I have the great pleasure and fortune of working with very smart and capable people. On any given day I may be working with a lawyer who specializes in pensions, an engineer who is trying to solve the problem of water treatment, the analyst who is pitching for a new custody business assignment. These people are leaders in their fields and they find themselves having to go out into the broader world to participate in panels or make presentations.
What strikes me time and time again is how these experts struggle to get out of the weeds to move away from the minutia and to eliminate the details to tell their story.
I hear myself telling them that their topic is fascinating, interesting or even exciting and they look at me as if I have two heads. The trouble is that these leaders live day to day in the minutia. They live and die by the details and they aren’t paid to think in generalities or to speak in broad strokes. And yet this is exactly what they need to do to make sure they can be heard and understood by their audiences.
In a recent meeting my client was telling me about the problem with the fragmentation of technology and the industry he worked in. As I tried to understand what he meant I said it sounded like the game “broken telephone”. He smiled and said that was exactly right. The information goes into the system and as it travels through the various parts/fragments it changed and became distorted which meant the output was completely distorted and of little value.
Once we established this simple analogy it enabled him to make a series of points that were easy to understand and remember.
Another client who felt Pension reform was likely the biggest yawn subject compared to the other topics on the conference agenda. But once we found 5 newspaper clippings which demonstrated that this was in fact a very “hot” topic he was ready to go out and speak knowing that he’d likely be quoted that weekend on the cottage dock. This is a goal of any speaking opportunity.
Things to do to make your topic memorable:
Try to say something that will be repeated in an informal situation such as the dinner table or with friends. This means you said something interesting, memorable and it will be passed along.
Try to find a simple analogy or parallel that everyone can quickly get.
Make reference to something that is very common like a recent event or news item.
Just because you live in the depths of your topic and you are respected and rewarded for your deep knowledge, don’t be afraid to rise to the top to give audiences a high level view.
Just because your topic is old hat for you it isn’t for the audience. Remember to show your enthusiasm. We always enjoy watching someone who is passionate about their topic.