Predetermined Conference Presentations

Recently, I was asked to do a presentation at a conference, but it came with a predetermined title—not an appealing scenario unless the subject that somebody wants you to speak about just happens to be something you feel passionate enough about that you will get on a plane and go make a speech about it.

In this case, though, there was a bigger problem. The proposed title was something like, “How X Will Help You Succeed During this Recession”. “X” was the specific topic that I was being asked to talk about, but I could plug in my own material as the solution.

I would assume that just like me, you have been bombarded in the past 8 months or so with e-mails and pop-up ads, newsletters and white papers, all screaming with headlines like “The 12 Steps to Financial Recovery!” and “Here’s Your Own Personal Stimulus Package!” and “How to Survive and Thrive in a Down Economy!” Enough to gag a maggot, as my pals on the playground used to say. It seems to me this is just a form of ambulance-chasing. And you gotta wonder about the soundness of a solution that somebody has just, overnight, invented that could possibly save you when all around you are drowning. But then of course you realize that that none of these things being merchandised is likely to be new—they are just the already existing products—hastily relabeled—of people eager to cash in on disaster or so desperate they’ll say anything to get a sale. And you even wonder if some of these purveyors are the same shadowy folks who sold products and services that led to the home mortgage/financial market meltdown to begin with. Buy now, no money down, no credit no problem, we don’t care…

So the last thing I wanted is to be viewed as a hustler looking to make a fast buck off the miseries of the recession. But on the other hand, what we have to offer here at PDL is to me exactly what organizations should be doing—good times and bad—to better manage their organizations. It’s good, helpful stuff, regardless of the economy—to build lasting enterprises dedicated to creating value.

So the resolution, finally, was for me to go to this conference and open the session by just candidly telling the participants that had I been there a year earlier, I would have told them exactly the same thing I was about to tell them, and the approach I was about to describe, if followed, probably would help their organizations but it’s no short-term fix and there are no guarantees. And no, I was not smart enough to predict the meltdown and yes I had lost money too, so don’t take financial advice from me.

Then I showed them some of these ads I’ve been collecting, and we all gagged, in unison.