Invisible keynote speaker challenges pros

Does a speaker always need to be centre-stage? Apparently not. At least, not if you’re Paul Bridle. Bridle, a Brit who describes himself as a ‘leadership methodologist’, was one of the main stage speakers at the Toronto convention of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

And he delivered his entire keynote from off-stage. The only time he appeared in front of the audience was at the very end of his 30 minute slide show presentation.

The keynote wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some CAPS members were saying that at a speakers’ convention they expected to see speakers.

But Bridle was challenging them to think differently. And the key point he was making by delivering his keynote speech out of sight of the audience was a simple and fundamental one: it’s not about the speaker… it’s all about the audience.

Bridle studies effective leaders and the culture they create to help other be better leaders. He told the convention change is inevitable – so if you’re a smart leader you will reinvent yourself or risk becoming stagnant. And if you’re a smart speaker you will constantly look for new ways of delivering your material to engage and hold your audience. He challenged speakers to think differently.

keynote speaker Paul Bridle with Halina St James at the convention
‘Invisible’ keynote speaker Paul Bridle with Halina St James at the convention

You don’t have to be a professional speaker to apply the same methodology to your next presentation, whether it’s in a boardroom of onstage. Look at what you’ve created and ask two questions:

  • Why would this matter to my audience?
  • Am I using the best delivery method to reach them?

Bridle’s last words to the speakers at the convention were to constantly challenge their thinking, and be true to themselves in the process.

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