Dynamite Demo Video: Research Report
on What Makes Meeting Planners Want To Hire You?
N S A F O U N D AT I O N R E S E A R C H / M E T R I C S C O M M I T T E E 1
On April 13, 2006, Rich Thau, President of 1. Content—fits well with my organization
Presentation Testing, showed five advanced-speaker2 2. Personality—fits well with my organization
demo videos to 11 people—all women—who 3. How engaging was the speaker?
attended the Meeting Planners International-Arizona
4 How informative was the speaker?
meeting in Phoenix. All the evaluators work with
speakers, and seven of the 11 are involved in the 5. How motivational was the speaker?
decision to hire speakers for their organizations. Then the evaluators were asked to verbally respond
Rich asked each participant to give moment-to- to four open-ended questions:
moment feedback on each video using audience-
controlled, hand-held dials. Operating on a scale from 6. What did they like most?
zero to 100, the participants rated each presentation 7. What could be improved?
for how much it captured their attention as they 8. What were the turn-offs?
watched it from beginning to end. This system took 9. What were the highlights?
a reading every second from every dial.
On a scale of one to ten, the seven decision makers
The results from the seven decision makers were rated these five speakers 5.99 overall versus a 6.12
calculated separately from those of the four non-
overall average score from the non-decision makers.
decision makers. The criteria for evaluation were
selected by the NSA Foundation Research/Metrics
Committee based on what would be useful to NSA The table below shows the range and average
members. The five criteria on which the videos were scores for all five speakers in each of the five
evaluated (based on a scale of one to ten) were: criteria areas:
Criteria Range Average Decision-maker Non-decision-maker
Content 2.6-6.0 4.79 4.9 4.6
Personality 3.3-8.0 5.96 6.0 5.9
Engaging 4.8-8.8 6.67 6.6 6.8
Informative 3.7-7.8 5.85 5.7 6.1
Motivational 3.3-8.0 5.93 6.0 5.8
The NSA Foundation Research Committee was formed in 2003 by NSA President Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, for the pur-
pose of conducting primary research that provides NSA members with tools and other resources they can use in their busi-
ness. The first research project, reported here, is a summary of a study conducted with the help of MPI Arizona. Its purpose
is to give speakers valid information regarding what makes an effective demo to buyers of speaking services so the buyer
will feel comfortable hiring the speaker. Committee members who worked on this project include: Rebecca Morgan, CSP,
CMC, Chair; Sarah Layton, DBA, CMC, Vice Chair; Ron Karr; Ian Percy, CSP, CPAE; and John Molidor, Ph.D.
The committee decided to start with a pilot program limiting participation in this initial research to CSPs and CPAEs. An
email was sent to all the CSPs and CPAEs asking if they wanted to participate. Five responded, so those were the five
demos shown. There was a fee to participate to cover part of the research costs.
The responses to the open-ended questions could audience, and making certain that the stories are
not be scientifically quantified, but where possible audience appropriate. Some of the viewers did not like
and appropriate, they were grouped into general cat- the audience team-building segments.
egories. For example, there were 32 items in
There was information given regarding specific sto-
response to the question about what the evaluators ries and specific speakers, helpful only to those
liked the most about the speaker. These 32 respons- speakers as it relates to those stories. However, as
es could be generally grouped into: physical appear- part of the letter to each presenter, Rich Thau gave a
ance and presence, presentation style, and stories. list of general universal suggestions that everyone
The participants loved stories, authenticity, humor, should keep in mind in the process of preparing their
and being engaged. They liked how some of the video demo. While some of these suggestions may
speakers dressed, took command of the platform, seem common sense, it is apparent that even
and generally presented themselves. advanced speakers (CSPs/CPAEs) did not employ
There were only seven turnoffs, compared to 32 these tactics in their demos.
things they liked the most. The evaluators were Many speakers, probably including those evaluated
turned off by inappropriate use of accents, distracting for this study, know the information given below but
hand or body movement, and preacher-style delivery. they may not know how to implement that knowl-
They suggested several improvements including: get- edge. Part of the difficulty of implementing these
ting rid of nervous habits (such as inappropriate suggestions lies in the subjectivity of the material
laughter), focusing the segment so it makes sense to and audience. Therefore, knowing the audience is a
the viewer (even though it is a clip), speaking at an critical piece for the speaker because results can
appropriate speed (not too fast), not selling to the vary audience to audience.
How do you make your demo stand out?
1. Make sure that there are smooth transitions from one 5. Make sure your video has a message. What plan-
segment to the next. Viewers found it jarring to jump ners mean by this is that they want to be able to
from snippet to snippet without warning or a visual say, for example, “This is the lady who talks about
fade to make it easier on the senses (easily accom- how working in a sausage factory gave her a
plished with Final Cut Pro video editing software). renewed sense of purpose in life.” If the best thing
2. Make sure that each segment has a discrete begin- someone can say about you is that you are inspi-
ning, middle, and ending. Viewers had trouble pick- rational, without saying how, you are probably
ing up stories, anecdotes and explanations in the lacking a message.
middle without having proper set-up. They also are 6. Make sure viewers know your specialty. Do this exer-
waiting for the punch line or some wrap-up that ties cise: Show your video to a neighbor who does not
stories together and answers the all-important “Why know what you do for a living. Once they are done
does this matter to my life?” question. watching, ask them: “What topic do I specialize in?” If
3. Do not make a second reference to a person, item, the answer is “public speaking,” you have a problem.
or event without a first reference that sets the 7. Have marketing materials in the video, but don’t
context. You signal to the viewer that they missed over-do it. It serves as context and lets the viewer
something when you talk about how Mr. Jones know the speaker. This is the real balancing act.
changed your life without letting them in on whom You need to let the viewer know that you may
Mr. Jones is. In actuality you probably explain Mr. have written books and articles, and may have
Jones in your presentations, but you need to do appeared on TV, radio and in front of many differ-
that on tape as well. ent audiences. Yet it needs to be done tastefully
4. When possible, seamlessly edit a story into your without being shamelessly self-promotional. One
video where viewers can see how different audi- pitfall to avoid: Don’t show yourself on video
ences in different settings react to the same story. hawking your books, products, or services.
If not possible, at least make sure there are favor- 8. Have an effective name or title to your presenta-
able reaction shots from an audience. Showing this tion. Again, be memorable.
demonstrates whether you are a platform speaker, 9. Make sure there is a take-away for the audience
a breakout speaker, or a trainer. As one person said, (and the viewer). What do you want the viewer to
“I want to see their qualifications in action.” remember about you the next morning when brush-
ing his/her teeth?