so that the talk will be sharp, fills the allotted time neatly, and leaves time for questions and answers, either after or throughout (throughout is better). Spontaneity works best when it is somewhat planned.
  • A GREAT SPEAKER will engage the audience in a process of questions, discussions, and other interactive tools that help adults learn (the way people of any age learn). This is live theater, not passive TV watching. Your audience is alive, even when they’re asleep.
  • A GREAT SPEAKER understands the way their topic is relevant to family business, and will find the correct degree to which the talk can be customized for this particular audience. This doesn’t mean twist your information into a pretzel- but make sure it’s relevant.
  • A GREAT SPEAKER has handouts and presentation tools that compliment the talk. They don’t serve as a script for the speaker. You should never have to say “I didn’t get to my talk, so read the handouts.” Presentation slides should be concise and simple, not a treatise. Good delivery implies something good is delivered.
  • A GREAT SPEAKER will never solicit the audience, overtly or covertly. You are hired to inform and provoke. If any audience member wants to follow up, they certainly will do so.
  • A GREAT SPEAKER respects the political and religious neutrality of this organization and that we are here to provide executive education, not a soapbox or pulpit.

I HOPE THESE TIPS ARE USEFUL TO YOU- USING THEM WILL BE HELPFUL TO US!! Ira Bryck

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