For some reason I’ve never been invited to give a speech, virtually or otherwise. Especially not a speech at tech conferences like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) or AWS re:Invent. Nor have I been invited to orate at healthcare summits like IMSH or the ever-popular AAOS/AANA/AOSSM.
This is likely because it’s widely known within both industries that I speak my mind and would thus have the event organizers rename all of their conferences in such a way that these storied events sound like they might actually be fun.
This propensity for directness and clarity has nothing to do with the incident at the 2019 Startup Grind Global Conference, which some misinformation propagators claim was a result of my preference for starting my day with Bellinis, followed by standard Breakfast Proseccos.
What can I say? It was in Redwood City.
But I really thought, what with everything being virtual in 2021, the keynote speaker invites would start pouring in because now the liability is so much lower (they could just turn off my feed or whatever once I went rogue). Plus I’m so incredibly, deliciously affordable. And I’m more than qualified as I (a) use computers and (b) worked in emergency medicine over 15 years ago, so certainly my speaking in a thought-leadership role for both of these industries is just a such a great fit.
Besides, the audience wouldn’t be disappointed in my appearance, in the sense that I wouldn’t use a well-curated headshot in my official Speaker Bio. I’d just look all dumpy as usual, which would obviously match my onstage persona, so the audience would find this quite refreshing, which in turn would increase demand as word would quickly spread throughout the conference that this guy is on point, yet lighthearted and accessible. And professional. Maybe we should invite him out for a cocktail afterwards?
Perhaps the current problem is organizers around the globe having discovered, despite my expertise and oozing charm, that I’m now excited by clothing that’s reversible and solitude in general, implying I’m an out-of-touch curmudgeon. Or possibly a recluse. But it’s not true, as evidenced by the plethora of avant-garde ideas I have for delivering great speeches at technology and/or healthcare summits. It’s really quite simple as the topics within these industries are interchangeable. Like reversible clothing.
So here’s my pitch to you, thousands upon thousands of slick event organizers reading this. I’d start the speech with my standard Incredible Entrance. This involves walking in with a diamond stud–collared Weimaraner on a leash while eating a hot dog as my assistants set off legitimate, flame-throwing, and frankly quite dangerous pyrotechnics. You’ve got to get people’s attention – especially people who think they’re smart, of which 95% of these conferences are comprised.
Next I’d put on not one but two, two of those headsets with the bulbous and quite frankly phallic, plum-sized microphones at the end. That way I’d look twice as important as anyone the audience has seen in a TED Talk or (vastly inferior) TEDx Talk. Plus I’d look twice as phallic.
As I begin my rapture-inducing presentation, I’d make a huge point of not holding up one hand in front of my sternum (I told you I have a medical background) with thumb, forefinger, and to a lesser degree middle and ring fingers sort of pinched together, as if forming a cusp around an idea. Audiences find that gesture really annoying, and statistics show that it makes them ignore the presenter and start talking to their neighbor. I demand nothing short of absolute, rapt attention when I speak; thus, if I find someone talking to their neighbor during my presentation I will completely and utterly freak out on them, like wedge my way down the middle of the row and scream at them. That will teach the rest of the audience to pay attention and frankly get the most out of my speech. If it’s a digital conference, I promise you I have ways of finding you, chatterbox, so help me God.
Whew, sorry about that, I got really worked up there for a second.
Rather than that annoying (and rage-inducing) Tony Robbins “cusp around an idea” hand gesture, I choose to hold my arms out wide during a speech, like super wide, so it’s kind of straining my incredible pectorals. It’s as if I’m offering the world’s biggest hug the entire time – at first it’s rather disconcerting based on the heroic volume of armpit sweat I produce at any given moment (my body is highly efficient at cooling itself), however, it eventually becomes endearing.
But this is all window dressing. Albeit really good window dressing. My actual talk is inspired by the United States Marine Corps Basic Training philosophy of “tear them down, then build them back up.” Minus the build them back up part. I do this by picking apart the industry I’m speaking to and broadcasting its inherent imperfections and contradictions. It’s super easy. Like for tech companies I’d just point out how they have psychological engineering departments specifically designed to make their product incredibly addictive, and thus how the user (i.e., you or I) is the product, and the supposed product is the master, which is really creepy and obviously points to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, or anything written by George Orwell.
Or I could bring up Amazon, that’s always low-hanging fruit. I’d point out how that company is not really the best option for the consumer, they’re just the entrenched option thanks to their vicious (and thus highly applaudable) business practices, including the orchestration of the Prime program to generate unbudgeted, reckless spending not unlike the point-of-sale merchandise rack at a grocery store checkout line. Or the fact that the Last Mile personnel are essentially indentured servants spewing inordinate amounts of carbon dioxide into the air as they deliver my fifth spontaneously ordered “very important item” of the day to my doorstep.
See? People will love this. Tear them down, then let them figure out how to build themselves back up somehow.
For the healthcare summit I don’t even have to dive that deep into my material to tear things apart. All you have to do is say “healthcare,” “universal healthcare,” “premiums,” or “medical sales representative” and people get really upset. Then you can just sit back and watch the chaos with your arms spread really wide, which is great because in this case people may really need a hug and maybe they’ll take you up on it and you could actually help them feel better. If you’re into that kind of thing.
Since I intend this document to serve only as a primer on my techniques, abilities, and expertise in presentation-giving, I’d better stop here. Plus I don’t want to give up the whole enchilada. It’s bad for business if this format is copied to the degree that I have to come up with new material.
So spread the word. I currently have 167 open “Keynote Speaker” slots on my calendar. And don’t think I can’t adapt these techniques to your specific industry. Remember, it’s not about the knowledge, it’s about the show.