Remember to K.I.S.S at conferences

Like many in the profession, I have been to a few conferences in the last few weeks. I always enjoy meeting up with my extended family of colleagues; many of whom I usually only meet in cyberspace. Learning something new, no matter how small and hopefully being inspired to set myself new challenges are also an important part of these gatherings.

I find myself regularly amazed that people who work in a time-constrained profession are somehow unable to manage time effectively and to keep it short and simple ( KISS). At two of the conferences I attended a plenary speaker continued to talk forty minutes after his allotted time (sorry but in both cases they were men). They both in fact talked for double the amount of time required. I can understand inexperienced speakers over-preparing but both of these speakers had extensive conference experience. Here are my reasons why short is definitely sweet.

Lack of impact
You may grab the attention of your audience at the start of your talk but you are living on borrowed time. The recent expansion of technology into our personal zone has led to digital natives and digital immigrants  who have short attention spans. From my experience if you are going to talk or more than 20 minutes you need a change of focus or medium to keep your audience engaged. Use of video or audience participation are examples. If you bore your audience that is their lasting memory of your talk.

It’s just not cricket
If the eyes of your audience have become glazed, you are throwing out open questions without receiving many responses, people in the audience have their heads down in their mobile phones ( don’t assume this means they are tweeting about you) or they are twitching in their seats you have basically lost their minds and hearts. It’s then patently rude to torture the audience any more by expecting them sit through more of the same. It does not matter how qualified or experienced a speaker is there is no excuse for ignoring the needs of your audience. Without your audience you are nothing.

Losing co- presenters respect

Making an over-long speech often has a knock-on effect on the rest of the talks or workshops throughout the day. Either the other presenters have to cut their sessions short or the whole timetable has to be changed. Some presenters may have other pressing engagements so this can also lead to cancellations. Often presenters have travelled from abroad to come to conferences and they have taken time out from their busy schedules. Being punctual and having good time management skills are part of being a professional. Any presenter who does not follow these standards will quickly lose their colleagues respect.

On the up side I must conclude by mentioning that I have also had the pleasure recently  of being in some very informative, well- presented plenaries. I personally love speakers who know how to K.I.S.S.

Sent from my iPad

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One Response to Remember to K.I.S.S at conferences

  1. tahirabbas101 says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Often the route to success is the need to ensure a robust chair who can keep speakers in check. They can embarrass their co-platform-wallahs if need be. I also find that this problem is not specific to a particular region of the world, east or west. Perhaps it is more noticeable when it happens more often in certain places than others, but potentially all speakers from all backgrounds are at risk of over-running. A class lecture should last no more than 40 in terms of its key segment. A conference paper, often 20 minutes, with an additional Q/A of 10 minutes, usually after all the panelists have spoken. If you are invited to specialist round table gathering and if you have been allocated 10 minutes to speak, for example you had better not run over!

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