Avoid Disaster on Stage – 4 Must Do’s!

For some, it may be their worst nightmare but to me it’s my dream. I find myself at the front of a large room filled with 99 passionate HR professionals all hanging on my next word.

Things are going well but in a moment I decide to truly let myself be authentic and say the next thing that comes to my mind.

“How cool is it to be able to enrich someone’s life? That truly is some epic shit!”

The crowd simultaneously erupts in laugher, applause and smiles. Immediately the room becomes lighter, more engaged and authentic.

I recently had the privilege to be a keynote and feature breakout session speaker at the 2015 ReInvent Work Summit produced by Pam Ross and Impact99. The daylong conference also featured other outstanding speakers such as Chelsea MacDonald (Director of Culture and Engagement at Klick), David Homes (Mayor of G Adventures), Irene Andress (Chief Nurse Executive at Toronto East General Hospital) and Mark Babbitt (CEO and Founder of YouTern). I was the last person to speak so I knew that my talk needed to land in order to captivate the crowd. The audience was comprised of 99 Human Resource professionals who are dedicated to making work a better place to be.

I love any opportunity to speak to people about company culture because it’s my passion. I jump out of bed every day willing to give my all towards improving the lives of the 140+ people that I get to lead, and believe that I have a lot of insight to offer on the topic. As leaders, we’re often asked to speak to large groups of people on our specialties. I’m sure that for some, the situation could be terrifying but I’ve got four tips that will insure you do amazing.

Speak About Your Passion

Never speak about something that you’re not passionate about. Even if you research the hell out of the topic and prepare endlessly for weeks prior, if you are not passionate, it will not land on the crowd properly. When speaking about something you’re devoted to, you’ll tell a story and take the audience through a journey, which will foster connectedness. When speaking on topics that you’re not excited about, you’re more likely to be “professor like” and not inspire the group to take action.

@TonyGareri was epic and inspiring. And I don’t use those words often. #pumped #RWS15
– Amy M. (@amelializa) May 19, 2015

Know Your Audience

Before I go out in front of any crowd, I need to know who they are. In the case of the ReInvent Work Summit, they were HR leaders who wanted to change their corporate cultures. When I speak at a Roma Moulding All Hands Meeting, I’m speaking to my internal team and some external stakeholders. By knowing who is in the crowd, I’m able to understand what motivates them and what messages will resonate and ultimately, ensure that I deliver a WOW experience.

Take Them On A Journey

Don’t tell them anything. You might be saying “what? I thought that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do!” Resist the urge to simply tell the audience something and instead make your time in front of them impactful by taking them on a journey – SHARE! Sharing your journey allows people to connect quickly while having them experience the feeling of what you intend to share! Keep the sharing relevant, with the intent to give something you learned. You cannot go wrong!

Get Real Quickly

I’ve received a lot of great advice on how to be an effective speaker but the best advice I ever got was to just be me. Don’t try to be something that you’re not because if you’re asked to speak, it’s the real you that they want to hear from. The secret sauce to giving a great talk is to become real in the eyes of the audience as quickly as you can. I’m an Italian guy from Woodbridge and I occasionally let the odd swearword fly. Is it proper? Probably not but it comes out of passion! When I said “epic shit” the audience knew right there and then that I wasn’t going to try to BS them. I further enhanced my connectedness to the crowd by explaining the good, bad and ugly of the culture transformation here at Roma Moulding. An authentic, real talk is the one people will most connect with and the one they will remember for weeks after!

I measure the success of my speaking engagements in a couple of ways. First, when I look over the audience do I see eyeballs or eyelids? Are people leaning in or are their arms folded with their face buried in their phones? Secondly, if I’ve connected with the crowd and am lucky enough to receive a standing ovation, how does it look? In my opinion the best standing ovations start at the back of the room and move forward. The person at the front should look behind them and see a tidal wave of people standing.

After speaking, I got to the chance to hold a roundtable-style discussion in a breakout room. About one-third of the total attendees chose to spend additional time with me where I dove deeper into the tactics my team uses to create a powerful and united team. Everything we do at Roma Moulding has to align with our 10 Family Core Values, which can be challenging at times. A little while back we developed a brief document that helps ensure our Leadership Forums are efficient and aligned. The crowd at the breakout session was particularly curious about this document and I offered to send it out to them. I’d like to extend the offer to any reader of my blog who leaves their email and comments below referencing our Powerful Leadership Forum Guide (PLFG). Simply leave a comment with your email and reference the PLFG and we’ll get in touch to send you the guide, free of charge.

One final thing to remember when speaking in front of a crowd is to always do it with the intent that they take at least one thing away that will improve their life and / or their leadership style. Do you have any tips for speaking in front of an audience? How do you connect and have your message land?

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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