What if my Executive Speaker is a Bore?

“The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.” -- H.L. Mencken

What do you do when the most qualified person to speak on a topic is a boring presenter—the kind that makes listeners’ jaws tremble with stifled yawns, if they’re not already deep in their REM cycles? In the corporate world, the executive speaker in question may be our CEO, a valued customer or partner, an industry expert, or technical gurus from within the ranks.  Let's examine how an alternative means of their presentation content development or the addition of executive speaker coaching can make the difference between boredom and bravo!  Here's 3 easy tips to apply as needed.

It’s a familiar dilemma for many organizations: The person with the poker face and slow, plodding monotone is, by virtue of his or her title or expertise, the only one qualified to make the presentation.

What to do? The answer depends of course on many factors, including the speaker’s status, presentation goals, the meeting objectives, strength of the other presenters, etc. Given these variables, we offer the following tips for working constructively with a respected-though-lackluster orator:

1. Encourage stories. To enliven “dry” content, ask the speaker to include a few relevant personal examples or stories from their life or career experience to help the audience relate. Against conventional on modesty about speaking about oneself in public, one of the most gifted motivational speakers I have ever met, Dan Lumpkin, taught me about the value of storytelling. The right personal stories as part of the content development strategy will humanize the speaker, reinforce key messages, and engage the audience better. Bonus: even very reserved speakers tend to become more animated and conversational when sharing anecdotes that they can feel comfortable sharing. 

2. Offer coaching. Speakers without “sparkle” are usually aware of their shortcomings and take no pleasure from the spotlight. A professional presentation coach is not a last minute miracle worker when trying to mitigate a lifetime of bad habits. Yet, the right presentation coach when engaged with enough time in advance to bond with the speaker, can offer objective, supportive feedback and trusted tips to help such speakers increase their skills and confidence. The right coach, and the key words here is "a coach in which the executive can place his or her trust", can also make certain that the content organization, language, and visuals are optimized to support the speaker’s and the meeting’s objectives.

3. Consider alternative formats. A direct address to the audience may not be the optimal format for your skills-challenged speaker. Rather than speaking from the lectern, would your presenter come across better as a participant in a panel discussion? Or maybe he or she could be more engaging as the subject of an onstage (or videotaped) interview? Sitting in a swivel chair being interviewed by a professional moderator, a "talk show" concept" is especially effective because you can have the moderator ask questions that are most likely to be in the minds of the audience--which by the way will increase their retention to the material dramatically.


Got strategies or tips for minimizing the tranquilizing effects of a low-impact speaker? Post your responses here.

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