How to make your content shine, even if your speaker fails

Follow these five tips to avoid the dreaded speaker fail.

Words by Emma Bannister, founder and CEO of Presentation Studio

You’ve secured your dream speaker. They are a subject matter expert and thought leader – the perfect person to present at your upcoming event.

You’ve advertised the speaker widely, relying on their name to draw in crowds. Then, they get up to speak and…crickets.

They fumble and mumble. Their delivery is totally flat – you can practically see the audience falling asleep.

As the CEO of a leading presentation agency in APAC, I know the dangers of prioritising your speaker over your content. It’s important that your content is just as exciting as your speaker. Here is my top advice for making that a reality at your next event.

Message over medium

Delivery is a key part of an effective and impactful presentation. However, if you only prioritise your speaker and neglect the quality of your content, disasters await.

Your speaker is the riskiest element of the package. Depending on their level of preparation, their nerves and their mood, their delivery could differ dramatically from your expectations. That’s why you need to focus on creating a fool-proof message, which can’t be impacted by faulty delivery.

Your content should speak louder than your speaker, adaptable to whoever is presenting and full of value in and of itself. If you rely on your speaker to do all the hard work, you’re taking a big risk.

Tell a story

Humans are driven by narratives. That goes for your audience too. An engaged, attentive and convinced audience have bought into a story.

No speaker, no matter how disengaging, can ruin a good story. While good story-telling skills help, narratives speak for themselves.

Remember being read to when you were a child? It didn’t really matter if the person who was reading to you stumbled, forgot their place or even fell asleep mid-way through the chapter! It was the story itself which kept your attention, not the reader.

The same principle goes for presentations. By ensuring that your content has a strong narrative drive, with a beginning, climax and end point – you create a safety net for your speaker.

Structure is key

A good presentation, no matter how bad the speaker is, relies on clear structure. It is your structure which carries your message, delivers your research and creates connection with your audience.

The best way to ensure structure is thoughtful planning before you write your content. Sit down with a piece of paper and write, or sketch, the journey you want to take your audience on. Plan out where your evidence, anecdotes and ‘call to action’ will be.

By making sure your content is carefully structured, you minimise the likelihood of speakers going astray or rambling on. A well-constructed presentation is easy to understand – not only for your audience but for your speaker too.

Structure also means presentations are easier to memorise, allowing your speaker more confidence.

Build in emotion

When a presentation falls flat, often a lack of connection is to blame. An underprepared, nervous or unengaging presenter will not be able to emotionally connect with your audience.

That’s why your content has to do it for them! Build in emotion through humorous stories, affecting information and relevant examples. By building emotion into your presentation, even if your speaker fails to deliver, the impact will not be lost.

Content saves the day

When your next event rolls around, you want to be confident. You want be to sure that your audience receives your message loud and clear, no matter who the speaker is.

Of course, a great speaker is an added bonus – but so often we can not guarantee this. However, you can guarantee that your content stands up to the test.

Great content should support a speaker, shining through any level of delivery. Create an emotive and structured narrative which is relevant to your audience – then stand back and watch the magic happen.

Ensure your content is just as exciting as your speaker, that’s the secret to success.

Emma Bannister is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.

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