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Are You Telling Stories with a Point or Creating a Verbal Jigsaw Puzzle with Your Talk?

July 31, 2014

man_speaking_puzzleI get the opportunity to watch and listen to fabulous speakers. Some I watch live, some recorded (I “waste” my downtime watching TED videos), and when I watch these speakers – Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters, Scott Brinker, just as examples – I see people who are outstanding storytellers and whose stories all lead to and support the point of their talks.
In the past two days, sitting at very large conference, I got to listen to two different keynotes. Two individuals were given the stage in front of 5000 people – to make a point, to inspire, to teach. What ensued from each was a 45 minute verbal jigsaw puzzle. Each had stories to highlight their experiences, but even though the stories may have been slightly related to the conference, they had no unifying string or theme. It was left to us in the audience to figure out what they meant, how to tie it together, and how to relate it to our experiences.
This is not the ideal way to give a talk.
If you are giving a talk, whether 15 minutes or two hours, live or via teleconference, please consider the following:
  1. Remember the motto (I think it came from IBM sales training): Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  2. You are competing with your audience’s smart phones for their attention. You need to be more interesting and compelling than their Facebook updates.
  3. Point out your points and the relevance to your audience’s life and experience.  Don’t assume that people will “get it.”
  4. If there is action you want people to take after your talk, tell them what it is. (And where and when to do it, if appropriate.)
We are all moving really fast. As a member of the audience, I may not have the time, desire, or the attention span to put your verbal jigsaw together, read the message, and take action.  Please be sure to give me the highlights, the summary, and the action all wrapped up in a bow.
Who is the best (and if you will share) worst speakers you have ever experienced? Leave us a comment
Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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