Imagine taking three days off work to go see Hamilton in New York. The roundtrip airfare will likely set you back at least $600; two night’s hotel room at least that much; the ticket probably half again that much; and then add in meals and miscellaneous expenses and you are easily spending $2500 for the trip. And this is not even addressing the challenge of being out of the office. Now, what if you arrived only to find out the cast had decided that, instead of following a script and practicing, they were just going to “wing it”? 

How pissed off would you be?! I would be irate!! 

It happens at almost every insurance industry conference I attend 

I don’t know about you, but it pisses me off every time this scenario plays out at an industry conference. And it plays out WAY TOO OFTEN!! 

I speak at a significant number of conferences/events. I mention this only to establish that my observation is not an isolated event and also to help protect the not-so-innocent. 

Lack of preparation, and proud of it 

I regularly hear first-hand from other speakers who, while already onsite at a conference, profess to having not prepared for their presentation. And, they do so with a certain amount of smugness. 

And then we see countless others who continue to change their slides/presentation right up until stage time (wasting any preparation they may have done) or get onstage and abandon any script they may have had. The result in both situations becomes an incoherent message. 

This lack of preparation for yourself is one level of disrespect, but to pull other people into it is a whole other level. We've seen lead presenters, who were responsible for organizing panel discussions, refuse to organize discussion topics until an hour before going onstage.  

Not only were these "leaders" being insensitive to the audience, they were putting the others in the group discussions in a situation of embarrassing themselves and damaging their personal brands. Not surprisingly, the discussions ended up having almost nothing to do with the description of the sessions on the conference website. 

I find this inexcusable!! The attendees at these conferences have taken at least three days off work and spent upwards of $2000 to be there. As bad as it would be to be disappointed in an evening’s entertainment at Hamilton, this is way worse.  

These conference attendees are there to listen, get ideas, and learn how to better run their businesses. And they are depending on the speakers to be prepared. 

New levels of presenter insensitivity 

A new phenomenon has crept into presentations that is even worse than individual presenters not properly preparing. In two separate panel discussions, I have actually witnessed panelists checking their phones while other panelists were talking. In one case, the panelist was obviously typing out what appeared to be a rather lengthy message of some sort.  

You gotta be freakin’ kidding me!! 

You may be guilty too, even if you never take the stage 

I guess it really shouldn’t be such a surprise to see these presenters' lack of preparation. After all, it's way too common in our industry. 

Be honest with yourself, when was the last time you actually practiced and role played through the presentation/conversation you were about to have with a prospect? If you’re like most in our industry, probably never.  

Of course, it’s hard to practice a process/conversation that hasn’t been established. Those agencies/producers who are out there trying to sell without a framework of a sales process are no better than those conference presenters.  

You may only be in front of one or two people at a time, but you’re wasting their time, you’re wasting your time, and you’re blowing an opportunity. 

Note to presenters 

Your time onstage (or in front of a prospect) is NOT about you 

It is about your audience and the organization who asked you to present 

It is a privilege for you to have an hour of someone’s time (100 total people-hours or more in many situations), and it is a minimum expectation for you to organize your thoughts and practice your delivery to ensure their time is well spent.  

If you can’t do this, don’t take the stage. 

Photo by PanJoyCZ.