Financial services communication expertise (with an edge) for financial services, from BlueChip Communication co-founder Carden Calder. Yes, it's niche... we're experts at what we do. Like social media, PR, content marketing & communication consulting. And frank about what we don't do... like sell toothpaste.
Realisation 1: How unusual it is to have an all-female
keynote or plenary line-up on Day One Realisation 2: Truly great keynote
speeches all have the same ingredients Realisation 3: The more information we
are faced with, the more meaningless it becomes
These things may not sound like blinding insights, but they
do point to some important lessons for wanna-be conference speakers, or those
of us who speak regularly but sometimes fall into the trap of telling people
what we know, instead of something the audience might actually find both useful
And make no mistake, whether you're an actuary, asset
management PhD or Australian of the Year, you need to be both useful AND
entertaining. That's the bit in points two and three about using narrative
techniques that work well for you and your audience - regardless of the topic.
If you disagree, think for one minute about a well-known
Superannuation Board member and former Central Banker who is like a human
sleeping pill. Incredibly capable, a national treasure, well respected and yet
induces narcolepsy in even the most well-caffeinated of audiences.
Due credit to ASFA for putting together a diverse
Day One speaker line-up, all of whom met the "useful and
entertaining" test. Due credit also for having a Day One line-up where
Rosemary Vilgan and Ita Buttrose were the Day One opening Plenary speakers.
Both are exceptional leaders, with an informed view and much value to offer the
audience. Both are also women - but it's rare (and laudable) to see two women
Here is the anatomy of what each speaker did, to varying
degrees of success.
First: know thy audience
Ita Buttrose and Mark Bouris are paid keynote speakers,
household names and leaders in their field. If it's good enough for them to
study their audience, in this case superannuation industry leaders, and work
hard to connect with us, it's good enough for you and I.
I am humbled by how much work good professional speakers do
to make sure they know who they are talking to and how to relate their story to
those people. Ita Buttrose did not make the mistake of turning up and saying
what she always says - she (or a speech writer) thought about what would
resonate with us as well as serve her own purposes (promoting the
cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s' disease).
It's this process of sitting in the audience's shoes, and
thinking deeply about our own agenda form their perspective, that humbles us,
makes for a generous presentation and help us connect with people who give time
and attention to us.
Second: know your "why"
Listening to Russell Investment's indomitable Don Ezra was a
delight. And that's despite the fact that I am not a 60+ year old semi-retired
investment guru. Don was so passionate and warm in his delivery that he
infected me with his own enthusiasm for a better way to think and behave about
income in retirement.
I'm not sure this was always his spiel, but he sounds like a
man fired up on behalf of a large and growing group of people - of whom he is
one, but also on whom he is a subject matter expert.
Don is an investment strategist, now semi-retired but also,
it seems to me, in the happy place of having arrived at a moment in time during
which his work is both a higher purpose and source of income. Perhaps it was
always this way for Don. Or perhaps he's worked hard to reach the destination.
Either way, all truly great speakers (Buttrose and Bouris
included) are clear about what they care deeply about - and able to infect us
with their own passion as a result.
Rosemary Vilgan had a lot more content to impart but also
was crystal clear about what matters most - and that's the best possible
outcome for Australians who are retired, delivered by a super system that needs
to evolve. It's clearly something she cares deeply about, as should we all if
we are to work in financial services.
Third: keep it as simple as you can
We all "know" that this is the age of information
overload. But do we really use that when we sit down to prepare a conference
presentation? Mmmm not often enough if my years of conference attendance are
anything to go by.
From an evolutionary biology point of view we are the
equivalent of slightly evolved apes staring, confused and aghast, into the
matrix. That's sounds a bit harsh, but Google "information overload"
and "evolutionary biology", or "behavioural finance choice"
and you'll see what I mean.
The short version is this:
- We live in an age where the amount of information
available to us has outstripped our ability to process it
- Most of us living and working in an urban environment
experience some level of overload
- The more information we are presented with (or allow in)
the less helpful it becomes - and our ability to make good decisions drops
So what does that mean if you're a conference speaker? You
probably consistently over-estimate your audience's ability to absorb what you
are saying. And your own ability to make it simple enough to be useful.
In short, the more time invested up front making our subject
matter expertise accessible, the better.
Matt Church (an expert on Thought Leadership) gets this, so
I'm very much looking forward to his session on Friday.
Perhaps that should be compulsory viewing for more
Bouris, Buttrose, Ezra and Vilgan kept it at the right level
- there was well thought through content, but there were also clear themes even
the most overloaded brain could follow.
There's much more to truly great speaking that three
ingredients. That said, even just getting these right is an act of generousity
towards our audiences.
Isn't that what leadership and leadership communication is
all about - serving our audience, not just ourselves?