I attended a HR forum recently with some decent topics and speakers. There was good energy in the room, most everyone was engaged and then… the cat picture!
A HR speaker from a well-known, global organization got up to talk about talent management and her second slide was some stupid cat image. To add insult to injury, she says, “I can’t help it. I’m a cat person and this was just too cute.”
O – M – G.
I literally wrote in my notes, “As a HR pro, never put a cat pic in your presentation if you want to be taken seriously.”
I took a quick look around my table full of HR types—mainly men—and tried to gauge if their reactions were the same as mine. Within seconds, the phones were on and she’d lost them.
The really unfortunate aspect of this whole story is what she had to say was top notch, but in a second her credibility was damaged and people started checking emails.
Giving presentations is hard. There’s a ton of research, prep work, practice—not to mention getting up and trying to keep the attention of adults who think about “other” things every few minutes. I speak at these HR conferences and the audience is always a mix of levels and motivation. Finding the balance between what will entertain as well as educate requires work. Here are my other pieces of advice for giving your next presentation, whether it be to your Board, your team or to a room of 300 HR skeptics.
- Try to avoid PowerPoint. I know. This is nearly impossible at times, but it’s amazing how much more people really listen if they aren’t trying to read a zillion slides.
- If you must have slides, limit the text. You would think this is so obvious by now, but unfortunately many speakers still try and get us to read eye-charts.
- Tell stories with meaning. Sure, we all love a good story but make sure to connect the dots.
- Don’t do all the talking. I know—I get groans when I ask my audience to participate, but usually they get over it and get more out of networking and talking with their peers.
- Give them something new. Just one “aha” moment will leave you in good graces.
- Do put in visuals. I’m actually a big fan of images to drive home a point or your theme (as long as it has nothing to do with kitties). I like self-deprecating pics myself… like the one of me in a turquoise leotard from 1977. Classic.
HR practioners need to get out more and be visible to their broader HR community. Speaking gigs are an easy way to promote your organization, your area of expertise and yourself. Remember you can quickly lose all those benefits by putting your credibility in question.
Just say no to cats.
Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.