Guerrilla Alert Dont Be a Bore

Audiences have heard it all, so you must stretch to keep them from scurrying for the exits. You're not putting on a Broadway musical, but the audience members won't find out what you can do for them if you don't command their attention:

Avoid fact-intensive presentations. Consultants tend to give audiences more statistics than they can absorb. Limit statistics to a few facts and figures that directly support your major points.

Best practices are passé. For many clients, best practices mean warmed-over tactics others have tried. And, what's best for one client may be a disaster for others. Listeners want to hear about novel approaches, innovative ideas, and techniques they haven't tried. When explaining a new solution, point out potential risks you can anticipate, but encourage your audiences to think creatively.

Stay on course—keep to your main route. If you do wander, get back on track fast. Like most experts, consultants can ramble endlessly on subtleties that are of little interest to anyone else.

Your speech is not a commercial. Sell your ideas and know-how, not your firm's services. You can present one slide of your qualifications, but that's it. Let the person who introduces you blow your horn.

Don't be a book report speaker. Reading a book or two does not qualify you as an expert, and summarizing the content of books, no matter how great they are, is boring. Only speak on what you expertly know; that is what will interest your audience.

Learn to be an engrossing speaker. Tape your speeches and analyze them later. An audiotape or CD can be a great tool to help you become a better speaker and avoid being dull.

► Step 1: Develop Compelling Content

The Yawn Factor

Every day, thousands of speeches are given. Most fail to move their audiences to do anything other than yawn. Most consultants excel at addressing clients across a desk, but when they speak publicly, they often register new highs on the yawn meter.

Speeches must provide first-rate content and engage listeners' attention. According to a survey by the National Speakers Association,5 what audiences want most is education and skill building. More than 75 percent of speakers are hired because they provide education and training. The most sought-after topic is performance improvement. Industry trends, by the way, are at the bottom of the list.

Audiences appreciate hearing about tools, processes, or systems that will help them solve their problems. Try to give them solutions that they can apply right away. Explain how others have solved similar dilemmas and provide innovative answers to complex problems. Solutions should be a prominent feature of your presentations. Once again, delivering value is the key. Translate your knowledge, experience, and synthesis of issues into understandable and actionable steps for the audience.

Once you identify three topics, call your network contacts, your clients, academics, and industry experts and ask for their thoughts

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