You’re boring your audience and losing business
BY DAN THURMON, CSP, AND TIM GARD, CSP, CPAE
We’ve been around NSA a while now, and
have seen many speakers both inside and
outside our association. We’ve seen speakers who have stretched our perceptions and
abilities. We’ve been brought to tears (from
both laughter and emotion), challenged to improve and humbled to feel we’re hardly worthy to be in this profession.
And, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of CRAP. Don’t get us wrong.
CRAP has its merit when used sparingly and with discretion.
A little CRAP can nudge even the most reluctant buds to
blossom. It’s when the CRAP becomes the norm of what we
deliver—the mainstay of our offerings—that the presentation
. . . well . . . stinks.
Before you compose your letter to the editor, expressing
your disbelief that such words would appear in our noble
publication, allow us to explain what we mean. Lest we
fall victim to a “CRAP trap” of our own design, let’s
CRAP falls into four categories, which conveniently offers
us a memorable and pungent acronym for added benefit:
Cheesy. Repetitive. Ambiguous. Pretentious.
Here’s the key, if your programs rely on any of these elements, guess what? You are delivering CRAP. And it may
seem to be working great for you! But the reality is you are
shortchanging your audiences, lessening your impact, and
leaving business in the ballrooms by losing valuable repeat
and referral bookings. Whether you are a beginning speaker
or an established pro, it’s important to establish guidelines
that set a higher standard of excellence. After all, that’s what
NSA is all about. So, let’s examine these items one at a time.
Cheesy can easily be substituted for another “C word,”
namely contrived. When your humor seems forced upon the
audience, your stories try too hard or you exude strangely
unnatural positive energy, you are performing in a manner
that is contrived, not real. You’re being cheesy. And your
audience knows it. Sure, they may play along and laugh at the
right points, answer your questions when prompted, and
even applaud and offer generous compliments. They are
being nice. If they were completely honest, they would tell
you that they enjoyed it, but didn’t really connect to it. Here
are a few examples, in our view, of the “cheese trap.”
1. Kissing up at the beginning of your talk. “What a great
looking group” . . . “Wow, you folks are sooooo smart.”
2. Asking for a “show of hands” . . . about EVERYTHING.
“How many of you are here today?”
3. Beginning and speaking with energy that is way higher
than your audience and most humans. “I’m so EXCITED
to be here today!”
4. Crying on command. Please just don’t. We are speakers,
not actors. Real emotions happen naturally, not at each
program you do exactly on the 235th word.
You get the picture. You know cheesy when you see it, and
when you do it. So does your audience.