For decades, company executives have given speeches pitching to investors, engaging consumers and suppliers, and inspiring employees. But as the pace of the world and technology has moved on the style and embracement of such new techniques for engagement seem to have lagged behind.
Living in a world filled with daily frustration, people – especially the Millennials – are constantly searching for new inspirations from engagements that are short, insightful and fun to watch. Students are the main force of the consumer and labor markets in the next five to ten years. As a result for executives that are looking to engage with future consumers and attract the best talents, it is critical to understand what the Millennials love about a speech, and what makes it a failure. Here are the five most common reasons why executives fail to engage students in a public speech.
Missing the mark
Going off the topic is a killer of any effective speech. At times this occurs because because executives feel comfortable talking about the content they’ve known so well, rather than tapping into a new area. Whatever the reason, if the content is not relevant to the expected topic then attention will be lost very quickly. This is only seen as worse in Millenials’ eyes, a generation with aggressive goals to achieve and low tolerance for irrelevance.
Focusing on problems too big to resolve
Kicking off a speech with a holistic view of a challenge we face, its scale and impact is usually a great way to engage students. That big picture, however, needs to be backed up with powerful evidence, real life cases, and tangible solutions. Although they have clear goals and passion, students often lack the real-world experience necessary to act on them. A great speech needs to go that extra mile to provide students with the right tools to turn inspiration into action.
Trying too hard to impress
Executives are usually good at pitching business ideas. As a speaker, however, the intention should be to improve the condition of the audience rather than impress them. From our observations, most students attending a speech would have researched on the backgrounds of the speaker and their company. Instead of going into all the nitty-gritty of the business, executives should simply put the basics into their bio, and focus on sharing insights.
Failing to interact
With the widespread of social media, new knowledge is often picked up through peer-to-peer communications rather than lecturing. The role of a speaker is thus no longer simply delivering a message, but rather creating an experience where audience can participate, learn and share thoughts. They need to apply more interactive approaches such as brainstorm, group discussion and pitching throughout the process.
Underestimating the power of new media
Today’s youth are spending more time watching Youtube than ever before. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video clip can portray so much more. A short clip can be powerful in introducing a challenge, establishing an argument, illustrating a case or picturing the future. From our experiences, showing videos can always immediately bring back the energy of the audience.
To sum up, an effective speech is fun, tangible and interactive, with a clear theme and a natural flow. To fulfill the young generation’s expectations for a strong business leader, an executive has to be a great public speaker first.