Speak The Future: Roy Sheppard, International Conference Moderator, Speaker and Author

Conferize’s “Speak the Future” series features speakers who are currently changing the conference world. For more info check out our “Speak the Future” Manifesto.


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About Roy – Up close and personal –
My background is as a BBC radio and TV reporter and anchorman. Just about everything I did as a broadcaster was ‘live’, so being on-stage at a conference is quite natural for me.

Even though I am regularly hired as a speaker on business relationships, referrals and how to be upbeat in a downbeat world, my real specialism is as a moderator/facilitator of complex, unscripted and extended discussions. (Try moderating two days of discussions about the future of tobacco litigation for lawyers, or hours of discussion for a global audience of doctors about the off-label uses of a complex drug. I have!)

Why are conferences important today?
Learning new ways of thinking, understanding the bigger picture, seeing further into the future of your industry are all areas that conferences deliver for delegates. Meeting new people who share a common interest is always a good thing. Conferences fulfill all these functions perfectly. Interestingly, as someone who speaks professionally on networking at conferences, I repeatedly hear organisers dismiss the need for teaching these skills. In my experience, the more senior the audience, the more they appreciate learning how to work a room professionally and ethically. Organisers who promote their events as ‘superb networking opportunities’ are selling delegates short by just throwing them together for a drinks reception and effectively telling them to get on with it!

How would you like to see conferences change more in the future?
Generally speaking, audiences (especially young ones) are fed up being talked at. They want to be more involved, engaged and become a part of the proceedings, rather than mere bystanders. Audiences prefer having a ‘guide from the side’, rather than a ‘sage on the stage’.

Your advice to aspiring speakers?
There’s an old joke in the speaking business:
Q: Do you need to be funny? A: Only if you want to be paid.
No matter what your topic, no audience will ever complain if your talks are sprinkled liberally with humour. Humour is rarely spontaneous though. It needs very careful choreography and planning.
Too many speakers (especially the most experienced ones) are control freaks! They are petrified of interactivity and what they perceive as a lack of control. So learn to feel comfortable handling interaction and banter with an audience. They will love you for it. Over time, this will transform your talks and your ability to connect with an audience at a much deeper level, rather than just giving a flawless ‘performance’.
Being a speaker is all about being seen as a topic expert (on a limited number of related ones). Any speaker who claims he/she can speak on ‘anything’ will never be taken seriously by bookers.
Build relationships with event managers and organisers.

To follow Roy on Conferize – click here

To read his short (free and useful!) networking eBook click here: http://www.RoySpeaks.com/eMGP

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