I suspect this is the number one complaint people have about conference talks. Not the lack of vegetarian meals, not the early sessions, but rather sessions billed as educational that turn out to be sales pitches.
What happens when a talk is a sales pitch? People tune out of your talk and in to something else like complaining about you on Twitter, choosing the next talk to go to, finding out what’s for lunch, or checking the sports scores. In my case, I tweet about brownies.
The fortunate thing is that this problem is REALLY easy to avoid.
- Never say the name of your company or your brands. Audience members have the conference program in front of them. We can read about you and your company there. Besides, if you say things that are truly educational and intriguing, people will open that program to your page and circle your name a bunch of times. They’ll probably even wait to speak to you after you’re finished talking.
- Don’t provide an explanation of your company even for context. Company context is irrelevant in about 99.99999% of cases. Even if it’s a really cool video. I’ve yet to see one instance where a company video improved my understanding of the talk.
- Never say ‘we’ or ‘our.’ I KNOW who you are talking about. I KNOW the things you say represent you and your company. Instead of saying “We believe that mobile surveys are the most disruptive methodology you will see this year,” try saying “Mobile surveys are the most disruptive methodology you will see this year.” Besides, this phrasing offers a bigger and more memorable punch. And no, mobile surveys are not the next big thing.
- Don’t describe YOUR tools. We don’t care about YOUR tools. Your audience is there to learn about new theories and processes and tools beyond the bubble of your company. Teach them the generic ideas, which just so happen to be reflected in your tools and your business model. As you demonstrate your impressive knowledge about the broader industry, the audience will decide that you are worth talking to and they will whip open that agenda and circle your name to follow up with later.
- Don’t answer questions about your product or company. Listen to questions and focus them towards industry knowledge so that everyone in the room will learn something from your answer. For example, you can say, “I’d be happy to talk about our pricing or features during the break but I agree with you that privacy should be designed into every piece of software from the beginning, not as an after thought.”
- Put a compelling sales pitch in your bio. And by sales pitch, I mean offer an interesting and relevant bio that contains specific details about your offerings not dreams, buzzwords, and nondescript nonsense.
- Put your logo on every slide (if you’re allowed to). Put your contact information on the first and last slide so that strong silent types can reach out to you privately afterwards. Put your twitter name on every slide and encourage people to tweet. I shouldn’t have to say those things but I recently went to a conference where NUMEROUS speakers did not put their name on their presentation. I’m positive most of them lost out on potential follow-ups.
- Finish exactly on time. When you’re late, conference organizers get upset, audience members get ansty, the speakers after you get annoyed, and you create a lot of bad karma. Respectful speakers generate follow ups.
- Deliver fabulous content full of actionable recommendations that people can implement immediately. Fill your talk with to-do lists and checklists and reference materials. Offer additional white papers and case studies to those who want more information. The best sales pitch is awesome content. Hands down.