Have you ever watched a presenter say or do something that felt “off topic?” They may be really likeable, and they may have great presence, but what they do or say has you wondering what the heck that has to do with the subject? It happens all the time; even sometimes with seasoned professionals. This weekend, I attended the NSA Profit Lab in Phoenix, AZ, and witnessed this very thing several times. There were some amazing speakers who earn much more than I do, but a few times I was thinking, “What does what you are talking about have to do with this topic?”
Once you become the “go-to” expert or a celebrity in your niche, you have then earned a little leeway, but your audience still wants to know what is in it for them, and leave with value. I remember hearing an interview with Robin Williams, who said that a comedian only has a couple of minutes to start making an audience laugh, a celebrity is given a few extra minutes, but that is it. The window does not stay open endlessly. If you are like me, and still eager for growth and respect your reputation, we have to strive to give the audience what they want; purpose, clarity, and new perspective. If we are only given an hour we must make every minute matter toward that goal.
So, what am I saying? What do you do? You should strive to prove your premise every step of the way. Just because you have a great story and people laugh and love it, you still need to ask yourself, “Does it clarify or distract from the main point?” That is the question we must keep in mind about every story and example we use.
What is a premise? In the comedy world it means the idea behind each individual comedy “bit.” It is different in the presentation world. Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE defines it best.
Premise: the idea or thought you are selling.
The difference in the speaking world is that you have one premise for the entire presentation. Everything you do, say, or show, should relate to that premise. An example of a premise that I used when speaking to a group of Toastmasters last week in Phoenix was: Every speaker can create a world-class presentation. That was the idea that I was selling. Everything from my introduction to closing was about just that. Sometimes we even need to clarify to our audience exactly how something relates back to the premise if it is not clear. It is our job to build that bridge and make those connections.
I showed my audience in Phoenix a video of my winning Toastmasters speech. Later in the program, I showed just the clip of the opening and asked them, “Was that a good opening?” Most said, “Yes.” I said, “No!” I could read their facial expressions. . . “No”? The correct answer is, “It depends.” It depends on the premise. There is not any good opening in and of itself. The purpose of the opening is to draw the audience smoothly into our premise. The opening should “open” our audience to the premise, and connect them into the content. You can’t decide whether an opening or closing is good, without knowing what the premise is.
You can also have a great story that works as an opening for a multiple presentations. How is that; you might be wondering? It could support different premises. The difference would be after the opening, you would have different transition into the various premises.
Look over the outlines of your presentations. With each bullet point ask yourself, “Does it prove my premise?” Also ask, “Is it clear that it does so?” If it is not clear from your audience’s perspective, you must identify how it supports your premise. If it does not, “Lose it!” Put it in your story file and save it for a presentation where it does support your premise. When we are coaching people at our live Champ Camps:
“99% of what we are coaching is clarity, clarity, clarity.”
Prove it or lose it. If we want to be known as the best in our speaking niche, we must have clarity, content, and delivery. We need to work harder and smarter than anyone in our niche, including those who are at the top. Position yourself by always proving your premise one point at a time. I took a class with financial guru, Dave Ramsey, and he said, “If you want to live like no one else, you have to live like no one else.” Stop and think about that. I believe the principle applies to us, as presenters, too. If you want to speak like no one else, you have to speak like no one else!
Please share your thoughts below!