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This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers analyze the state and future of their industry. Read all the posts here.

How often do you find yourself at a seminar or conference doing your absolute best to listen to the speaker in the front of the room – but your mind wanders? You have spent time and money getting there, you know that the topic is relevant and of value to you, but you struggle to listen, simply because the speaker is getting in the way of the content. The room is dark, you begin to doze – you feel ripped off.

The public speaking industry fits somewhere between education and entertainment.

Where is disruptive innovation going to come from? It will come, that’s certain, because the cost/benefit return for the vast majority of events is not there for the participants. The webinar may well do this. The cost of attending is greatly reduced since you can attend from your desk – no travel time or cost. And if the speaker is not on message or providing the value you anticipated, you can vote with your feet and log off, without anyone knowing. (By the way, I’m doing one on 23 May.)

I thought the webinar might greatly reduce the number of speaking events, but after a number of years of using the technology, what we see is it has only increased the size of the market. Events that might never have been run can get air time.

Ted talks delivered online have shown us that a powerful concept can be delivered in just 18 minutes. No one arrives to do a Ted talk not having prepared.

So where will the disruption come from? It will come. Those participants in the industry such as booking agents, organizers and managers will only thrive if they are adding good value to the process.

The people taking to a stage without experience or the support of agents and managers tend to be:

The company rep
The business leader
The consultant
The author
The researcher
The agent
The expert
The community leader
The government employee
The politician
In my experience 90% of those participating in this industry are not trained in the delivery of a vivid and inspiring presentation. Most simply grab a Powerpoint deck which they read and head to the platform, crossing their fingers that they will survive the process.

They show up and throw up.

The situation gets even worse with panels where no one takes responsibility for “how the audience is left.” Most times the panelists are vying for attention, not listening to each other, talking one on top of the other, and the moderator is untrained and does little to keep the conversation on track. They are not a good return on time invested by the audience.

I believe that to really upgrade and improve the customer experience of all participants at events, our education system must evolve to realize that learning to speak publicly is as important as learning to structure an argument in an essay.

It is the rudest, most indulgent thing for any speaker to abuse the position they have been given to take people’s most precious resource – time. As our society evolves, what gets taught in schools needs to as well. Our oratory skills are as important as our ability to structure a written sentence.

So if you find yourself asked to present to a group of people – no matter how small or large – respect the audience: ask “What do I want the audience to get from my presentation?”. And please practice.

Photo: Aaron Amat / shutterstock

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