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Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Social Media

5 rules for a knock out speech!

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I was the speaker at an event last week for a financial firm. One of those “kickoff the quarter” deals. It’s always great to be part of an initiative to help sales producers (in this case financial advisors) give it everything for the last and final round. Elbows in, you win!

There was a lot planned for the day. Advisors traveled from far and wide to see the opening speaker – a LinkedIn expert, a number of wholesalers, the new CEO and me.

Now who wouldn’t travel far and wide to see that?

The branch manager opened the meeting and introduced the first speaker whose focus was on LinkedIn and social media. I love watching the speakers that precede me as it offers the opportunity to weave their content into mine and align common themes. I thought I would also learn a ton about LinkedIn.

The speaker opened with his credentials and had the logos of some of his past clients displayed on a slide – only one of them was financial services. He shared a story about himself and talked about the value of LinkedIn.

As it turned out, he had a lot of connectivity issues with the Internet which quickly created connectivity issues with his audience. In addition to the technical difficulty, the audience was preoccupied with the notion that compliance wouldn’t allow them to implement some of the speaker’s ideas. (Compliance is funny about social media and the guidelines vary with each company and are constantly changing.)

In fact, many of the advisors in the audience actually made mention of this out loud which forced the branch manager to ask the audience to keep listening anyway.

At that point, the speaker was done.

I had to speak later that day to the same audience. Hopefully, I was on my game and the first speaker isn’t writing a blog about me!

As a fellow presenter, I never want to see anyone fail or struggle on the platform but I thought that if this guy was better prepared, he could have avoided some of the challenges he faced.

Here are 5 rules he didn’t follow, but you can!


Know your audience

This seems obvious but you would be surprised.

  • How many attendees?
  • What is their experience level?
  • What is the breakdown with regard to gender, nationality, age, etc.?
  • What is your audience’s profession(s)?
  • What challenges are they facing in their environment?
  • What challenges are they facing related to your topic?
  • What is their experience with your topic?
  • Why should they care about you and your topic?
  • How can you best help them?
  • How can you relate to their world?


Do your homework

Your homework is related to “Know your audience” but is more focused on how you will use what you’ve learned to help with your presentation. If the speaker I mentioned above had simply contacted the compliance department and understood the guidelines specific to that firm, his presentation would have been worth the price of admission. In fact, speaking to a number of the advisors ahead of time wouldn’t have been a bad idea either. The more you can relate to your audience, the more they will want to relate to you!


Address the elephant in the room:

If there is an elephant in the room, introduce it! You don’t want any concerns being harbored by your audience and lingering over your presentation. When that happens, listening stops. The elephant in this case was compliance. How would this opening have worked with that audience?

“I know what you’re thinking! I do! I know what you’re thinking. In fact, if I were you, I’d be thinking the same thing! This LinkedIn speaker knows nothing about our industry, our challenges and our compliance guidelines. This will be a waste of time. Of course, that’s the last thing I want. Behind me is a slide with your company logo on it and a bulleted list of all the compliance guidelines for your firm as of Friday. All the ideas I’m going to share with you today are per the guidelines of your firm and can absolutely help put money in your pocket today – if you want to!”

business audience

Start with your best stuff

Always start your presentation with your best stuff. Your goal is to get your audience engaged immediately. A story, anecdote, quote, or addressing a concern. When starting your presentation, answer these questions for your audience:

  • Who is this speaker?
  • Why is he (or she) here?
  • Why should I care?
  • Have a backup plan

What can possibly go wrong with your presentation that might be out of your control? Internet issues and other technical difficulties, lost slides, etc. What will your Plan B be? Remember, the show must go on. I have to admit, the LinkedIn speaker did a good job with a backup plan. Although he spent a lot of time fiddling with his technology, he finally had his audience take out their phones to access LinkedIn so he could continue. Unfortunately, many were checking email.


Share actionable ideas

The best business presentations offer great information, excellent resources for further research (websites, names or organizations, books, etc.), and actionable ideas that can be implemented immediately. In fact, the use of signposts works well here – “The first actionable idea I want to share with you is… The second actionable idea…” and so on. Audiences like to feel they’re walking away with ideas and approaches that are simple enough to understand and even simpler to put into practice. Hey, at least that’s what they tell me.

Again, who wouldn’t travel far and wide to see that?