Using “The Dating Game” to Identify Amazing Conference Presentations

On Monday I wondered whether match.com could help me find a presentation I could fall in love with. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with several presentations at SHRM’s Talent Management Conference. Here’s how I’d choose the best. (Spoiler Alert: if you want to cut to the chase, just scroll to the bottom to see the summary/recap)

Dating Game (SHRM)

The SHRM Talent Management Conference Dating Game

Me: Presentation #1, when I’m at a conference, I generally have high hopes for the quality of a presentation, but I also have low expectations. What would you do to fulfill my hopes and exceed my expectations?

Presentation #1: Well, I’d begin by describing my presentation as “interactive” in the conference program. Since we’re in Vegas, I’d double down by telling you how interactive the presentation will be as we get started. And I’d make sure you felt welcome to ask questions at any time. I’d tell stories based on my experiences and I’d ask the audience questions from time to time.

Me: Hmmmm, I guess that’s a conventional way to look at interactivity. Presentation #2, we are in Vegas and there’s a lot going on. What would make you stand out?

Presentation #2: As soon as you walk through the door, I’d not only welcome you, but I’d make sure we connect personally. I’d bring up our common Pacific Northwest roots. Even though the audience will be standing room only, I want you to feel like I’m talking to you. I’ll give you two specific pieces of homework I’d like you to do as soon as you get back home. And I’ll show a video clip of an iPhone getting blended up. Oh, you’ll remember me all right.

Me: An iPhone getting blended up?! I’m intrigued. Presentation #3, my time is valuable to me and I’m needy. I need to be engaged. How would you propose to engage me?

Presentation #3: Before I tell you, I’d like you to stand up, turn to someone near you, give them a high five, and tell them “you rock!”

Me: Ok. That’s true, I do rock.  Now what?

Presentation #3: I’m going to engage you by getting you involved.  Maybe you’ll stand and give high five’s.  Maybe you’ll be asked to write some answers to my questions.  Maybe you’ll be instructed to talk with some people around you.  Maybe you’ll be asked to share some thoughts with the entire crowd.  Maybe I’ll build upon your other experiences at the conference by telling you how the information from the keynote speaker you just heard affirms and complements my own content.  Maybe I’ll end with a call to action.  Maybe I’ll provide some specific steps you can take.

Me: Sounds amazing.  One last question for all of you. I’ll start with Presentation #3.  Looks matter to me.  What do you look like?

Presentation #3: I come dressed in slides.  Custom made slides.  I try to economize on words, and occasionally I’ll use bullet points.  But I have the most fun when I can be whimsical – when I use a picture instead of a thousand words.

Me: You sound cute.  How about you, Presentation #2?

Presentation #2: I dress pretty skimpily… in a good way.  If I wanted you to read a lot, I’d just give you a book.  So I don’t wear many words.  But if you’re into sticky images, I can show you a giant piece of construction equipment that crushes a truck.  I can show you a triangular model to help connect your values, passions and delivery methods.  I don’t wear much, but I bet you’ll take notes on what you see and hear!

Me: Wow, steamy!  Presentation #1, the bar seems to have been set high.  What do you look like?

Presentation #1: I like consistency, so my slides align with the conference template.  I respect visual learners, and I make sure to include main topics and bulleted lists.  And clip art.  But keep in mind, it’s what’s inside that counts.  And I’m a charismatic speaker.

Me: It’s time to make my decision.  I think all three of you are smart and talented and I really appreciate you bringing your gifts of knowledge and experience to the conference.  It’s a lot of work preparing for something like this and it’s always a risk to be in front of people.  This is a tough decision.

Presentation #1, I learned some things from you, but when it comes to design and delivery, you might want to take a few more risks and try some new things – both in terms of visual aids (your “looks”) and your “interactivity”.  We won’t be seeing each other again.

It really comes down to Presentation #2 and Presentation #3.  The truth is, you’re both amazing.  My decision, the presentation that I truly fell in love with is… Presentation #2 (whose true identity is Todd Hudson’s “Unforgettable Onboarding”).  And since this is my game and my rules, I also choose to fall in love with Presentation #3 (Jason Lauritsen’s “The Future of Talent Management”).

A quick recap of what made me fall in love with each presentation:

Todd Hudson

Jason Lauritsen

Welcome attendees individually upon entering the room Fun introductory slide as the audience walked in the room
Charismatic delivery of targeted and meaningful content Charisma and humor in the delivery of relevant and actionable content
Simple slides, few words, powerful images Attention-grabbing activity as soon as the session began
Use of video to illustrate key points about values, passion and stickiness Mixed hard data with anecdotes and stories (including a memorable Readers Digest story)
Delivered presentation among the audience, not at the podium Issued three questions for audience to think through and discuss in small groups, then came back to these questions throughout the presentation
Issued a call to action Issued a call to action and provided specific tips and strategies of how to do these as soon as audience returns home
Kept most attendees in the room until the very end with a small raffle

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