A Lesson on How to Follow a Great Speaker

Jill GeerOne of those public speaking nightmares came true today. Not the one where you forget your pants, lose your speaking notes or your AV doesn’t work. We were prepped and ready to take the stage, and had notes, pants and AV working perfectly. There was just one problem (for us, not the audience) … the two speakers in front of us completely knocked it out of the park at the IEG Sponsorship conference in Chicago. (#IEG2014)

I witnessed two of the most inspirational presentations today, but I was just as impressed with how two people who followed those excellent speakers handled the situation.
Luis Carlo Franco gave a tear-jerking presentation on how Ogilvy & Mather did a pro bono marketing campaign to tie organ donation to soccer passion in Brazil. I about cried (at the presentation itself and also knowing we were just a few minutes from speaking ourselves).

Then, something great happened. The speaker who followed him – Hugh Evans of the Global Poverty Project – stood up on the podium and said, “Let’s all give him (Luis) another hand for his inspired work.” It was so gracious and was equally endearing to the audience.

Then Hugh proceeded to absolutely command the audience about his organization’s efforts to fight global poverty. He even had a video of himself with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters as they did a charity event for hunger. Didn’t see that one coming. Then, he went on one of the most inspirational presentations I have seen. Yep, I about cried again.

So, now it was our turn.

I was joining two of my friends and colleagues – Steve Penny of USA Gymnastics and Jill Geer of USA Track & Field – to talk about a new Olympic sport sponsorship concept called “Trio to Rio” to our sports marketing peers (more on that in a later blog). It was a timely topic and even innovative in Olympic sports marketing, but we literally followed two life-saving topics.

Jill was the first speaker of our group and could have easily said “How do you follow that?” or could have played down the relative global importance of our marketing topic compared to their life-saving efforts. The easy out was to be self-deprecating and defer to the previous speakers, and therefore give her less credibility with the audience.

She didn’t. She was gracious, and even congratulated them on their great work and expressed her personal appreciation for the worthy causes they are championing. Then, she smoothly said we are going to change direction slightly and launched into our topic, and of course nailed it.

I bet Jill (and Hugh) received just as many compliments for how graciously they handled that situation as the content of their presentations.

And, that’s how you follow a great speaker.


Categories: Olympics

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