How NOT to Speak – The Perils of the “It’s All About Me” Speaker

Imagine this: You’ve just left a presentation that inspired and motivated you. The speaker made you laugh one minute, and then see connections the next. You got ideas, tips, enjoyed relevant stories and examples, a great handout, and a message that inspired you. And most importantly, the speaker seemed to talk directly to you and your needs. It was almost as if you and the speaker shared similar life experiences and values. As you leave, you are grateful that you decided to attend the presentation and promise yourself to take action based on what you learned. You’ve been thoroughly impressed by the “It’s All About You” speaker, and wish that all speakers could be like that. What a valuable use of your time it was!

And now, imagine this: You’re sitting in an audience about to listen to a speaker tell [what you hope] is an inspirational story about how they became so successful. Perhaps you’ll be able to learn some valuable lessons that you can apply to your current situation. The speaker starts with a long, text-heavy PowerPoint slide that lists their credentials and qualifications, complete with fancy initials that follow their name. They boast about their accomplishments, their awards, their rock-solid work ethic, and how many businesses and fancy cars they had by the time they were 18 years old. You wait and hope that they will share something of value — something that isn’t purely about THEM — that shows that they care about what their audience gets out of the presentation. But… nothing. The conclusion goes something like: “I’m so busy and successful, you would have to stand in line if you wanted to work with me.” Ah, well. The “It’s All About Me” speaker just stole away an hour of your life that you’ll never get back.

It’s Not About You…Really!
It’s not too hard to see that the first speaker wins praise for being attuned to her audience’s needs. Before speaking, she has researched who they are, why they’re there, and what they expect to hear. She delivers valuable content that’s geared directly to them. The second speaker, however, is not attuned at all. She aims to impress her audience by listing her qualifications and credentials, but what she doesn’t realize is that her audience is filled with intelligent and accomplished people who are hoping to learn something new and interesting from her. With her self-focused content and inability to provide anything of value to the audience, she simply ends up alienating and frustrating them.

Here’s the reality: People care about themselves and how to solve their problems. So to get them to appreciate your message, the speech should be about the audience and their needs. As a speaker, you must resist the urge to focus on talking about your products and services, and what makes you the best person for the job.

A composed, prepared, information-rich presentation will go a lot farther in showcasing your expertise than listing your qualifications, credentials, and experience. Even if you’re asked to speak about your company or your products, make it about your customers or the problems you solve instead. Provide them with valuable content — and they are a lot more likely to provide you with their appreciation, their recommendation, and their business.

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Suzannah Baum, owner of Ideal Communications, is a public speaking trainer, presentation coach and writer who believes that everyone can be an exceptional communicator. She has helped business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics unleash their ultimate public speaking potential. Currently, Suzannah gives seminars and training at corporations, universities and non-profit organizations, and provides individual coaching to individuals who must deliver informational and persuasive presentations with confidence, clarity and power. A prizewinning speaker, she is also a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and Toastmasters. Website: http://www.idealcommunications.ca

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