Get Rid of Speakers... Experts are What You Need!

Moderator Jan-Jaap in der Maur has had it with speakers on events. He wants to see experts on stage. Why? He is here today himself to explain.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Moderator Jan-Jaap in der Maur has had it with speakers on events. He wants to see experts on stage. Why? He is here today himself to explain.


Hi Jan-Jaap, welcome to our studio.


Hi Kevin.


Why don’t you want to see speakers anymore on the stage?


Well, I mean, I want to see speakers on stage, I just don’t want to call them speakers anymore. Because if you call someone a speaker, there’s only one thing he can do.




Speak, yes. So when we keep on calling people speakers they will get on stage, they will stand there for 20 minutes or 30 minutes and they will just speak and speak and speak.


And what’s the alternative then?


The alternative is that we start calling them experts, content providers, coaches, jury members, whatever. Because if you start calling them differently, it opens up a whole range of possibilities of using them differently within a program. For instance, as soon as you don’t call them speakers but content providers, you can start, interviewing them instead of having them talk. You could even the audience interview the speaker. There are formats like town hall meetings, like college tour formats, all kinds of TV formats, that you can kind of adjust to using on stage, and use a speaker to be part of that.


But isn’t that a risk, because is the audience actually going to ask the right questions then?


Well, the only risk is that it will be a better meeting.




But the step you have to take is first of all not to underestimate the intelligence of your audiences. In general, they will come up with the best questions. Step two, you can help them come up with those questions. For instance, if you have people prepare questions in groups. Or if you have them prepare questions in groups on themes: table one will do the questions on finance. Table two will do the questions on the consumer, etc. etc. You’ll help people to get into the question asking mode, and you allow them time to come up with questions. Because it’s not fair. A speaker has prepared, and then he speaks. And then you’ll expect people to come up with brilliant questions within two seconds. That’s not fair. And one step deeper. If you have for instance people work on a case study. By studying a case people will become aware of a problem, or become aware of the boundaries of a solution. And then they will come up with questions in order to go one step deeper. And if you then have the speaker not speak but act as a coach, helping them to solve this particularly case study, they use them for what he is most valuable for at that point in time. Helping them get deeper into the case and learn something that help them to work better, sell more products or whatever.


And in your opinion are speakers willing to put their slideshows aside?


No, not at all of them. In general, they’re kind of scared, because they lose control over sending their content.


Yeah, normally they prepare what they will say, t hey know what they will say and, that’s it.


Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. On the other hand, if they are real experts on their piece of content, they shouldn’t be scared. Because they know the answer to almost everything, and if they don’t know the answer they can tell people, that’s not a problem. But what they should realize, I mean, it’s scientifically proven that sitting down and listening to somebody speak for half an hour, is by far the least effective way of learning something or finding new truth or whatever. So if speakers change, they will become more effective. And it’s their job not to send the information, It’s their job to make sure that the information lands with the participants. Some speakers love it. I had a speaker that spoke early in the morning, stayed with the day all day, and kept on interacting and giving us his expertise at several parts in the schedule. I had a speaker who loved being a jury member in a pub quiz. And it was brilliant, because people answered questions, then they come up with answer A, B, C or D, and it was answer B, and then people who had it wrong, they wanted to know ‘why B? Because we thought D’. And then the experts get the time to explain why it was B, and why this was important, etc. etc.


Yeah, in that way, the content sticks more of course, you remember it.


Yeah, you remember it, because you actually set your brain to digesting what information is given to you.


Instead of laying down.


Yeah. Yeah, and I mean basically, if we speak all the time… I’m not against speakers. One or two brilliant speakers a day - and there are brilliant speakers out there – it perfect within a meeting. What I’m against is only speakers, one after another. I mean, if we do that, we are stuffing people like goose for the goose liver with information, and people will just throw up, but it will not stay inside.




You have to allow them time to process the information.


OK, let’s call them experts then. Jan-Jaap, thank you very much for coming over.


You’re welcome.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.