Passion vs. “Going through the Motions!”

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At New Tricks Training we go to a good number of networking events – and we see a great many speakers, good and bad.

At the 729 Club in Chipping Norton a retired couple, Sue & Tony Melia, recently gave a tremendous presentation about their personal experiences in Malawi. The couple devote months of their time and a deal of their own money helping out in the mountain village of Bwengu.

Tony & Sue Melia

Tony & Sue Melia

In fact their infectious enthusiasm means that they have been sought out by, and expanded the range of their support to, a total of nine villages in the vicinity. Their personal accounts and eye-witness reports of wastage by the major relief organisations backed up by photographs made for an enthralling and moving presentation. But it is the couple’s optimism and their own acts of fundraising, project management and inspiring the locals to help themselves see incredible results with minimal resources. This is in absolute contrast to the minimal results with incredible resources (4X4s and Ray-Bans) of the big boys! In a 40 minute presentation (backed up with before & after photographs) the couple recounted stories of refurbishing schools, transporting a million meals (which had just been sitting in bonded warehouses being eaten by weevils), setting up a “Women’s’ Centre,”  establishing a bicycle ambulance service and refurbishing the jail. And do you know what? They had the audience hanging on their every word – and the time just flew by. Sue got angry about the waste, laughed at stories of cheeky children, railed at corrupt officials and welled up as she recounted some of the terrible injustices against the women of the community. In support Tony quietly gave facts & figures to support their message and the odd word of caution about “not getting carried away” and a reality check on the extent to which they could continue to help as an older couple.

This presentation was strikingly different from another presentation we saw just a few weeks later at another networking event. A major cancer charity (a worthy cause – I have no doubt) sent out a “volunteer speaker” to read us a lot of statistics from an inordinate number of PowerPoint slides, to give us details of the current research into various cancers and to tell us about the phenomenal  budgets spent on each. Hats off to her for giving up her time, shame on the charity for not giving her some basic presentation skills training. What she spectacularly failed to do was to connect with her audience. We had no idea who she was, why she was speaking to us, what was her connection to the charity and as a result there was a tangible air of unspoken “get off” well before her 20 minutes were up.

The result? A whip-round of the 25 attendees at Tony & Sue’s talk raised £350, two laptops, three mobile phones and offers of support (including a website) whilst the major cancer charity managed just £60 from 55 people. The conclusion: if you want your audience to do something as a result of your presentation you have a better chance of success if you connect with them by speaking to them from the heart. Quite simply a higher value was placed on Tony & Sue’s passion than on our other speaker’s “going through the motions.”

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