May has been a busy month for me. I was a part of three conferences over the first three weeks and finished the month off with a regulatory MS4 audit. Good times. I attended over 30 technical sessions and probably six or seven general sessions this month. I heard the biographies of at least as many speakers – I’m guessing over an hour’s worth of introductions for the month. The sad part is that today I can’t remember a single interesting fact that I learned from the introductions.
Part of this is on me, I know. Like many of you, I didnt see the introduction as a chance to learn. It was simply a period of downtime that we all must endure in order to get to the good stuff. Kind of like getting the a/v in order. However, I also think we are promoting an outdated model that no longer serves our purpose for attending.
Our MS4 audit was unconventional compared to the structure of audits that many of you have described. We had the opportunity to present our program to our regulator as she asked questions to confirm we are doing what we promised to do. I facilitated our program. I gave only a very brief introduction of our main contact in each area. I really didnt see the need since the titles and work details were either on the screen or would soon be addressed by each speaker. This is roughly what each introduction sounded like.
Adam is our hazardous materials guy. He leads our internal facility audits and is responsible for RCRA and MS4-related training of our equipment folks. He took over when Jim left and now leads a group of quality young folks that will carry the torch when he moves on.
I tried to give a first name, some context of their role, and some personal element to make sure we we all understood that this is, in fact, a human we are dealing with. I think this format could work at conferences also.
I have experimented a few times with offering a “short bio” to moderators and audiences. Here is an example:
I have also played around with different titles and roles, some made up. My favorite is an unofficial title, Chief Environmental Evangelist. I have also used different statements of my personal mission. Sometimes I tailor the mission to the topic. For construction stormwater talks, for example, I may be introduced as one who loves dirt, loves water, and enjoys the challenge of keeping the two separated.
It is odd and uncomfortable to some moderators to not have a three paragraph bio that they can read word-for-word. One moderator this month panicked and simply ignored my shortened bio. He decided to provide a longer description of what he personally knew about me – which is 100 times better than what we normally have to endure.
Here’s a template for a new kind of bio for your consideration.
(Speaker) serves as the (real or functional role or title) for (company/organization).
(She/he) (interesting relevant highlight).
(He/she) also (another interesting relevant highlight).
To learn more about (speaker), look (her/him) up on (applicable LinkedIn, Twitter, blog, website).
For more detail, I suggest that every conference include a packet of speaker bios with contact information.
Planners and moderators – we didn’t come to see how well you can read. Let your presenters know up front that your plan is to say just a few words and get out of the way. Let them know they should tell their story. Presenters, you are telling stories, right?
We want to get to know you better. We just aren’t very good at hearing when others read dry summaries of your life. We want to know that you are credentialed and credible, but let us hear that through your words and work.