I was at a conference a few years ago and I heard a young diabetic educator talk about the importance of self-esteem and mental well-being in women living with diabetes. The next speaker, a Medical Doctor and diabetes specialist said, “you can ignore all that stuff. If we can just keep the blood sugar under control and ensure that they eat a healthy diet, you will have nothing to worry about”. Thus shooting the previous speaker down in flames.
My recommendation as a public speaking coach is, don’t do this. In fact, I recommend that whenever you are speaking at a conference or as part of a panel event you should always honour the speakers that have gone before you and pave the way for the speakers who are following you. Where there are differing points of view it is always important to remain balanced in what you say and acknowledge that there will be differing views or alternate ideas to what you are saying.
So listen closely to the speakers before you. Try and pick up on one point that you can amplify or elaborate on and praise the speaker for their point of view, or their work. Then deliver your alternate view or additional information with respect and sensitivity and honour for the previous speaker. Audiences will notice a speaker who weaves in content and comments from previous speakers into their presentation and this will help you to be more credible and knowledgeable on the topic.
Paving the way for speakers to follow you is about acknowledging who is speaking next, what they will be presenting on and how it fits in with what you are saying. Or it may be an alternative or differing view and you can acknowledge this and say that it adds balance to the overall discussion and enhances the body of research. Certainly don’t say “and the next speaker has an opposing view and you need to know that my research proves them to be wrong”.
Honouring previous speakers and paving the way for the next speakers, regardless of differences in content, is a great way of showing that you have a breadth and depth of knowledge and you understand multiple aspects and ideas on the topic. It will help you be more persuasive because of your ability to understand multiple aspects of the topic on which you are speaking. And you will be seen as an inclusive, credible and respectful speaker in the eyes of the audience. So always honour those who have spoken before you and pave the way for those to follow you.