Yet another highlight of presenting POP Your Business and Brand at this year’s INC 5000 conference was having the pleasure of seeing other world-class speakers in action.

One of my favorites was Keith McFarland, author of The Breakthrough Company which is based on a 5 year study of how everyday companies become extraordinary performers.

Keith’s book is based on an intriguing premise: “99% of business advice is written for people working at giant firms. In fact, nearly 50% of Harvard Business Review articles refer to The Big Five of IBM, General Electric, Dell Computer, Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines.”

He wondered, “What can leaders of small to mid-size firms really learn from studying the ways of IBM? Wouldn’t it be better if business owners studied the success factors of companies more like their own?”

Keith’s book (which he generously gifted to me following our conversation), is, as Stephen Covey says, “Impressively researched, beautifully illustrated and clearly written.”

On top of that, Keith is an edge-of-your-seat speaker. I actually took notes and shared them with him afterwards because he was doing so many things right.

In this blog and the next, I’ll share three of the above-and-beyond platform techniques he used to capture and keep the attention of a sophisticated audience of executives who gave him their rapt, reverent attention.

Edge-Of-Your-Seat Speaker Tip #1. He led the audience in a 60 second stretch.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it was a smart decision on his part. Why? Keith was the third keynoter that morning. If he had not acknowledged the audience had been sitting for almost 2 hours, they would have been inwardly groaning and planning their escape.

The first words out of his mouth were, “I know you’ve been sitting since 9 am. Make you a deal. I propose we all take a 60 second stretch break . . . as long as you don’t take advantage of this opportunity and make a break for the exits.”

Audience members, pleasantly surprised that Keith had read their mind, nodded their heads in amused agreement, stood up, raised their arms to the sky, rocked back and forth on their feet, and then sat back down, re-energized and ready to hear what Keith had to say.

If you’re ever in this situation, if it’s your turn to speak and it’s been hours since people have had a break; realize they won’t really be listening to you, they’ll be waiting for you to wrap it up so they can head to the bathroom.

You will win their attention AND affection if you follow Keith’s example and give them 60 seconds to move around to get their blood flowing and their interest going.

Want to know the other two platform techniques Keith used to keep us on the edge of our seats? Check back for my next blog which will explain exactly what he did to stand out in that impressive lineup of keynoters.

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