Getting the Best from Speakers

January 2018 — #Class of 2018, #Dmitry Koltunov

Getting the Best from Speakers

While speaking to a few fellows reflecting on 2017 one thing came up a few times, that some of the speakers were not that great. When we dug into the reasoning, it was pretty consistent that the background of the speaker was interesting, and that their accomplishments were impressive, yet the session was not great. This is like a bland tasting dish with really good ingredients.

So why does this happen? Most speaker come into SLP relatively blind to the class. Not everyone speaker has the ability to quickly zero in on the needs of the room and calibrate their talk to the right level of specificity. This is especially true since our room is very unique, and what we are interested in is hard to predict, and stage specific. Most speaker come in with little prep or background, and do a canned talk which can easily miss the mark. At the moment we leave a lot to chance and the results we get reflect this. But the ingredients are all there, we just need to use them in a more deliberate way

What can we do? The solution lies in having a good moderator that can own steering a conversation. The art of ensuring that the speaker provides value belongs to the moderator who should have researched the speaker prior, spoken with the speaker, adn prepared/shared questions. This gives the speaker a clear roadmap on how to add value and puts SLP into the driver seat.

How do we do it?  If there is one speaker the format is a fireside chat, if a panel then the format is more traditional moderation. Unless a speaker has a niche topic ad the organizer of the class has see it, it is always safer to have a moderator. If the speaker is doing great, the moderator can bac off, but if the speaker starts to go off topic it is natural to steer. Either way it’s not awkward to butt in and adjust that way. This ensures we can do real time quality control.

When do we do it? Not every tak has to be moderated, but it should be the rule rather than the exception. Whoever is bringing in the speaker should be able to argue why there is no moderation, and talk about what they will do to ensure relevance. The Captain of the class owns quality, and should be able to provide justification to the coach.  Some speakers have established talks that are general enough to work. Some do workshops which are not really moderator friendly. All this is OK but needs to be discussed prior to the class. The question is simply “how can we ensure that the speaker stays on topic and the context is relevant.”

Who can do it? Not everyone can do a good job moderating, and we should accept and own that truth. In fact most people can’t. It’s not about intelligence, but really about a skill set in engaging people. It’s the same reason that everyone can’t run a Podcast. In the class there are people that are great interviewers. We can use them over and over again, they don’t need to be in the class, we just need to ask them nicely. However if you are interested in doing it, then try it out. But remember that it’s an art.

Why we should do it? Ultimately it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure a quality experience. It feels as good for the speaker as it does for the class. People speak at SLP to feel like they are helping, and a great session gets the speaker to want to come back. For the moderator, this is an opportunity to build a relationship with the speakers which may be great for you in the future. A good moreation experience builds a strong bond and we have historically all seen results from that.

How should we NOT do it? A friend from San Diego put together this awesome presentation on how to NOT moderate, this is priceless. To understand the dark art of Moderation read here. Actually, everyone should read these slides, one of the best 0 mins you can spend.

So for all the captains that are evaluating their classes. Take a look at your speakers and ask yourself, what am I doing as a leader to ensure quality, and what guarantee do I have to NOT have a moderator as a safety net. Happy class planning