Why We Came To You

by R. L. Howser on September 24, 2012 · 5 comments

The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.
– Voltaire

Everyone flocks to listen to the expert speak.

The more impressive your credentials or title, the longer your training or experience, the more hours you have devoted to learning the arcane details of your craft or mulling the implications of the most esoteric research in your field, the more we want to learn from you; the master, the guru, the expert – and that’s the trap.

For implicit in that is the assumption that we want to know everything you know. Why else would we ask you to speak?

But whether your expertise is in industrial production management, behavioral economics or flower arranging, it’s impossible to fit everything you know into a one-day seminar, let alone a fifteen-minute presentation to the Rotary Club.

Voltaire was talking about telling a boring story, but it holds equally true for giving a boring, confusing or incomprehensible presentation. Trying to cram in everything just ensures that we will get nothing out of it.

We come to hear you not for the breadth of your knowledge, but for the quality of judgment that your knowledge, your experience and your training has given you.

Because you are the expert, you know enough to separate the essential from the irrelevant, the fundamental from the fashionable and the profound from the trivial. That’s why we come to you.

You can boil it down and distill the very essence of what we need to know, so start with that end in mind. What’s the one thing we need to hear, to understand and to remember? Work backwards from that, building the supporting scaffolding of logic, principle and fact that your time allows.

If you don’t think you’ll have more than enough time to pull that off, then reduce your ambitions until you do. You have the good judgment to make that decision. You’re the expert. You know what you can leave out.

That’s why we come to you.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jordan Fernandes November 15, 2012 at 6:39 am

I never thought of this the way you did, and now that I see it this way it all makes sense. I am a bio major at my school and on a consistent basis we have speakers such as medical doctors, physical therapists, and sometimes lab researchers. Their job is to open our minds to new and different things, but not everyone of them know how to correctly do so, because I have walked out on occasion not knowing what just happened. I like this blog because I believe it makes a lot of sense. This too helps me in the future when or if I have to do informative presentations.

2 R. L. Howser November 15, 2012 at 8:21 am

Thank you, Jordan. It’s a constant struggle to figure out how much to put in and what to leave out. But if the speaker doesn’t struggle, the audience surely will.

3 Dennis c/o Japan November 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Absolutely agree with you Mr. Howser. Another gentleman named Gordon Hall, tells his students often the following, “It is your come from that persuades your listener to take the action you are recommending to them.” I believe you have developed an effective “come from” hence your client will indeed follow your suggestion when you say to them, “You can boil it down and distill the very essence of what we need to know, so start with that end in mind. What’s the one thing we need to hear, to understand and to remember? Work backwards from that, building the supporting scaffolding of logic, principle and fact that your time allows.” Certainly, once your client places their faith in your ability to guide them through the above process, most of the battle is won. Personally, I would like to see more content on your web page that states you guide the client through the process step-by-step and also some examples or a simple overview of the process. As a final comment, in addition to listing the companies you have successfully achieved results with, would it not also be useful to include some “testimonials” from satisfied clients?

4 R. L. Howser November 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, Dennis. I’m just about to embark on a redesign of my website. Adding testimonials is at the top of the list of changes I plan to make. I wish I had been more diligent about collecting testimonials from past clients. That’s something I plan to do moving forward.

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