I recently attended a conference breakout session where the presenters did more to make the audience feel like captives and less to captivate the audience with their content. It was uncomfortable and noticed by many more than just me. So, I implore anyone who speaks to a conference..."captivate us with great content so that we want to try your product! Don't hold us captive so that we leave feeling that we don't want the product even if it was a product we might need.
It goes without saying that anyone who is a conference exhibitor is ultimately there to promote a product. That's just the nature of the event; however, there is...or should be...a code-of-conduct to follow when making a presentation - especially if it is a breakout session. If you're a keynote speaker you are there, most likely, to promote a book or to promote yourself for a future speaking engagement. If you're at a conference for an individual breakout session then, most likely, it's to promote the same or a professional service. Many times an exhibitor is provided with the opportunity to speak as a means of obtaining a different level of sponsorship.
The key to unlocking this code and to being successful is to appear open and engaging. Make the audience - whether it is at a HR Conference or not - become so totally enthralled with your product(s) that they're left with no other option but to seek out more information. Make us want....no, utterly need...to know more.
Don't alienate us with an aggressive sell.
Breaking the Code
I was ready to leave within thirty minutes from the start of the presentation but, being Southern, didn't want to be rude by leaving. The presenters broke the code by making the audience feel captive with the positioning of multiple people from the speaker's organization. In addition, the theme of the session was lost and replaced with the underlying but repeated attempts to encourage the audience to try the product or provide our contact information. For me personally, even if this was a product I would think I or my company might use, I would seek out another provider.
Nothing breaks the code or turns away a prospect more, in my opinion, than an overly aggressive hard sell.
Destroying the Code
I had a follow-up with the company prior to leaving the conference. Unfortunately, the hard-sell was still there and this only provided further evidence that I was not interested. The hard-sell did not win me over. It did not win over the others in the breakout. It did sell me on the need to voice my displeasure in this post. While I did not mention the company name...as that is ultimately irrelevant...I hope that this was a one-off bad presentation for them. If not, I will avoid attending another presentation by this company.
What do you think?