Communicating a message to CIOs and other tech professionals requires a personal connection to succeed.

A few weeks ago, a senior executive from one of the industry’s largest vendors called to prepare for a presentation he was scheduled to deliver to a large group of IT leaders.

Sounds like a run-of-the-mill meeting, right?

Well, in reality, it was a rare moment. Oftentimes, executives who have been chosen to deliver a keynote, breakout or workshop presentation default to material they have delivered in the past or a slide deck corporate marketing sent to them. They are comfortable with the material, the slides look good, and they are busy. So, they often bypass a process that can make or break their message.

That decision to use the corporate deck or not leverage those who represent the event’s interests creates a disconnect because today’s audiences want to experience something personal. It has created what I call “the great divide” in the business of delivering content and presentations at tech events.

Why a divide? Because it creates a gap between what attendees seated in the audience want or really need to hear and the message that is delivered. You can measure the divide with an inverse equation—the faster attendees go heads-down into their smart phones, the wider the divide.

The hardest part of business speaking today is holding someone’s attention, not to mention an audience of several hundred. Distractions abound. The sad part is that many speakers never even know they missed the mark. Attendees will whisper it among themselves, but the executive is often long gone attending the next event or delivering another keynote.

As someone who oversees content for numerous events, charts speaker scores, coaches presenters and listens to hundreds of presentations each year, I think about this issue a great deal. I often wonder why highly intelligent and engaging executives can sometimes miss the mark and never really know it. I am often perplexed as to why they don’t take the time to really get to know their target audience, push aside the corporate slide deck and offer something authentic. We all know the obvious reasons why. Executives who appear on the main stage at many events have unenviable schedules and crushing responsibilities.

That’s why this executive’s reach out and our subsequent conversation were so important to share and why I will write about this topic in coming blogs.

It was also in sharp contrast to an executive from the same company who was assigned to deliver a main stage keynote in front of a similar audience just a few months ago. This individual did no pre-event prep. Flew in for the event with minutes to spare, got mic’d up, delivered a dozen or so slides from the trusted slide deck, then left the event moving on to the next assignment. The exec even referenced an event that occurred two years ago which in the tech industry is a millennial. Audience members were left shaking their heads.

In actuality, during the precious few minutes we had with this executive before taking the stage, he shared an amazing story that should have been the centerpiece of the presentation. Alas, the opportunity was lost to touch the audience, leaving them with a great experience.

So, back to our story. The first question, the executive answered sheepishly was, “What should I talk about?” He only has 15 minutes on stage, which is not much time to deliver a business message, but in today’s world of short attention spans, an eternity.

The answer he heard was perhaps something he did not expect and came in two parts.

First, we asked what he was passionate about right now when it comes to his business. The second was more of a statement than a question in regards to how to establish a personal connection with those in the audience.

Once he started talking about what excites him most about the business, we knew he could translate that into energy the audience could feel. His toughest job is to establish that personal connection to convince those listening that as a tech vendor, he is more than just interested in selling his company’s latest products and services. He came to the realization that to win over the hearts and minds of audience members he must convince them he was their point person inside a large, somewhat complex organization. His message would focus on his efforts to champion their needs with upper management or those developing product features.

The result was an authentic story that will no doubt hold the audience’s attention and move beyond the usual slides many of us see at tech events. Now, all he has to do is deliver it. The audience will be the ultimate judge.