A Speakers Nightmare…
Big day – got to meet a Wallaby legend and almost lost it with stagefright during a speech. It is said that many people fear public speaking more than they fear death. I am not one of those but I must say I did have a bit of a moment at a conference today. The conference organiser was experimenting with a new format – where the exhibitors/stalls and the conference speakers/stage are in the same giant room. People are encouraged to continue to chat with the exhibitors the whole day but also have the option to put on headphones and sit and listen to the speakers who are in the middle on a small round stage with a screen behind them.
To be frank this is a bit of a speaker’s nightmare. The great part about speaking at a conference is that you have a captive audience. They are seated in rows and, kind-of, have to listen to you. Whereas now I was going to go up against some stiff competition. Why would people want to listen to me when they could be getting a free football from the NAB or a barista coffee from a fintech.
I was trying to stay calm when the organiser took me to meet the guy who was going to do a short introduction before me. I saw a face that I instantly recognised. For a moment I had an odd feeling that this was an old friend, then I caught myself and realised it was Phil Waugh, one of Australia’s greatest rugby union players. I had seen him play loads of times and was stoked to actually meet him. We had a great chat about rugby and banking and things – then it was show time. The dread came back.
250 people milling around the exhibitor’s stands. No one in the seats. I was going to spend 35 mins talking to chairs. I said to Phil “Might be a bit tough to get these folks to sit down and put their headsets on. I think we may be speaking to a bunch of empty seats.” He just looked at me, smiled and said “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” and, as fearlessly as he had charged into 1000 mauls filled with grumpy All Blacks, he launched himself onto the stage and, low & behold, over 10 minutes convinced about 150 people to don the headsets and take a seat. My fears subsided and I ended up having a whale of a time with the audience and their headsets while the other attendees milled around happily chatting to vendors & grabbing swag. The format creates an amazing energy in the room – I loved it.
For those who are unsure who is who in the photos, Phil is the guy in the Wallaby jersey. I’m the other bloke 😀
Thanks Phil Waugh for saving my bacon today and for your brilliance as a Wallaby.
Congratulations The Adviser Magazine, Momentum Media , Katie Ardzejewski , Jesse Maslen and Team for taking a chance with a new format for conferences. Fortune favours the bold and I think it worked out really well. I spoke to a number of exhibitors who loved the format so I think you are on to something here.