Just this last week in Dallas, 1,200 members of the National Speakers Association, professional speakers from all over the globe, attended Influence 2018, the premiere conference for professional communicators in our industry. I was honored to attend this powerful hands-on conference that gave us state of the art expertise in business trends that in turn we pass on to our clients.
Speakers, coaches and consultants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, France, Australia, Great Britain, Malaysia and many other countries joined in a learning venue to discuss our industry and how we could more strategically and creatively help our clients in these challenging and turbulent times.
It was enlightening to be reminded again of the work we as professionals do in the community and for our clients. One of the key messages this year was the necessity to help our clients identify and solve their biggest problems.
There are four pillars we repeatedly emphasized that serve as the foundation for the work my colleagues and I do:
- Eloquence – we are constantly striving to enhance our skills so we can be a better resource for our clients, through our pertinent stories, examples and case studies.
- Expertise – each one of us brings a special expertise to the work we do. As speakers/communicators we bring our past industry and professional expertise with us. That expertise is passed on to our clients. My colleagues and I strive to be a resource and use our expertise in publicly commenting on breaking news articles which have garnered the public’s attention, pointing out lessons they can profit from that can enhance their reputations.
- Enterprise – to be most effective we are continually involved in research, reading and studying so we can give our clients the latest information;
And last but not least, a subject near and dear to my heart,
- Ethics. In fact, there were repeated references that companies need to expose their employees to ethical decision-making and behavior, and management should value employee feedback. A session I attended which specifically focused on speaking to colleges and universities directly addressed that universities need to expose students to ethical decision-making and behavior, thus equipping students with an ethics sensitivity. The end goal being that the information and sensitivity will stay with students when they enter the workforce.
As speakers, we also agree to and abide by a written code of ethics. The National Speakers Association actually has an ethics review board.
As anyone of us may speak to dozens of businesses, associations and governments in a given year, keeping our finger on the pulse of business is critical. In fact, professional speakers many times are among the first to see economic downturns. We are often in a position to somewhat accurately predict upswings or downturns in the market. We see and predict trends.
The discussion was had that management in any company must also be sensitive to how they are perceived by the community, noting that the examples of companies which have had unfavorable press (e.g., Wells Fargo, etc.) lose business. On the other hand ethical, well-run companies, Container Store being one of them, who practice corporate social responsibility and are employee sensitivity continue to rise.
One of our goals is to assist companies on how to avoid the high costs associated with breakdowns of ethics, and achieve a more ethical culture; which leads to more satisfied and engaged employees and builds customer trust, loyalty and repeat business.
Several other key themes stood out this year:
- Change: Disruption is the new norm. Our clients must embrace change. What worked yesterday will not work today, most especially in a multi-generational market and workforce. A company which operates with a business-as-usual attitude will not survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
- Community: People, employees and customers alike are embracing community; a one world alliance that includes all ages, shapes, sizes, philosophies and affiliations. A socially conscious mindset on the part of the companies we do business with is expected.
- Communication: Today communication is instant. Customers expect to be listened to and their feedback acted upon, and not with form letters or indifferent apologies. A company that is blasé puts itself at risk. A negative comment on a company’s Facebook page needs to be addressed immediately.
This conference was state of the art. We heard about trends in cyber communication and how technology gives conversations today a new perspective from Jigsaw Google executive, Yasmin Green, “newsjacking” from the man who invented the term, Dave Meerman Scott, and the list goes on.
Four intense days, crammed with key, current information each of us will be sharing with our audiences. It was an honor to be part of this learning experience. I look forward to sharing the information.