Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nobody Cares About You!

Believe it or not, it's true - not single person in your audience gives a whit about you. You and your story. You and your success. You and your obstacles. You and your genius.

Even if your mom, spouse, or children are in the audience - they don't care about you either.

Humans are a egotistical lot. There's an old saying - 'your favorite word is your own name' - even if you don't like your name, when you hear it, you immediately come to attention. Heck, with six kids, if I just hear the word 'Dad' in any space I'm in, I start looking around!

We may like you. We may even want to hear you tell us about your eight years in the oval office, your climb to the top of Mt. Everest, your triumphant rescue of a Fortune 500 Company.

But only if it affects...US. 

It's the first thing I have to work with my clients on when they tell me how passionate they are about their messages, how amazing their experiences are, and how mind-blowing their approach to life is. To THEM.

My response? "So. What? Why do I care?"

Because in the end, your audience needs a reason to care that is in their self-interest - because they only want to hear what you have to say if it benefits THEM.

Those benefits don't have to be major. They may simply come in the entertainment value of your talk. More likely, for the average Non-Celebrity Keynote Speaker, the benefits will come in the form of your process - your solution to their problem, their pain.

Their problem. Their pain. Those are the money words.

Where can they find their pain in what you're sharing? You have to ask yourself that because it's your job to show them their pain in the beginning of your presentation. To give them a reason to care, to listen to you as opposed to playing Candy Crush on their smart phone for the next 45 minutes.

If you ARE a celebrity speaker, their pain may simply be that they don't understand how you got to be you. Envy. So you let them know right away you're going to give them behind-the-scenes access to being you, so THEY can find hope that THEY can be more like you.

For the non-celebrity speaker (that is, most likely, you and me)...
Here are a few popular topics, and some ways to Poke Their Pain:

Marketing - without it, you have no business. Doing it wrong can bankrupt you. Your competition is probably doing it better than you.

Leadership - the hardest thing you'll ever do. Fail in this, and you can't reach your goals. Fail as a leader, and you feel horrible about yourself. Fail in this, and your company will fail with you.

Communication - poor communication destroys companies, slows productivity, and sours relationships of every kind.

Speaking - what if you had an amazing message, and spent your own life sharing it with an audience of one - the one in the mirror?

Quilting - how many hours do you spend hand-stitching? How long can you work until your arthritis acts up, forcing you to stop, and putting you behind on your Christmas gifts to your 26 grandchildren?

It's not that hard to find the pain - most any topic pertains to our financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being to some degree. But if we simply assume they'll know the pain we're talking about, we'll lose most of the audience pretty quick, and miss our opportunity to bring them immediately into our presentation. Point out their pain, and then....

...swoop in with empathy.  You've been there. You understand their predicament. You share a short promise to them that by the end of your presentation, they'll know how THEY can get through it, and by the end of the speech, they be begging to know exactly how YOU got through it. Promise them they'll have solutions for their marketing, their leadership, their communication, their speaking, and even a better idea of how to climb Mt. Everest. Though probably not all in the same speech...

Promise them, and then deliver, PAIN RELIEF. That's right. As a speaker you're basically Aspirin.

Most of us get into speaking because, well, we like to hear ourselves talk. We love our message, and our stories. We often enjoy the attention. Those that successfully STAY in speaking learn to love their audience first, and use the result the audience will get as a filter for everything they say.

Whether you're building a speech or you have a message you've been giving for awhile now, take some time to ask yourself (or find someone who WILL ask you) "So What? Why Do I Care?"

Because until they have a reason to care...a pain that crystallizes their attention...they sure as heck don't want to hear how awesome your life is. As for your mom, spouse, and kids? They're just hoping you give them some credit for how awesome you are.

Because it's all about THEM!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Triumphant Return?

After coming home from the International Conference in August, I haven't done much speaking. In fact, other than a couple of 5-7 minute speeches in my home club toward the end of the year, I've really done NONE.

Over the weekend, I was an educational presenter for my District's TLI - Toastmasters Leadership Institute, and gave a 45 minute session (Unlock Your Keynote) designed to help TMs who want to get their message out to the world in a longer format. Twice, in fact. Once in Denver, then that afternoon in Colorado Springs.

Returning to the stage was extremely satisfying for me. I was glad, for one, that I was ABLE to stand for 45 minutes and deliver, without falling down. For those newcomers to the blog, I had back surgery back in September, which led in large part to my absence from the stage. I was certainly sore by the end of the day, but I rebounded pretty quickly the next day.

My speaking chops weren't terribly rusty, though as I run the experience through my head, there are a lot of things I would do differently, both content and delivery-wise. Isn't that always the way? I had a tremendous amount of positive, appreciative feedback, but I'm always self-critical. Heck, just looking at that picture, my first thought is 'wow, I can tell I'm up 20 lbs since Malaysia'.

One of my challenges, in Toastmasters, at least, is selling from the stage. I didn't bring any books, didn't even ask for information - though I did finally use a handout with some contact info. It's so wrong, I know. It goes against everything I teach my clients to do.

There's an old saying about never being a prophet in your home town - perhaps I've mentally turned that word into 'profit' in my mind. I've never liked asking 'family' for money, and my local Toastmasters feel like close family to me. It's easier when a district (still family, but more like, say, second cousins) flies me out to speak - I know they WANT me to sell, typically, and that these folks don't get to see me all the time.

It's the local folk that I get a bit shy in front of. As a result, I think I actually told folks NOT to hire me as a coach, though my intent was to say there were lots of coaches out there, and I'd happily find them one that would match their style and personality, if I could.

Overall, it was nice to be back, and I'm looking forward to getting out in public a lot more in 2015. Time to actually make those phone calls to Rotary, etc., and get some bookings.

What will year look like? Do you have a plan to speak a certain number of times? Do you have places targeted to speak? Do you know who to talk to? Hmm. Maybe I'll talk more on that in my next post...

For now, I'm just happy to have had the chance to once again give to an audience. To Speak & Deliver!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Toastmasters Saturday: The New Year That Almost Wasn't

As I drove up to the auto dealership our club meets at last night, it was eerily quiet...and locked.

Down the way, were a few of my club members huddled around their cars in the cold, already wondering if and where we were going to hold our meeting - a meeting/party we had boldly scheduled at our normal 7:00 pm time, despite the holiday.

Smart phones out, we started looking for alternate venues. Whole Foods? Soon to close for the night? The local diner? Pretty loud and we couldn't bring in the food we had brought. Same for McDonalds, even though it had a private meeting room (the only one I've ever seen in a McDs, actually). One of our member just leased a meeting facility for weddings and events - but the heater was on the fritz.

It looked bleak, until our newest member volunteered his home, which was just about a mile away. His wife was with him (she's been a guest at all the meetings he, and their son, our second newest member, have attended), so he had immediate buy-in from the boss!

The only guest we expected had already been contacted with the change in plans, and while we started late, we got the meeting in - two speeches, topics, and all, followed by the party - all in the comfort of a wonderfully still-decorated holiday household.

Still - we got LUCKY. This was the New Year that almost WASN'T.

I've had similar situations in the past, and often they seem unavoidable. Building closings, problems with the heat, double-bookings, the person with the keys is detained or just doesn't show.

Is your club prepared for your next 'location crisis'?

Four items to consider at your next Officer Meeting:

1. Be Proactive, not Reactive. We should have verified building access for a holiday. Our SAA is new, but that's no excuse - I've been in 15 years, and I didn't even think about the potential issue - none of us did.

2. Have a Back-Up. Do you have a default second location? Find one close - and if it's a restaurant, maybe even have a meeting there once a quarter to keep it 'in the rotation'. A little variation in routine can be healthy, and having the goodwill of the owner always helps.

3. Have a Communication Plan. How will you let members know to re-route? Do you have a call list on your phone? An easily accessible email/text list? Will you leave a note behind for guests, or an actual person who can be late for the changed meeting time/place in said emergency?

4. Create a Flexible Culture. You never know what's going to happen. Not that long ago, the dealership pulled up all the carpet in the facility, and closed our room down, without notice. We survived that for a couple of weeks, but only because our folks are willing to go with the flow vs. throwing their hands up and cancelling. Flexibility starts at the top - you know, where leaders are made!

Our crisis had a happy ending. What are YOUR venue horror stories, and how have you solved them - or not?


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