There should be a law against most internal company conferences. No ..really there should!
My name is Bob Etherington and I am a veteran of at least 100 such ‘do’ s in the past 40 years and nearly all of them should never have been allowed! Well..let me rephrase that, just a bit: the plenary sessions should never have been allowed. That’s the bit where the audience sit row upon row in the semi-dark, theater style, while their bosses and peers talk at them. They admonish them sometimes; congratulate them mostly and generally show them PowerPoint slides every time. “This is what they want!” Yeah right!
I asked one senior manager of a large British company what was his primary objective when he stepped on the conference platform. He replied, without hesitation: “I try to impress them!”
But Geoff (that is his name so now, if he reads this, he’ll know it’s him) your audience don’t want to hear about ‘You’. They are not the slightest bit interested in ‘You’. And You [dear reader] are not the slightest bit interested in Bob Etherington…..that’s just the way it is.
Of course what the conference audience is asking themselves -to a man- is the same unspoken question that you have in your head reading this: “What’s in this for ME?”
Your audience -any conference audience- seeks to be generally and personally inspired to work hard so that the company may make even more money in the next fiscal year. You know from all the management courses you’ve attended that the art of management is to get staff to do voluntarily that which must be done anyway. So telling them all the good and worthy works YOU’ve completed isn’t going to make them do anything. Remember the David Brent (Ricky Gervais) address to his staff in the early 2000 BBCTV comedy ‘The Office’. “I have some good news and some bad news today. The bad news is we are amalgamating with the Swindon Office so some of you will be made redundant” [Silence and shocked faces] …But the good news is… I’ve been promoted !! [More dumbfounded silence] …Oh..I can see some of you are still on the bad news!” We wince with embarrassment because we have witnessed this type of crass statement in the real business World. It is not as rare as we hope.
In a recent HR survey it was firmly established once again that what staff value most of all in their jobs is not what many managers think it is. The most important factors are:
1) Feeling appreciated.
2) Having something interesting to do.
3) Being kept on the inside track.
4) Sympathy for personal problems.
6) A happy working environment.
7) Promotion prospects.
8) Job Security.
So to get the serried ranks of your employees inspired to come in early, stay late (and work hard while they are working for you), tell them how good they are and congratulate them. If times are tough keep them on the inside track by telling them what’s going on. Cut the rumor mill off at the pass and tell them what you are doing to fix things for them. Tell them how they will benefit, personally, from doing what must be done.
Have the good manners also to rehearse your presentation in front of a person of similar standing in your company and ask for genuine feedback on how the message is coming across. Just showing up with a memory stick containing all your PowerPoint slides half an hour beforehand and hoping for the best is not inspirational management. The Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stated that “Everybody loves flattery….but with Royalty you lay it on with a trowel” Your staff, just like my staff in Bob Etherington Group, are your Royalty and without them nothing happens. Your ‘stuff’ all about your department and your personal triumphs is not what most internal audiences want to hear. They are there to be inspired. So inspire them..flatter them…Say, “Thank you”…. “I’m proud of you”….”Well done!” (the rarest and most powerful words in the management lexicon)
Now you’re talking business!