Death of a speaker…NOT!

I listened to journalist and author Jeff Jarvis tell 1000 professional speakers from across the globe that a disruption is coming that will forever change the landscape of the meetings industry. He went on to say that speakers who refuse to adapt will find themselves in trouble. Jeff is an old school New York newpaper man who was on the last train into the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. In the following weeks, he began to blog about his experience which lead to hundreds of thousands of followers and a shift in his perception about the dessimination of content. He began to believe that freely given content was going to disrupt the media business and newspapers and magazines that tried to control and monetize it were going to find themselves on shifting ground…he was right. Thanks to free content on the internet, newspapers and print magazines around the world have been reluctantly closing down their presses with a swiftness that would make Gutenberg roll over in his grave. Jarvis told us (speakers) that youtube, Google+Hangout, and crowd sourced formats are going to replace the traditional speaker model and if we did not find new ways to communicate our content then we run the risk of becoming obsolete. I 43% agree with his line of thinking. If you paint all professional speakers as simply distributors of content then yes, there are multiple ways to receive information. Our audiences are now participating in the conversation and are more informed than ever before which requires speakers to remain current and relevant.  I do, however, believe that good professional speakers don’t just communicate content, we PERFORM content. As a professional speaker, I am responsible for not only delivering my message but also delivering an experience. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a humorist so there are no huge gasps of awe as I blow peoples minds with new information, but even the “content speakers” Like Gary Vaynerchuk, Peter Sheahan, Jeffrey Gitomer and yes Jeff Jarvis help create a live experience with charisma, talent, skill and PERFORMANCE that will never be replaced by google+hangout or youtube. The economy is still bad! we get it! conventions have been hit hard because it is expensive to make one happen when people are being forced to choose where to invest time and resources. This has created an opportunity to receive content from other sources BUT I believe that this is a distant second to being a part of a gathering with a charismatic professional speaker at the helm. I’d much rather hear the Eagles live than on my iphone wouldn’t you? So YES, I agree that like the newspaper and magazine business, the speaking industry is in a state of disruption. Yes, some of the speaker herd will fall to the wolves, but I also believe that as long as people gather in person to learn, share ideas, and eat Marriott chicken, there will be a need for a brilliant professional speaker to lead the conversation.


  1. Kelly Swanson on August 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Bravo! My thoughts EXACTLY Patrick! As a speaker/PERFORMER myself, I hear a lot of talk about webinars, and other ways of electronically passing along our message. And while the idea of being in two places at once appeals to my pocket book – I realize that nothing on the computer will come close to experiencing me live. And if you want a piece of Kelly Swanson and what she gives you (get your mind out of the gutter, Patrick) – then you HAVE to see it.

    So if that cuts out some streams of revenue – so be it. I’m happy to be the one that you just can’t duplicate or make digital.

    And you are right, Patrick – if you are a speaker who simply dumps information on people – then you don’t really need to leave your house. They can just buy the book. Or rather the ebook.

    Thanks for the post. It rocks.

  2. onethoughtbeyond on August 9, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I would like to add (how bold is that? Adding to someone else’s WELL WRITTEN blog?!) Conference/Workshop Coordinators need to take caution, when they are booking speakers, often they will go with members to share knowledge because of budget, but the delivery is lacking the PERFORMANCE, often missing the engagement needed for an audience to understand and take in the message. The Conference pocket book is the one who takes the hit for this lack of quality speaking when the next years attendance is lower and once again the budget is even smaller.

    I also think webinars have their place (being a webinar presenter myself, it is actually my strength, as my on-stage performance needs more practice), my opinion is they are not a replacement to speaking engagements but a supporting tool to bring home your message, give your audience more value and keep in contact. Sometimes, people go home from a great PERFORMANCE, love the message and the motivation, but need help when they get home to implement. Who better to than the person who motivated them in the first place!

    Thanks for sharing on Facebook Kelly, I truly enjoyed the reflection and thanks Patrick, great thought provoking post. 🙂

Leave a Comment