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Dan Gingiss speaks to an audience

Last week I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote speech on customer experience at the CX Summit in Cartagena, Colombia. The setting was the beautiful Hilton Cartagena, and the attention to detail given to everything from the massive stage to the colorful vendor hall was truly remarkable. It was honestly one of the most beautiful-looking conferences I’ve ever seen, and I know the audience loved it.

The organizers told me that they’d be offering real-time translation of my talk, which was a first for me. Realizing that some of the members of the audience only spoke Spanish and would require translation services, I thought hard about how to make my presentation more accessible.

As a keynote speaker, understanding your audience and their various needs is similar to a company understanding its customers and their various needs. Not everyone consumes content in the same way, so knowing your audience’s needs can result in a better attendee experience for all.

What Is Accessibility?

Accessibility is often talked about with websites and in physical locations (for example, listen to the first segment of this episode of the Experience This! podcast). It’s about ensuring that all customers — whatever their needs — can use and understand products and services like anyone else. 

Accessibility may include accommodations for customers who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, or physically handicapped in some way.

But making something “accessible” can include other intangible factors as well.

For example, I am a traditionalist when it comes to reading books. I prefer a physical copy, preferably hardcover. I do not like reading books on a screen, and the few audio books I’ve listened to were, for me, hard to follow. 

So when I published my recent book, The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share, I intentionally included all formats — hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. I didn’t want to stand in the way of anyone accessing my book, so I offered it in formats that my audience wanted, even if I didn’t use them myself.

Know Your Audience

When I present on stage, I take care to create slides that are visually appealing, but which don’t require heavy reading or deciphering. That’s because as an attendee, it bothers me when I can’t see small type on a slide or have to think through a complex chart or graph while simultaneously trying to listen to the speaker. So I make sure not to do that to my audiences.

Dan Gingiss speaks to an audience

If you know what you like and the experiences you remember, you will be well on your way to creating a memorable customer experience for others.

I try to practice what I preach, and I remembered a Harvard Business Review statistic that I share in my keynotes: The #1 contributor to loyalty is reducing customer effort. Make it easy, convenient, and fast, and customers will return the favor with their loyalty.

Related: 4 Ways to Revitalize Customer Loyalty with Artificial Intelligence

So at the CX Summit, I decided to include both English and Spanish on my slides. Even though the Spanish-speaking audience members had headsets with live audio translation, I figured it would be easier for them to comprehend certain slides — like ones displaying Tweets for example — if they were also translated in print.

In other words, I wanted to reduce audience effort.

It was fun to learn some new Spanish words that I didn’t learn in high school and college, and to rethink my popular keynote in a new way. And although it took quite some time to translate all those slides, it was worth the investment as I now have an asset I can reuse for future speeches in Spanish-speaking countries.

Speaking The Language

While traveling in and touring Cartagena, I tried to practice speaking in Spanish. It’s been a while since I’ve used the language, so I am more than a little rusty. But I believe it’s respectful to at least attempt the local language, especially as too many Americans just assume everyone speaks English. (There’s an old joke that I’ve heard in several parts of the world, that essentially says that someone who speaks two languages is bilingual, someone who speaks multiple languages multilingual, and someone who speaks one language is American.)

I found that most people appreciated the effort, and either silently accepted by broken Spanish or gently corrected my grammatical errors. In some cases, I encountered people practicing their English just as I was practicing my Spanish. We helped each other become better.

It’s Your Turn

How well do you really know your audience? Do you know what language(s) they speak? Do you know what name they prefer to be called? (For me it’s Dan and never Daniel.) Do you know the name(s) of their pet(s), like does? Do you know their preferences for consuming content? Do you truly understand how they use your product or service?

The answer is to talk to your customers. Ask lots of questions, and you will get valuable feedback. Some of it might be hard to hear, but that kind of feedback is so valuable because it tells you how to get better. Also listen for what’s going right with your customers, so you can do more of that. 

Leaders from Warren Buffett to Simon Sinek believe that feedback is a gift, and I wholeheartedly agree. Feedback is how we learn, grow, and improve.

Related: Here are 4 Customer Experience Trends to Focus on in 2022 [including feedback]


Take the time to get to know your customers, and then invest in an experience personalized to their needs. Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary? Why be boring when you can be fun? Why be average when you can be remarkable?

As a keynote speaker, many of my speaking gigs come from referrals from past clients and audience members. That’s a sign I’ve left a positive impression. When you create memorable experiences for your customers, they tell others about you. And that word-of-mouth marketing is priceless for any business looking to grow. 

¡Muchas gracias a los organizadores de CX Summit por invitarme a hablar en su hermoso país!

Sign at CX Summit

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