Thought Leaders, Innovators and Disruptors, Oh My!

If you are an avid conference attendee you may have noticed a ‘same sameness’ in the presentation style amongst the headline acts.

You have never heard the speaker before, but somehow you sense an eerie recollection of speakers-past.

The first time we saw the black turtleneck (scivvie), jeans and sneakers (trainers) the message was ‘new and different’. Same with the blue buttondown and chinos (Walsh) or grey hoodie (Zuckerberg). After 10 more appearances, the novelty has worn off. There is nothing wrong with the choice of attire, I guess it’s on-brand, it’s just that after a point it no longer signals ‘new and different’.

The same goes for familiar presentation formats. You can play the role of CEO presenting at the AGM. The candidate at the political debate. The moderator of a panel discussion. We find comfort and safety in assuming the tone, structure, verbiage, and moves.

But if you want to stand out you must show up differently.

We are huge fans of TED, Davos, SXSW and the raft of large format conferences that provide a forum for new ideas, meet-ups collaboration. It is inspiring to see business leaders step out on stage and launch a new product or strategy without clinging to the podium.

But let’s be aware of the danger of looking and sounding formulaic.

Especially in a forum where the focus is on NEW ideas and FRESH perspectives. If you or others refer to you as:

  • A Thought Leader
  • A Disruptor
  • A Challenger
  • A Maverick
  • An Iconoclast

You must take extra care to avoid conformity.

Here is a brilliant piece of comedy, created by Canadians Pat Kelly, Peter Oldring and Chris Kelly and distributed by the CBC. It made me laugh out loud and draw unnecessary attention in a coffee shop.

Lest we take ourselves too seriously…



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