Thursday, September 23, 2010

Partnercon Speaker Preparation

I thought it might be interesting to have this out there on the ether ... (or however we categorize this now). This is the speaker preparation and expectations memo that is issued to all of the speakers at Partnercon. Frankly, I think it should be the speaker preparation memo distributed to all speakers at all photography conferences, but if I said that you'd need to forgive me for overstepping...

It's out here for two reasons. One. I think it shows a little tiny piece of what goes on behind the scenes in conference preparation. Putting these things on is no small task. Two, it creates an element of accountability between the attendees and the speakers and teachers at Partnercon. So, here it is ...

Speaker Memo 1 - PartnerCon, 2010. November 9-11. New Orleans, LA.

Hey Y’all,

It’s hard for me to believe that Partnercon is already less than two months away. We’re headed down there in a week or so to check out the venues and meet with the hotel and that will bring it all home for me for sure. Last year we did conference calls for speakers ahead of time but I know these are hard to fit into your schedules. This year I’m going to try to impart the same information here, so this is for you.

I’ll say up front that this is truly a “big boy pants” communication. (If you know me at all you’re used to these but if you don’t some of the tone may come as a little bit of a surprise. Rest assured that I love you, but I want to give you every chance for success).

Many of you speak a lot. Believe it or not, this is just as much for you as for the folks who are speaking for the first time. Maybe more. In my experience, and I’ve heard many of you speak, many of you are resting on your laurels. For this conference in particular I strongly encourage you to consider branching out and approaching your subject in a fresh way. You may be surprised at what YOU learn in the process.

That’s a tough statement. I get that. What gives me the right to say this? Well, two things. One. Before we had officially announced the speaker schedule for this conference there were over 200 registrations. These are people who simply trust Pictage to make this week great. In many respects, that actually increases the pressure for us and we take their trust very seriously. Two. Every single person who is coming has paid their way to be there (including all of you!). Folks spend real money to be there and I believe we ALL owe it to these people to do everything we can to honor their trust and sacrifice and to give them our best in everything we do.

Now. You’ve been chosen to speak at this conference and that’s meaningful. We had over 150 abstracts submitted. The community team and yours-truly spent hours (quite literally) going through all of the options and we’ve chosen you. In case you’re wondering why, there are two reasons. One. We know you. We’ve seen you speak and we know what you can do. We know you rock. Not a single speaker was chosen this year because of their fame. Every single person who is speaking has a passion and a unique perspective and a level of professionalism that causes us to trust that you won’t just fill the time, you’ll actually knock the ball out of the park. In truth, we’re incredibly excited about this year’s slate of speakers. We strongly believe that for actual content value you represent the best the industry has to offer.

With all of this said I am offering the attached guidelines to successful presentation preparation. I offered the same guidelines last year. Some people took advantage of them. Some didn’t. It was clear who was who. (some of those who didn’t did just fine because they took the gist to heart and did their own thing.)

Understand that I send this because I really, really want you to succeed. There are few things that I am a real stickler about. This is one of them. I take preparation for my participation very seriously. I’m just looking for you to do the same ...

Enough preamble! Here goes:

  1. Your presentation needs to have an introduction, content, and an end. It should tell a story. There is an old public-speaking saying, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” Over the years I’ve learned something about old sayings, they’re usually right. So, make your first slide an agenda and your last slide a conclusion. (Hint - I actually make these first when I’m building a presentation as they keep me on track).
  2. Never do the same presentation twice. The reason is that while it may be fresh for the audience it won’t be fresh for you. That will come across. Even if you’re just freshening some images, etc., make sure you are making the presentation new enough for you that you’d enjoy hearing it even if you’d heard it before. This applies in this space as there are lots of people who’ve heard you speak. They’re coming back because the liked it last time, but they’re hoping for something new. (BTW - this was the most common complaint in our after surveys last year... “so and so just keeps doing the same old presentation.” Don’t let that be you.)
  3. Give them very practical takeaways. Presentations with Five rules for this and Ten steps to that are VERY effective presentations. (these rules and steps are also GREAT blog posts and if you tell the folks who come to your presentation that you’ll be putting them on your blog later that day you’ll be amazed at the interaction you drive).
  4. This is a presentation, not a slide show. Most of you are photographers. I strongly encourage you ALL to intermix images into your presentations. Your images bring continued connection and credibility to what you’re saying. They provide a place to connect. But make sure you have very strong and specific content wrapped around any slideshows. To make sure this is the case, embed your slideshows into a Keynote presentation. This will keep you on track. If any of your slideshows are longer than 3 minutes they’re too long. Attendees have exceptional “filler meters” and they will see long slide shows as ways to fill speaking time.
  5. If you’re leading a shooting workshop you need a plan. New Orleans is a veritable cornucopia of backgrounds. Many who came last year have said they got some of their best portfolio work all year just goofing around outside at Partnercon. But there are secrets to success ... Know how many attendees you have and how long you have and make sure your plan takes all of that into account. Walk the route and plan impromptu shoot locations along the way. Take someone you know and trust- another photographer, helper, along with you to work with attendees while you are busy. Know what shots you want where and make the attendees put their cameras down while you are instructing. Then, make sure they have time to shoot!
  6. Mind your internal clock. (and if you don’t have one make sure you have an external clock somewhere you can see it). In most cases you only have an hour. That time can fly be and it can crawl by. The best method to making sure your presentation works in the time allotted is to practice it. Find a local PUG and use it there. Ask for feedback. Listen. If you do this one thing you will be prepared.

That’s it for now folks. If some of what I’ve said here is offensive to some of you I’m sorry. I have enormous respect for you all, both as individuals and as photographers. If I didn’t you wouldn’t be on the dais. I want to challenge you all to be better, both because I think our attendees deserve it and because I think it’s more fun to take a risk and do something new than to simply do the same old thing ... And that’s probably the best reason of all!



1 comment:

Gary Fong, Author said...

That would be neat if WPPI did the same thing.