Will your speech be a success?

Lots of different public speaking programs claim the ability to help you be a successful speaker, to be able to make people love you and adore you. With the exception of Oratium (which is more about presentation architecture than on-stage charisma), I’ve not found any that address the fundamental flaw in most speaking programs.

speaking.001

The fundamental flaw goes back to a direct marketing concept first created by Bob Stone in 1967. Stone simply said that direct marketing was a matter of three things in descending order of importance: list, offer, creative. If you don’t have the right list, your campaign will fail. If you don’t have the right offer, the list won’t respond. If you don’t have the right creative, the offer will not be noticed.

Let’s take Bob Stone’s framework and apply it to public speaking. Who is the list? It’s your audience. It’s who is in the room. If you have a canned talk, a topic that you’re known for (or want to be known for), you have to figure out whether the people sitting in the room even want to hear about it. If it’s not deeply relevant, it doesn’t matter how good a speaker you are or how good your speech is, they won’t care. Choose your audiences with care! Some audiences and some shows, no matter what the speaking fee is or how important the attendees are, simply are not good fits, and you should pass them up. If your topic is relevant to the room, then you’ve cleared the first and most important hurdle.

The offer in Stone’s framework is the content, which in the speaking world is the content of your speech. The best speakers I know adapt their talks heavily to who the audience is, to who will be in the room. Jay Baer is a master of this – he even rewrites entire books for specific industries. I recently delivered a talk to SpiceWorld, an IT developer (and now IT marketer) conference, and it was written expressly for the IT marketer, filled with nerd references, and tailored to the audience so that they would understand the relevance of what I was saying. Make sure that your speech feels like it was written for the crowd you’re with, and that crowd only.

The creative in Stone’s framework is the delivery in the world of speaking. As is the case in direct marketing, the delivery, or how you speak, is the least important of the three areas. It’s still important, but if you’ve got the wrong audience and you’ve got the wrong content, how well you delivery it will be irrelevant. Conversely, if you have the right audience and fascinating content, people can excuse mediocre delivery. This is where speaking programs that focus on tonality, umm and ah counting, etc. can come in handy, to add some polish to your delivery, but a good voice lessons class or acting class can do just as much good (and probably be significantly less expensive). Much of how I learned to speak came from modeling my martial arts instructors.

Audience. Content. Delivery. Get them right, in that order, and your speech stands a much greater chance of being a success!


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The marketing optimization trap

Chasing his tail

In marketing, we love to talk about optimization. Conversion rate optimization. Landing page optimization. Revenue optimization. Search engine optimization. Social marketing optimization. We dream of being able to squeeze every bit of performance out of our marketing machinery like a Formula 1 race car driver.

In our endless quest for optimization, we forget one vitally important thing, however:

You can endlessly optimize a bad system.

For example, we can endlessly delve into our analytics and optimize our practices for any given metric. You can optimize your Twitter habits to maximize the number of followers you have whose handles begin with the letter A. A ludicrous example, to be sure, but not so far from what many marketers already do.

In the quest for optimizing for that metric, we forget to question whether we should even be doing the practice at all. Worse, as Simon Sinek points out in his book Leaders Eat Last, our brains give us positive chemical reinforcement for every little optimization we deliver. We get a shot of dopamine in our neurons every time we squeeze out another percentage point of performance – but we fail to ask whether the performance even matters. We can chase our tails endlessly and feel like we’re getting somewhere.

The best thinkers, the best strategists in marketing don’t just leap into optimization without first understanding the strategic (un)importance of any given practice or method. Ask first whether you should do it at all before you ask how to do it better!

You can get very good at being very bad. Better to not do at all than to do the bad par excellence.


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How to find your dream job

Job Search

I was reading with interest a series of (print) articles recently in Fortune about people looking for their dream job. Much of the debate talked about perks, about job roles and responsibilities, and a lot of the side benefits of a job. What was glaringly missing from many of the discussions, however, is figuring out what your dream job is. Certainly, we’d all like the nearly imaginary job where we get paid obscene sums of money for doing virtually no work at all, a privilege reserved only for criminal banking CEOs and politicians, but that’s not a viable career path for most of us.

So what defines your dream job? How do you figure out what your dream job is? I’d submit that in order to answer this question, you need to dig further back in your past than any part of your professional life. For example, I’m working in as close to my dream job as I can get right now as VP of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications. What I do on a daily basis varies wildly, but the common thread is that, as long as I behave in a fiscally responsible, ethical manner, I get to experiment with new technologies, test things, learn, and receive positive social reinforcement for what I do.

How did I figure out what my dream job would be? I looked back in time. When I was a kid, my dad built me a “laboratory workbench” out of plywood and 2x4s. That little wooden bench was covered in chemical stains from my chemistry set, burn marks from a variety of wood burning devices, and more seemingly junk items than that desk should have been able to hold. I was forever taking things apart. I once cut a screwdriver in half, accidentally, because I was tinkering with an alarm clock that was still plugged in. The electrical arc cut the screwdriver in half and tripped every breaker in the house. It’s amazing that I survived my childhood largely unharmed.

The defining trait of my childhood was curiosity and exploration. That’s what I did best, and that’s what I enjoyed most. It’s no surprise, then, that my dream job focuses on that behavior. At heart, my dream job is still being a kid and playing with toys – it’s just that the toys have changed form. Instead of a kid’s chemistry set, I play with Tableau and R. Instead of taking alarm clocks apart, I now take companies’ analytics and marketing programs apart. Instead of testing and experimenting with random chemicals, I test and experiment with web pages and email marketing.

I didn’t take childhood interests and try to pursue them in a career. (well, actually I did and it turned out badly) What I did to find a happy job, a dream job, is to take childhood behaviors and find careers that made use of those core behaviors. Find work you love based on habits and behaviors that define you.


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