At this time of year many of us are invited to a multitude of events, be they business breakfasts, lunches, sundowners or full scale conferences. This week I’ve attended all formats, and next week looks to be no different.
In what was a high quality week, I was privileged to hear Fortescue Metals Group Chair and one of Australia’s billionaires Andrew Forrest speak passionately about his work with indigenous groups, particularly in implementing systems that provide real training and guaranteed jobs. “The way out of the cycle of drugs and alcohol is through a real paying job“, he implored. Facing 460 packed into the Hyatt, you could have heard a pin drop, it was electric. This was no ‘show for the cameras’, you could tell through the crackle in his voice, the fact he needed no notes, through the stories he told, the obvious deep connection he has with the community, that this came from the heart. Powerful stuff.
A day earlier I’d been at the CPA Congress and was one of the speakers. I had the ‘graveyard shift’ just after lunch on the last day. Timed to go on after me was Dan Gregory, he of Gruen Transfer fame. As we spoke for a while in the presenter’s room beforehand, I learned he had been a stand up comedian for a few years, so that explained his quick wit. Bounding onto stage at 3pm on the last afternoon of a 4-day accountants conference, he made the audience instantly come alive with his infectious enthusiasm, snappy one liners and sharp, strong and simple slides. Images, not words. Bright yellow background. Designed to be catchy, clear and be exactly what slides should be – a visual aid, not a crutch for the performer. A seasoned professional Dan.
During the week I heard corporate adviser and Westpac Chair John Langoulant speak to a breakfast audience, Chris Baudia CEO of local startup GeoMoby speak of his journey to a tech audience and then a panel of successful business leaders speak to an exclusive club of 40 under 40 winners at KPMG at lunchtime. I can tell you there was not one dud speaker all week, but each had their own style. George Kailis was superb at the lunchtime function, becoming so impassioned at one stage that his pen shot out of his hand and across the stage.
It’s important I think to be able to talk in public, especially if you want to be a business leader. I had 13 years as a school teacher, so learned my craft at the chalkface. Fail, and you were eaten alive. It felt that way anyway. Probably a bit like stand up. I had some shockers I can tell you.
For those who aspire to hone their craft, go to as many networking events as you can. You can learn so much from the skilled practitioner. Passion is often the key communication tool. It’s hard to fake, and makes that emotional connection with the audience that is nearly always lacking in someone reading a script, or relying on powerpoint bullet points. As I’ve said before, tell stories. They are great conveyors of meaning.