I’ve done speaker coaching and training as part of my work for probably a decade at this point. I’ve read a dozen books on the subject, viewed countless online articles or video tutorials, sat in workshops myself, and been asked “how do I get better?” in one form or another over and over. What I have to report from all this research is this: public speaking “experts” have 3 essential strategies for your talk:
Know your audience
Know your material
Know your role
I’m guilty of this, also, since I’ve designed and delivered full day workshops on speaking. In fact, I have a slide called the “3 Knows” which is exactly what I just wrote above. But, the more I’ve worked with speakers one-on-one, the more I’m ready to boil my advice down to one question:
“How do you think you’re being helpful?”
The biggest issue with speakers who lack confidence or presence or seem to be boring the room to tears isn’t that they lack a “big idea.” It’s they fundamentally misunderstand how they can help. You can know your audience, material, or role all you want, but if what you’re saying has no service, you’re wasting your breath and our time.
The CVS receipt problem in the pic above is an unfortunate case of this. What the audience wants is their product. What CVS forces upon people is a long, ridiculous receipt of coupons are largely irrelevant or should be. Of course, CVS feels this is helpful, because they contain further discounts. But these discounts are delivered in an anachronistic way for 2018, wasting paper that quite likely won’t be used or recycled, needing you to remember to have it with you on your next trip to the store, taking up additional time in checkout lines that could otherwise move faster, and generally adding a last minute negative experience to be associated with a simple transaction. In the photo above, the negative, unnecessary part of the transaction visually dwarfs what the actual point was in the first place.
My biggest issue with speeches, presentations, talks, fireside chats, trainings, and all other forms of spoken communications is that they spend too much time on things the speaker seems to like and not enough on what is truly helpful. The fix to this is easy. Get a piece of paper. Write your topic on the top of the page, and divide the page into two halves. On the left, write what you think you should say. On the right, explain how you are being helpful.
Go onstage with the product people want. Leave the receipt behind.
Founder, The Idea Enthusiast. Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and writer about all things creative consulting. DC-based consultant to individuals who want to be more creative, teams who want to collaborate without fear, and anyone who wants to deliver the best pitches and presentations.