By Laura Bradley   

If there’s one thing founder and CEO of ICMI Speakers and Entertainment Barry Markoff has had enough of, it’s the influx of TED-style speakers at events. Addressing the more than 480 virtual and in-person participants at the Professional Conference Organiser Association’s (PCOA) annual conference on Monday, Mr Markoff identified the introduction of TED talks – those ideas-based monologues that are all over YouTube  – as one of the most difficult issues he has witnessed over the past couple of years.

“With the introduction of TED talks, 50,000 people are now speakers,” he said.

“These types of talks are completely rehearsed and inauthentic, and people can work that out. Sometimes their presentation will look good, but audiences can see through inauthenticity.”

Mr Markoff suggested that conference organisers seek an independent opinion when selecting a speaker, as although someone may deliver a solid talk, a number of other factors come into play, such as how easy they are to work with and whether or not they will show up.

The biggest speaker trend Mr Markoff observed in 2020 was the need for interaction and entertainment. While previously organisers sought speakers that deliver important messages, take audiences on emotional rollercoasters or make predictions about the future, in Covid-times they opted for live cooking demonstrations, comedy routines and Friday afternoon quizzes.

“We’ve put a thing together called ‘Hughesy We Have a Problem’ with Dave Hughes and Dave O’Neill, in which the duo answer audience questions using props,” he said.

“I reckon we’ve gotten them 20 jobs this year, whereas next year we might not get them a single job. Because of the situation, people wanted to have a laugh and be interactive with their staff.”

Stay tuned for more insights from PCOA20. Trust us, there will be a lot.