Getting your experts to speak at industry events is a tried and tested way of helping to increase the profile and reputation of your company.
As an expert it’s assumed that you know your stuff. If you are suitably motivated, and have a passion for your subject, it may also be assumed that you can keep your audience engaged.
But having expert knowledge doesn’t mean you are expert at communicating it. And having a love for your subject doesn’t mean people will love to hear you talk about it. Is knowledge and passion enough, or is something else required?
My answer is yes and no. Here’s why…
Clearly, you have to be knowledgeable to pass yourself off as an expert, and for people to listen to what you have to say. For some people who attend to listen, this is enough. And it is partly true, that if your technical input is strong, then to some extent, people are more willing to overlook your presentational flaws.
I recently heard a talk from an expert at WordPress, for example. I was more interested in what the man had to say, than being concerned with how the talk was delivered. The talk didn’t need to be the slickest I’d ever seen (although it was actually pretty good). I was there for the expert content. In this case, content trumped presentation.
But even if people’s main interest is the content, the speaker surely has more chance of achieving their speaking goals if the speech has been delivered with enhanced communication skill, and with some prior communications planning. What is the use of good content, if no-one picks up on the most important points, understands what you have said, remembers or acts upon it?
And what about motivation – how does the motivation of your expert assist them in their verbal communication delivery?
Dale Carnegie, author of the infamous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, wrote in 1929, that passion was required to deliver a great speech. He said, “ …walk up to a man and knock him down. You will probably discover that, when he regains his feet, the talk he delivers will be well nigh flawless as a gem of eloquence.”
While I don’t recommend actually doing this, for moral and legal reasons, it beautifully sums up the idea that everyone knows exactly what to say and how to say it, when required, assuming they are suitably motivated. Of course, it’s not going to be practical for your experts to take a punch in the face every time they want to give a speech.
In a similar vein, listen to this impromptu speech from a woman in Hackney made during the London Riots in 2011: http://youtu.be/ITJcparImeQ. This woman gave the rioters a piece of a mind. Yes, it was rough and ready, and hadn’t been planned in advance, but she found the words that she needed, when she needed them. That was because she was speaking with passion.
While passion helps to find your voice, speaking practice and communications support builds on those raw skills, helping to increase your overall impact. This is especially the case when planning and delivering longer talks with complex multi-layered messaging, with multiple audiences in mind.
So get your experts out to events. They need to be knowledgeable and they need to be motivated. But they will be so much better with professional communications support, and honed delivery skills. Sure, your experts will probably get there in the end by their own devices, given enough time and a fair wind… perhaps. But why wait and why take the chance? After all, the reputation of your company is at stake.