I continue to get most of my valuation and coaching work through LinkedIn. Part of the reason is that I stay on top of the changes LI makes to my profile that my leads and prospects see. So I hope last week’s conversation about the latest LI profile changes was helpful and that you take advantage of the suggested workarounds.
On to this week. From TED curator Chris Anderson: Speaking isn’t an optional extra for the few. It’s a core skill for the 21st century. It’s the most impactful way to share who you are and what you care about. So, do you use speaking as a means to grow your practice? And what does it take to be a good (or better) speaker?
And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
Not everyone loves marketing and selling.
So think of it as your opportunity to tell a story about the work you do, why you do it, and how you got started. It’s guaranteed to make you look and feel less salesy.
My first presentation for the express purpose of growing my BVFLS practice occurred in 1993 … and I’ve presented 84 more times since then. I speak because I enjoy it … and I am getting better at it.
Do you want to use speaking as a tactic for growing your practice?
Are you good at it? Do you wish you were better?
Well, this isn’t going to be a compilation of all of the speaking advice that has ever been published – though as I write this, I would buy that book. But based on my speaking successes and failures, here is some advice I think is worth passing on.
How to use speaking to grow your practice
There are two fundamental questions I ask myself every time I craft a presentation to make sure it has my audience’s best interests in mind:
- What is the core message I want to get across?
- Why does it matter to my audience?
This serves me well whether I am speaking to 1-3 people in a company about why they should hire me to value their business, 10-15 people in a private banking group who want to learn about some aspect of valuation (e.g., the TCJA impact on business values), or 50-100 people at a BVFLS conference session who are interested in a valuation service I provide (e.g., report review).
Then, I answer these questions to make sure my presentation also has my best interests in mind:
- How does this presentation fit into my business plan?
- What do I need attendees to do when I’m done?
Answering all of these questions keeps my presentation focused, my audience interested, and my business model happy.
What does it take to be a better speaker
I won’t say what you should or shouldn’t do on stage because we each have our own style. For example, I’m a walker. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stay and speak in a 3-foot radius. That’s a cardinal sin when speaking. No one is perfect.
Instead, here are the best four things I’ve learned to do before I hit the stage so I can be better on stage – my roaming notwithstanding.
#1 – A workhorse presentation
I have a “workhorse” presentation that I constantly refine. In 2018, I spoke 14 times on the subject of How to Turn the Practice You Have Into the Practice You Want; it was my theme for the year. This year, my workhorse presentation is How to Scale Your Business Model; I expect to speak as many times on that theme.
Sticking with a theme builds your Authority in the practice area or industry niche you want to be known for. And having a workhorse presentation allows you to constantly refine the message. Also, it takes less time to prepare for an event because you are only ever speaking about one theme.
Here is a great example of a great speaker who does a great job with a workhorse subject: Roger Grabowski. All he ever speaks about is cost of capital. It is the space where he created his Authority and where it rests. (It would do him little good to discuss DLOMs, even though he assuredly applies them in his reports, because that is not what he wants to be known for.) And every year there is a workhorse “update” presentation that provides the latest information to all of the groups he addresses.
#2 – Don’t wait till the last minute
When an opportunity comes up to speak about something not covered by my workhorse presentation, I allow a lot of time to gather my thoughts and create my draft slides.
For example, l landed a speaking gig in mid-April. I’ve had conversations with the organizers, we’ve agreed on the message, and I already started a “notes & thoughts” file for a presentation I won’t be giving until October 28.
#3 – Limit your material
My presentations only have one core message. And I only discuss three points that support it. Why only three points? Because research shows that is all we can hold/process in our short-term memory. Go beyond three and you risk losing your audience.
I make my three points easy to formulate and remember for every presentation I give: WHAT the audience needs to know; WHY it is or should be important to them; and a little of HOW to get moving in the right direction. (I don’t give my audience all of the HOW because that is why they hire me!)
#4 – Rehearse
I rehearse because I want the audience to know that I know what I am talking about. And I don’t want to read (or even look at) my slides. But I need to rehearse less as the year goes on because I will have already given my presentation X times before.
I also rehearse to get my timing down. Generally, an important part of my presentation comes at the end when I am discussing the HOW (and the logic for hiring me). I don’t want this part of the message to be rushed because I didn’t manage my time and just got the 5 MINUTES TO GO sign from the moderator and-now-I-have-to-cram-everything-left-to-be-said-and-rush-through-the-remaining-slides-so-I-can-finish-on-time.
Almost every prominent, successful practitioner I know got there because they used a combination of speaking and writing to build their Authority. Nuff said.
In real life
I drafted this newsletter in the Amtrak waiting area at New York’s Penn Station, having just finished my 85th presentation, How to Scale Your Business Model, to the NYSSCPA BV Conference.
I am not sure it was a “conference.” It didn’t feel like a conference because there were more people attending online than in person. Online attendance is a growing audience trend and something to keep in mind when you are speaking … because how do you “reach out and touch someone” who isn’t there?
Reading that can help
How to write a great talk: murder your darlings by Nancy Duarte
19 Powerful Presentation Stats to Transform Talks in 2019 by Alexa Harrison
(both are really good reads)
– If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.
– If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.
– If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.
– If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.