I just got back from spending the better part of a week up in Chicago at a big health care conference (HIMSS09). This was an amazing opportunity for me to sit back and watch somewhere in the neighborhood of about 100 different presenters get up and do their very best job at communicating. One of these presenters was Dennis Quaid – the actor.
What was Dennis Quaid doing at a fairly boring health care IT conference you ask? Well it turns out that he has a heck of a story to tell about how his newborn children were given the wrong medicine. Everyone attending the conference knew about the story, and so roughly 15,000 – 20,000 folks showed up to hear Dennis give his speech.
So how did it go? Well, in all honesty, not that well. I mean, it was ok – but not what everyone was really hoping for. Generally when you show up for a keynote speech, you are expecting a great speech. When the speaker is a famous actor, your expectations are that much higher. Things didn’t start as well as you would have hoped that they would have.
Dennis was introduced by a slick video that reminded the audience of all of the movies that he has been in. He then came out and took control of the podium. This is where things started to fall apart. His first few statements dealt with how he’s not really a doctor and how he really has never played a role in the health care industry. These are all true things, but what a lousy way to start a speech to folks who ARE in the health care industry!
Add to this a great deal of hemming and hawing, playing with his hands, and just all around nervousness and you end up with a speaker who is distracting his audience away from what is a very powerful message. So what was going on here?
I’ll never know the exact answer, but here are a few guesses. Dennis Quaid is an actor. He sure seems to do a great job of performing for a camera – in front a film crew of about 40 people or so. Put him in front of 20,000 folks sitting in chairs in a massive convention hall and he may feel the same way that any one of us would feel – incredibly nervous.
One other contributing factor may have been that the story that he was there to tell was a VERY personal story. It’s entirely possible that each time he tells it, the emotions that the story stirs up in him causes him to fall apart.
No matter what the cause, the effect was the same – a less than expected speech. Us mere mortals can learn much from Dennis Quaid’s challenges. First, practice, practice, practice – no matter how good you think you are, everyone is going to be able to tell if you try to “wing it”. Secondly, practice in front of people that you know – their feedback can tell you things that you can’t see yourself.
Questions For You
Have you ever seen a famous person give a speech? How did they do? What do you think that they could have done better? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.
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