Interesting column from David Brooks in The New York Times today, drawing on his experience “hunting for ideas on the conference circuit” and taking issue with a certain type of speaker:
You’re hearing from, say, the brilliant technology entrepreneur Shai Agassi, who is starting a paradigm-shifting electric car company. You’re hearing from some wizard with a new solar-panel technology, or some new social-networking entrepreneur.
My main impression over the past five years is that the conference circuit capitalists who give fantastic presentations have turned out to be marginal to history while the people who are too boring and unfashionable to get invited to the conferences in the first place have actually changed the world under our noses.
Brooks’ gripe reminds me of two things: (1) the type of speaker The Onion newspaper satirized with its Onion Talks; and (2) more seriously, something that Morten Hansen said during his General Session presentation at Convening Leaders 2013: “The path to greatness is not littered with risky bets. It is paved with prudent actions.” That remark was part of a larger discussion on how to thrive in uncertain times, and underscored the fact that business success isn’t just about hair-on-fire inspiration or crazy-eyed gambling; it’s about being cautious, reliable, and predictable. Or, as Brooks puts it, “boring and unfashionable.”
The problem is that boring and unfashionable don’t necessarily translate into a memorably effective and engaging speaker. Can you have both? A dynamite presenter who can inspire your attendees to play it safe, stay the course, and just get things done?
(Hat tip to Dan Pink for the Brooks column.)