When do you show up to a speech if you speak at 4 PM?

Well for me the answer last week was: “The day before.”

I was invited to be the last and closing keynote speaker at the business school IMD conference in Singapore with delegates flying in from all over the world for a 5 day program.

I decided to come in the day before to listen to the last speaker of the day: Rob Lilwall.

Rob is a great speaker and I always learn things from listening to him, but I was not there to listen to him, I was there to observe the audience. By sitting in the back I could observe how the audience reacted to Rob’s stories, humor and examples.

  • Is this a group that has a sense of humor?
  • If you ask a question, will they answer?
  • Are they sceptical or open to learn?
  • And so on…

It’s not always practically possible to attend the conference the day before you speak.  But when it is, it’s always a good idea to do it. (I also got a sense of how the energy level was during a full day of training.)

Filled with knowledge about the audience that I could not have gotten in any brief, I could go home and put the final touches to my keynote.

Nothing beats “field research” on the actual audience you are going to speak to. So if you can, go “spy” on them in advance.

ps. There was another reason that I chose to come one day early to listen in:

IMD has been ranked the “#1 Open Program World Wide” 7 years in a row by Financial Times.

So to get to attend one day of great learning from the best program in the world was a nice perk.


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