1. Hostage To Fortune

    I’m on the road again next week, speaking at the ESOMAR Congress on Monday - giving a presentation with the ambitious title “A World Without Questions”.

    I’m more than a bit nervous, because this is a first for me in two important ways.

    It’s my first time using Prezi. I’ve formed opinions as a viewer of Prezi’s pan-and-lurch style, but I also think you have to actually get your hands dirty with tech solutions before you really start to know about them, so I decided early on to use Prezi (a decision I’ve occasionally cursed since.) If you get seasick watching it, you have only, well, me to blame.

    And more importantly it’s my first ever time co-presenting, and co-presenting with a client, no less. I’m lucky enough to have the excellent Bob Pankauskas from Allstate as my co-presenter, who has helped shape the presentation and injected useful things like actual business examples, case studies, and so on into it.

    Here’s the thing, though. As a conference customer, I’ve never been a great fan of client-agency co-presentations. Conference organisers love them because they increase client presence at a conference and they create the impression that the audience are going to hear something practical rather than theoretical or salesy. I’ve been in a programme committee role and in synopsis form they always sound very juicy.

    But from my perspective as an audience member they’re usually one of the most disappointing things about any conference. This isn’t because of the clients, or the agencies - smart people and great presenters every one. It isn’t even because of the content - sometimes you get a padded-out case study or a sense of over-caution, but often there’s plenty of meat there. It’s because the format simply doesn’t show either party to their strengths.

    Think about it. Great presentations take preparation and some level of rehearsal. In a busy industry this is a tough ask for one person - it’s one reason you always see the same people at conferences, because their job descriptions actually build in time for this stuff. For two - where you have to schedule rehearsal time, make sure presentation and visual styles mesh, get sign-off on everything - the workload increases dramatically.

    Not to mention performing as a double act is just REALLY DIFFICULT. especially if it’s probably the only time you’ll be doing it. So even with the best content, you’re plunged into the world of awkward handovers, broken-up presentation flows, predictable structure, and so on. These things sound like they shouldn’t matter but they make a big difference. On a conference stage, two heads are rarely better than one.

    (Of course by saying all this just before I do a two-hander myself I’ve given myself a huge hostage to fortune for Monday. Bob has been terrific, and designing the presentation with him I’ve tried to tweak things so as to avoid those pitfalls, so please don’t think I’m getting my excuses in early - if I suck at ESOMAR, it’s my fault!)