Empty chairs, empty room

February 9, 2015By Behind the Shelf Blog, Future of Retail

by Dave Wendland

Moments before a conference room fills with event attendees, the atmosphere is calm. The chairs are lifeless, the tables clean-surfaced, and the room quiet enough to hear my heart beat. The sponsoring organization has invited me to impart some words of wisdom and encouragement while sharing insights about the retail healthcare industry, and this is the last opportunity I have to pause and reflect before show time.before a conference room fills with event attendees

For more than 20 years I have had the privilege of addressing groups ranging from a dozen to hundreds of industry professionals. The preparation is often the same – requiring extensive industry reading and a jog down memory lane. Not unlike a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, the presentation content begins to unfold and the talking points slide neatly into sequence.

The topics of interest swirling around the retail healthcare industry are plentiful. Spending time discussing the challenges, opportunities, and implications of The Affordable Care Act has continued to strike a chord with retail pharmacists, manufacturers, distributors, and technology providers throughout the industry. Brand development and message enhancement are popular topics. And anything tied to profitability, retail operations, or marketing are crowd-pleasers.

Beginning each talk with an anecdotal story has successfully set the stage for the past two decades of presentations and will likely continue to serve the purpose for another two. Turns out there are numerous relatable stories and nuggets of wisdom that stand timeless within the industry. Shared not from behind a lectern in front of the room, rather among the audience and possibly weaving one or two into the storyline, is a style that has worked well for me.

The outcome for virtually every presentation seldom varies – it’s all about activation. Invoking optimism, emotion, and the courage to try something new have been trademarks of my many industry talks. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that audience members are being reminded of something they may have once known but never acted on. All it takes is an objective viewpoint to rekindle their excitement.

Although each talk I deliver begins similarly – with empty chairs and empty tables – it invariably ends with an energetic and emotionally-charged audience ready to face the next challenge.

I’d love to hear the types of presentations and presenters that have made a difference in your business, your life, or your viewpoint. Are there certain traits that you admire in presenters? And are there industry topics that have been brought to life by a speaker resulting in a new outlook?

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