Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anticipate what might go right... or wrong

Many leaders and certainly Thought Leaders who present, are often loathed to prepare for unlikely events. World class presenters head off disaster before it happens. They anticipate what might go right or wrong and build in key concepts or frames to manage the possible fall out.

A word of caution goes with this idea. Often in anticipating a situation, we actually create the situation. If you are coming from a lack of confidence or even some flawed assumptions about your audience, you can make things worse using this idea. If I could repeat this paragraph several times through this idea I would. So every few paragraphs, read this one again.

I have stumbled onto a recurring problem in my Inspired Leader series. The keynotes, workshops and full day programs unpack what it takes to be inspired and be inspiring. I had not anticipated (perhaps naively) that there would be a few people who want to throw a wet blanket on anything at all, either up or hopeful. It was not every program, but I started to notice that certain people might white ant the message of hope and self-accountability in the breaks between sessions. I had to fix it and fast! So I started to build a key message about the difference between a Cynic and a Sceptic. I encouraged scepticism and communicated a zero tolerance for cynicism. I defined a cynic as someone who had hope and now ‘polutes the attitude pond we all drink from'. A sceptic on the other hand is someone who suspends good or bad judgement until they're convinced. This frame is very powerful as it makes thinking OK and negative whiney judgement as not. It doesn't fix the problem completely, but it does set the tone.

Start with writing a list of what might go wrong when you speak. It's not negative thinking to prepare for all eventualities. This is the intellectual challenge that scenario planning has an idea. People who are particularly superstitious don't like discussing the downside of any idea. It's as if for them, the considering of the idea makes it more likely to happen. It is something you have to think through as a speaker.

So what might go wrong?

Not logistically wrong, but conceptually or culturally wrong? Here are some examples…

  • There may be cynicism to your key ideas. A negative undercurrent might be running through the audience that you have seemingly no control of.
  • A major disaster happens just before you go on stage. 9/11 is a good example for this for many of us who were working that day.
  • The Speaker before you may deliver some bad news that leaves a lot of unanswered questions in the minds of the audience members.
  • You might have an accent that the audience stereotypes to mean a certain mindset. E.g. Australians in New Zealand. Americans in Canada.
So, what would you do in each situation?

Here are four approaches that help deal with situations like those listed above.

1. Name the elephant.
One of the quickest ways to shut down a problem is to name it plainly and accurately. You state what's on peoples minds and you have better chance of getting onto something productive or possibly managing the issue. "I know what I might be thinking in your position, another Australian telling Kiwis how to do it better..." "I just want to say from the outset, I have learned so much at this conference seeing the innovative ideas many of your local awards winners have used to increase sales. My notebook is full and I can't wait to get back and try some of them in my office."

2. Give up control to gain it.
In tough situations I like to list the 7 points I planned to speak about and ask the audience if we only had time for 3, which 3 would they choose? Then go around the room asking them to vote. You then mix up your sequence so it serves the request of the room. Of course you need to know your presentation in idea chunks or modules to do this. The audience feels like they designed their own speech, you of course are delivering what you planned to but doing so in a flexible way. I heard it said once that a person's degree of happiness is directly proportional to their degree of control. In this case you can turn tough crowds around as they get to exert a little more influence on the agenda. This is particularly useful when something has just been taken away from the audience or they are used to making decisions.

3. Respond with a story.
Developing a bank of stories you can draw on at a moments notice is definitely a skill of world class presenters. A perfectly placed story that responds artfully to what has just happened or the prevailing mood of the room is an antidote to negative situations.

4. Plan to be spontaneous.
Anticipate what might go wrong and prepare in advance for these situations with off the cuff one-liners. A waiter walks in front of you while your speaking and you might say ‘don't worry it's just a stage your going through' (direct and yet satisfying), you fall off the stage onto the floor you might say ‘OK I will now take questions from the floor', a mobile phone goes off you might say ‘If that's my mum tell her I am working damn it.' You may of course find better humour than these seemingly lame ‘o' punch lines. It's not the size of the laugh that counts it's the sense of cool you bring to a potentially tricky situation.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on the potentially hazardous stuff that could come up. Some people seem to be superstitious about even considering what might go wrong, it's as if by doing so they make it possible. So, grab your rabbits foot, cross your fingers and start to hope for the best while you prepare for the worst. You may never need it...but if you do, you'll be glad you spent some time building in a plan.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lightning talks and the power of a short speech

I have been watching for a couple of years now, the evolution of a concept around the discipline of preparing short talks. It goes by a bunch of names like Ignite, Pecha Kucha and Speed Talking. My favourite is the IT industries adoption of the term 'Lightning Talks'. This metaphor works for me.

They all operate with slight variations in duration of sessions and number of slides.

This is my favourite format so far:

  • 5 minute presentation
  • 20 slides only
  • 15 second automatic transitions
I love Jason Preston's example... How to break up with someone on Twitter - watch it here.

Create a lightning talk using this format, as it forces you to get to the point and lifts your energy as a presenter.

Go on, give it a go!

P.S. Learn about Lightning Talks and more... Improve the quality of your speaking, from mastering advanced presentation techniques through to formulas for creating compelling speeches during Matt's Speakership Week in October. Read more...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The evolution of sales

Extract from Matt's soon to be released new book; Sell Your Thoughts - How to become a million dollar expert... co-authored with Scott Stein and Peter Cook.

Sales 101 was basically about selling techniques. It becomes a numbers game. See enough people and get good enough at the techniques and people will buy what you have to sell. The principle behind 101 is some will, some won’t, so what, get on with it!

Selling 201 was basically about relationship selling. Get to know me enough and build enough shared experience with me and it's likely I will do business with you. The principle behind 201 is that people do business with people they like.

Selling 301 was basically about diagnostic selling. Ask enough questions and understand enough about peoples buying criteria and you can create a proposition that gets you the business. The principle behind diagnostic selling is understand me, show me you get it and we will do business.

For Thought Leaders selling their thoughts, each type of sales approach works and will help you do more business. HOWEVER...

In each of these first three sales approaches you are in effect convincing the client to do business with you. We reckon that when you are the thing being sold this gets weird. It kind of gets personal. It’s also not the way a brain surgeon sells. What you need to do is switch from convincing others and rather stand in your conviction around what you know and why others should care.

As such, we think you need to move onto the next evolution of sales…

Sales 401 is all about authority selling. You know something and others might just have a need that you have already nailed a solution for. It’s about you disclosing your expertise first and asserting a level of knowledge on how to fix key issues people may be experiencing rather than assessing their level of need and creating a proposal (diagnostic selling). The principle behind authority selling is “I know what's going on and can help you with that.”

In the book Thought Leaders we dedicated a chapter to this idea of building conviction around what you know as opposed to needing to convince others that they should buy what you have. We called it “Clicking” and in essence it's about linking known problems that your target market express often and the intellectual property you know can help them.

Problem bridging is the big idea and I’ll go into that one in more detail next week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practice Cluster Strategies

Extract from Matt's soon to be released new book; Sell Your Thoughts - How to become a million dollar expert...

Every great practice is basically a series of profitable projects. Million Dollar Experts worry less about some unified corporate strategy, or staying focussed on their core business. Instead, they know their overarching context and run their practice so that the projects they deploy are profitable and pleasurable. This agility is one of the key attractions to running a highly leveraged income generating practice (not to mention getting bored by doing the same thing over and over!).

This rubs up directly against some entrenched ideas that are useful in building a business but not as useful when running a profitable practice. It’s brand YOU that matters in a practice. You can each year have different projects you launch. Basically, wherever there is a problem that your level of thinking can affect positively, go there. Don’t do so in a schizophrenic haphazard way but rather move from one concept to the next in a way that respects your highest context - your big word.

A profitable project is best defined in a MDE Practice as some combination of message, market and method. Any specific combination of the 3 M’s is called a ‘cluster’. These clusters are the secret to moving up the revenue bands (or belts). For example if your message is how to master your money and retire within ten years. Make sure that you have identified your market, such as: Generation X’ers making an average income or better interested in wealth creation, investment and personal finance. You will also need to identify which mode of delivery that you will use to reach this. One option on this example would be individual coaching, or you could deliver training workshops to groups of people on this message.

You can think of your clusters like spinning plates - like the ones at the circus. Your first cluster, your first $10,000 a month is like your first plate. You make sure that’s stable and spinning before you put up your second plate. Your next cluster or message, market and mode. You need to keep your first cluster ticking over the $10,000 a month while you are building up the second one - don’t let your first plate crash! A black belt practice is typically made up of six clusters bringing in $10,000 a month each - six plates all spinning away.

Of course in reality it never looks exactly like that. Some clusters will be $5,000 a month, some will be $20,000 a month. And different clusters will have different sales cycles, so even if a particular cluster brings in $120,000 a year, it’s unlikely that will be exactly $10,000 for each of the twelve months of the year. However it’s a great template to keep in mind. Because while $60,000 a month may seem daunting, and a million dollars a year might appear outright ridiculous, $10,000 a month from one cluster is doable, and then we just keep adding more of those.The key strategy for building a million dollar practice is to do so with one step, one belt at a time. The MDE methodology divides your practice across six modalities: speaker, author, trainer, mentor, facilitator and coach.

The aim is to work up one belt and one mode at a time.