What to do when being an expert comes knocking on your door

27 Dec

Definition of an expert: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.

In the last two months, I have put on my own conference and also attended a few others.  I have been dying to write this post.
One of my responsibilities is to recruit experts to speak. I am usually very excited to have them come and to hear them speak.  I imagine that they will be dynamic, on point and charismatic.  The characteristics that I think will match their knowledge.  Over the years, I have developed some sort of  “tick” that reacts to bad presentations.  I get annoyed,  roll  my eyes, and when I am in charge, I start thinking of ways to frantically exit the room so that I can avoid hearing the complaints( i will read them later in evaluations).  But when the presentations go well, I smile (inside and out) and want to stay and hear more. And I have been known to go up and gush to the speaker afterward.
What makes the difference?

Here are some things I have seen from experts I respect.  These things make a difference  to the audience to the presentation ( and I am hoping for you the next time the opportunity to be an expert comes knocking).

Think of yourself as an expert
In her book “ Escape from Cubicle Nation” Pamela Slim gives a definition of EXPERT that  resonated with me and made me step into my expertise.  In summary, she says:

“Whether you have all of the advance degrees or all of the experience in the world, an expert mindset thinks “  I really do know and care a lot about this subject and you should listen to me!” If you have the results to back it up, you have as much to say about this subject as the post doctorate from Stanford.”

Is this you?  Expertise is not ” all experience” or “all credentials”, it can be one or the other or both.  Which is yours?  Whatever  it is, start talking about it.  I am not suggesting that you ” fake it til you make it “.  I am saying  is to think about these words in a broader context and start referring to yourself as one.  If you can back it up– which i know you can– then do it.

Impress them by knowing them *

The first rule of any sort of public speaking is to know your audience.  Not , just who they are but also:

  • What is their level of knowledge about the subject matter?
  • What have they expressed interest in knowing about the subject matter?
  • What does the audience value in seeing a speaker? ( will the organizers know this, they should, or u should be worried)
  • What does the audience attitude about your subject matter?

These are just some of the questions that you want to know. Getting the answers  helps you connect with the audience. When I speak, I ask them and when I prepping someone to speak, I  outline all of this for my speakers so that they can read it (even if it is in the cab coming over to my event). 

Control how you are introduced
How many times do you get asked to speak and you say “ oh just take my bio from the website, it’s there”.   I once hired a man who was considered a public relations expert  who handed me his bio on the way in to his speech.  I said, “ oh I have it , i got it from the web”.  He said” No, use this one, it
fits the audience.”  And when I looked over it, it did.  He was speaking in front of lawyers and although he was a public relations guy , he had been to law school  and done pro bono work .” ( My audience was public interest lawyers)  As I stood in the back of the room after the event and listened to what was being said, so many people said, ” thank you , you knew where I was coming from”.  Simple, but it worked.

Figure out what the audience needs to know *
In watching experts, the best experts make a conscious decision to figure out what people need to know vs what people want to know.   Giving people what you WANT them to know results in too much information, too many words, too many graphics and a gigantic bunch of information that neither of you know whats to do with.  Giving people what they NEED to know results in a focused, tight, and coherent presentation. ( and sometimes it leaves out something an audience member wants to know–hit that in the Q and A)

So here is the simplest method I have heard for figuring out the “want vs. need”game. Ask yourself:

What are the 3 ( three *holds up 3 fingers) things that people need to know in order or else ( the sky will fall, they cannot do their jobs, better, smarter).

Just three things.  Hit those things hard and deep.  Not only give the information, include statistics, give examples ( either real or hypothetical).  And reiterate those three points.  Then, at the end of the speech, ask people to repeat the three things with you.

PowerPoint is Evil ( or why you should not use it at all, okay less)

Whenever I get the chance, I go on my tirade about hating PowerPoint presentations.   I know you might be an introvert and big audiences make
you nervous, but stop, stop, stop making power point presentations that have everything that you want to say written on each the darn slides. It makes you look nervous and unsure of what you are talking about.

Someone that I just gush over is Garr Reynolds in the presentation world.  He has an aesthetic and approach I agree with.  And he gives the best argument about why PowerPoint is evil ( my words, not his). In Presentation Zen, he says:

” Death by PowerPoint is common and normal.  The problem is not one of tools or techniques, so much as a problem of bad habits…Its long past time that we realized that putting the same info on a slide in text form that is coming out of our mouths usually does not help. In fact, it hurts our message.”

If you need notes, make note cards.  If you have information people must have, make a fact-sheet ( with the same info that you would have put in the PowerPoint). If Use the PowerPoint for punctuation of key points, to show a picture or statistic that highlight a key point.

Does that make sense?
( a little garr reynolds love)

Need an “expert boost”, drink TED.

So some of the best presenters in the world appear at the TED conference.  And they have the presentation skills down.  So, the next time you are asked to speak, get up from your desk and watch one of these three speeches and if worse comes to worse, channel them and you take the time to prepare your own remarks.

My favorites:
Majora Carter
Isabel Allende
Sir Kenneth Robinson

When I recruit someone to speak, I want them to do their best.  I want them to be loved by the audience and I want them to be respected for what they know.  In short, I want them to be the expert that I recruited them to be.  Now go out, socialchange diva, have impact and make the world proud!


*These tips came from “Successful presentations for Dummies*.  The yellow books. Not for dummies, really.*


2 Responses to “What to do when being an expert comes knocking on your door”

  1. socialchangediva December 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    One thing experts always look for is press. Heard of this group?

    *thanks to Pam Slim and Start Up Princess for this link*


  1. Time Management and Conferences « Art Counsel - December 30, 2009

    […] What to do when being an expert comes knocking on your door by Socialchangediva […]

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