The Speakery Manifesto

The speakery manifesto is a work in progress. At the moment, there are nine theories, ideas and observations. They are currently in no particular order. There will be more.

Marcus Brown - 08.03.2021

01 Presenting finds itself in a new reality.

Let’s quickly define what I mean by presenting. TEDx without slides is a presentation. Standing on a big stage, presenting death by PowerPoint to one thousand people is a presentation too. So are monthly internal sales reviews, a new business pitch, and so are company-wide “all-hands”.

Presentations find themselves in a new, digital reality: a screen context with different rules, exciting features and possibilities, and disappointing limitations. Understanding and embracing this new reality is crucial to unlocking the power of speakery.

02 Presenting is performance.

The moment you stand in front of people, with your clicker in your hand and your PowerPoints at the ready - you’re performing. You’re presenting the stage version of yourself.

In this new, post-pandemic presentation reality, you have to give the audience the camera version of you.

Both versions require higher energy levels than you would typically be prepared to give. It’s a hyper-you. It's the version of you who loves the camera. It’s the speakery you.

03 Audience Obsession - The audience is everything.

One of my speakery principles (yes, I have principles) is audience obsession. I kind of stole this from the Amazon leadership principles.

You won’t become a great presentation performer only because of your great idea. You need to be obsessed with the audience and how to give them the best possible experience, regardless of where they may be.

04 Presenting is now filmmaking.

The shift from the real world to the screen world means that presentations are now films.

A post-pandemic speaker has more in common with a YouTube creator than an actor standing on a stage.

To fully understand speakery as a format, you need to learn the basic skills of filmmaking, scripting, directing, editing and production. You will need a new skill set.

05 The keynote is dead - long live the speakery.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t kill the keynote. It was already dead.

I believe that experienced audiences had already become tired of seeing primarily white middle-aged men standing on a stage in front of PowerPoint slides. The sheer joy of seeing women and people of colour on a conference stage blinded us to the reality that the format was quickly losing the will to live.

The shift to screens and virtual events forces the speaker to approach their content differently, learn new skills and develop and use new workflows.

The speaker's product looks, sounds and feels fresh, new and exciting because they are well-produced video essays that are layered, complex and rich.

The speaker gives cinematic performances. They can be live, pre-recorded or blended.

It's a new format. It's not a keynote. It’s a speakery.

06 A Speakery can be an event in its own right.

07 Presenters live in The Phantom Zone.

Remember Superman II with Christopher Reeves? With General Zod, Ursa and Non trapped in that spinning plate of glass in space? It was called The Phantom Zone, and it’s where we all currently find ourselves - trapped in a screen of glass and pixels.

We could see this as a punishment - presenters sentenced to a life of constantly breaking the 4th-wall.

We could, however, embrace it as an opportunity to experiment, learn, and create something new and exciting. Students of speakery thrive in The Phantom Zone.

08 This isn’t going away.

It’s only natural that the live event ecosystem hopes and prays that the current pandemic restrictions will be over soon. That things will go back to normal—the old normal. Don’t get me wrong; I want to stand on a stage in front of live audiences again too. It’s not going to happen, though - well, not at the scale it did before January 2020.

CFOs will be looking at the cost-per-event benefits and realising that they saved a shit load of money during the lockdowns. Not being at that industry trade fair in Las Vegas had zero negative effect on their sales.

I think we’re looking at a more hybrid-event future: blended formats with smaller live audiences and larger digital audiences. If somebody is looking to crack into the speaker circuit, they’ll need to adapt their formats accordingly, and they need to start now.

09 The lazy days are over.

Everyone had their workflows in place up until the outbreak of COVID-19: senior management would have their communication team knock up a PowerPoint. Keynote speakers had a standard deck that they might update once, or twice a year. Event organisers booked prominent speakers to attract big-name sponsors to fill big locations with punters prepared to pay four-figure sums of money for tickets.

Everybody had their workflow. Everybody was lazy.

Then COVID-19 hit. And they all carried on, online, regardless. But soon, people noticed that the virtual events weren’t working, and when I say not working, I mean for the audience. The events were too long, as were the talks.  They felt long-winded, flat and void of energy: they were creating snoozefests