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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Business Speaker Guide: How to Present to Corporate Audiences

Take it from a business speaker: Corporate audiences are among the most sophisticated, demanding and well-informed groups of spectators a keynote speaker can ever present to. Happily, business executives are also among the most receptive to and interested in hearing your message… Authoritative insight, fresh perspectives and innovative solutions are often prized amongst company leaders as a vital wellspring for business growth and transformation.

The good news for presenters hoping to make a mark with the executive crowd? Despite commonly-held misperceptions, you’re not there to solve anyone’s problems overnight – merely steer those closest to the situation towards asking better questions. Following are several ways you can do just that as a business speaker, and provide a powerful presence from the podium whose benefit to clients continues to reverberate long after the physical echoes of any speech have faded.

Understand Your Audience

No two businesses are alike, nor operating realities – coming to know and understand corporate clients, the products and services they offer, and changing industry landscapes within which they operate is crucial.

Presentations should always be customized to individual firm and audience level, taking into account attendees’ day-to-day challenges and concerns, and incorporating stories or learning which address or parallel viewers’ hands-on experiences. Where multiple stakeholders, departments and initiatives are involved, it further helps to couch presentations in terms that are universally applicable – what matters is context and strategic takeaway, not granularity.

Taking time to truly understand each organization to which you speak, the area in which it does business, and shifting shape of the professional playing field not only helps establish trust and empathy. It makes you a more capable speaker on the platform, and better-equipped to both realistically frame points of concern and provide tailored insight and learning that allows attendees to gain new perspective on them.

Participate to the Fullest Extent

Events incorporating outside business speakers are often designed to offer motivation, inspiration, authoritative input, fresh perspective, underscoring of key themes, a rousing kick-off for new initiatives, or some combination of each. All situations imply a positive sense of growth, change and momentum – points which should be reflected in the passion and verve you bring to the stage, and reflected in actions taken even when outside the spotlight.

Where appropriate, speakers should make a point of arriving to meetings, conventions early, staying late and speaking with attendees: If it helps, consider yourself as much a participant as any stakeholder. By truly taking the time to listen to others on-hand, not just talk at them, you empower two-way dialogue, gain in insight, and receive valuable feedback that should be incorporated you’re your presentations, presenting a sense of timeliness and dynamism.

The problem with canned talks or cookie-cutter speeches? They feel as if you’re talking at an audience, not with them – and (especially in the case of sessions which occur in the middle of event programs) look at best indifferent if salient points made in earlier sessions aren’t addressed. Whether by participating in conference calls and putting questions to on-the-job experts prior to day-of programs, or making a point of attending panels you’re not featured on, always go the extra mile – as successful business speakers can tell you, it reflects in the end-result.

Get Audiences Involved

Being on the day-to-day frontlines, attendees and key stakeholders are better-attuned to the reality of their own scenario. They also have a vested interest in seeing you succeed – so why not get them more involved in presentations?

Many simple strategies can help you boost engagement, awareness and takeaway, e.g. inviting observers to participate by submitting questions and suggestions prior to your presentation. Alternately, you might ask them to tape and send you commentary in the form of videos, podcasts or testimonials – all of which, like the above, can be incorporated into your programs. Not only can feedback and input help more effectively inform and steer the direction and content of your speeches to provide greater value for the end viewer. Hearing from colleagues or managers within one’s own company also helps programs hit closer to home for attendees and demonstrate how the topics you’re speaking on impact organizations on a more relatable and personable level.

Even an act as simple as requesting questions from your audience up-front and touching upon them when presenting shows that you’ve taken the time to better address key points of concern. It all adds up to more compelling, relevant and well-received presentations – and reinforces that you both value your audience’s contributions, and have gone the extra mile to ensure that their voice is being heard.

For more, please see PART TWO of our business speakers guide on presenting more effectively to corporate audiences.

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