Understanding how I’m changing as a speaker

| kaizen, speaking

As I was reading the transcript of my recent presentation on social media for hardware dealers and home improvement stores, I noticed a few things I don’t think I used to do before – or at least, not with this frequency. One of the great things about blogging and sharing my presentations through the years is that I can hop in a time machine, remember much of what it was like back then, and see these little changes.

Here are three ways I’m not the same speaker I was ten years ago:

I now start by acknowledging the “Yeah, but”s. You can see how I experimented with this pattern through the years. I started with very technical talks in 2001. I think my 2009 presentation A Teacher’s Guide to Web 2.0 at School was the first time I explicitly called out the “Yeah, but”s on a slide. There, it was near the end of the presentation. In 2010’s Six Steps to Sharing, I moved the “Yeah, but”s near the beginning of the presentation, where it has stayed ever since. (Yes, it took me that long to figure out that you want to get as many people as possible on the same page as early as possible…)

I then spend a lot more time on helping people imagine what they could experience in the future, dipping briefly into what they can do right now to move towards that. It’s like a small-scale version of the pattern that Nancy Duarte describes in Resonate (Amazon affiliate link, key points) – that alternation, the thrum of going back and forth between present and future. I’ve realized that my key contribution as a speaker isn’t usually to give people technical or how-to information – they can get that through the Internet – but to help them see the possibilities and get excited about what they can do, so that they can then learn more. So, I help people imagine point B, and then sketch the many lines from A to B. I didn’t emphasize this in my early talks.

I also find myself illustrating those futures through what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like. What people might say. What their customers might say. How their customers might find and interact with them. I think this comes from all the viewpoint-switching and success-imagining I’ve been doing for both professional and personal planning. In my slides, I illustrate ideas with screenshots of what people are already doing. In my speech (I like planning for the “audio track” of my presentations!), I drop in imaginary quotes to help make the possibilities real. I didn’t notice myself doing that a lot before. I’m getting better at figuring out what something would sound like if it was successful, and it’s useful for explaining things to other people as well. (I’m trying to find the book that stressed this point – imagining the complete experience of your customer – but I’m having a hard time pinning it down. One of the E-Myth books? Hmm. I need to revisit and sketchnote more books.) I used to be a lot more abstract about this. Now I try to make things much more concrete, much more real. It’s like when people think, “I want my customers to say that to me, so maybe this is worth a try.” (Precisely!)

I know, I know, a decade to realize that I’m learning these things. I can’t wait to find out what I’ll be writing about in another ten years!

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