Presenting conference keynotes on political economy issues has its own set of unique challenges. Critical and costly strategic investment decisions can be affected by any advice or analysis. Audience morale can be both positively and negatively influenced as a result of political risk factors or economic projections. Politics (and increasingly economics) are becoming emotive topics with deeply embedded and often polarised opinions amongst audience members.
Overcoming these factors is increasingly tough. Here’s what a good political economy speaker needs to win the hearts and minds of his/her audience:
1. Gravitas: Being convincing not only in terms of content and delivery, but having credibility in the field of expertise offered. This means booking a speaker who has a track record; is a recognised expert; enjoys a relatively high profile in reputable institutions or the media & can deliver a believable, balanced and respected argument.
2. Sensitivity: For precisely the reason that politics and economics are polarising subjects, sensitivity to audience opinion is crucial. Audiences don’t want to hire a political preacher. They are looking for an objective account and will respect well-argued and verifiably substantiated arguments – even if they may be controversial. Above all else, a speaker should not be over-opinionated in ways that would alienate their listeners.
3. Simplicity: Economics and politics are full of jargon. Whist the speaker might use endless acronyms in her daily speech, the audience doesn’t. Make the data accessible. Explain the data sets clearly. Avoid the jargon that often puts a barrier between the speaker and audience.
4. Refresh: In this field, hourly nuances are significant. It is often said that a day is a long time in politics and similarly in economics. Data is constantly refreshed; leaders’ statements always shifting. There is no room for out-dated materials – period.
5. Proof: Whilst political analysis is often opinion-based making it more qualitative, economics is certainly quantifiable. A speaker needs substance to back up her arguments. Using reputable sources for materials is critical. Backing up opinion or arguments with facts is essential to offset the danger of audience scepticism and even prejudice.
6. International: Linkages between regions, countries, industries and political economy systems are more complex than ever before. Presenting the domestic, regional and global context is critically important. Parochial presentations miss out half of the equation. Speakers need a global profile and skills-set to enhance their materials and provide context, which is an essential element of any presentation.
7. Honesty: We all know that audiences want a message of encouragement. But when political economy conditions look depressed, its time to be honest with guests. If it’s going to be tough, it’s best to tell the group of the pending pitfalls. Constant up-beat analysis – whilst providing a feel-good factor – is really not reliable and of any sustainable value to a client.
8. Entertain: Tackle the topic with a carefully honed sense of humour. Nothing offensive – given the need for sensitivity – but just enough to command a rapport with an audience equally sceptical of the shenanigans of politicians. It’s common ground that can be exploited!
9. Delivery: No prizes for guessing that delivery is all-important. Avoid wordy, diagrammatic PowerPoints like the plague. But, graphs and pictures tell a story. Just don’t let them dominate too much. The speaker must assert his dominance, not the visuals. To me, it’s about the total product. Being credible in delivery is the key – with or without visuals.
Although not exhaustive, these 9 attributes are essential in winning over clients and audiences alike. Without any one, it’s going to be a tough day!
Daniel Silke is recognised as one of South Africa’s leading Political Analysts, Futurists and most passionate Keynote Speakers. As Director of the Political Futures Consultancy & faculty consultant for Duke Corporate Education, Silke serves a host of major blue-chip companies with outstanding keynotes and workshops aimed at the convention, conference and events industries. He has over 15 years experience in delivering stimulating, entertaining and insightful presentations on South African, African and Global political and economic trends. His client list includes Oracle, CISCO, PwC, MTN, KPMG, FirstRand, Grant Thornton, Deloittes, Distell, Momentum, Sanlam, Estee Lauder, FNB, SunGard, Barclays and ABSA. Silke is the author of the book Tracking the Future: Top trends that will shape South Africa and the World and regularly appears on CNBC Africa, ANN7, ENCA, SABC while his comments are carried by Bloomberg, AFP, the BBC, 702, Classic FM and Business Day. Silke has recently returned from presenting at the prestigious World Affairs Council in Washington DC. Daniel