Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Preparing for a mid afternoon 30 minute speaking slot at a conference – the nightmare scenario!

I’ve just been given this task…and what a nightmare it is. Many of you will have hopefully read the book ‘Pitch Anything’ by Oren Klaff. Despite its terrible title (which reminds me of the classic, ‘How to make a million bucks in 24 hours’ type books you find at your nearest international airport!), this is probably the most interesting book around sales that I’ve read for a very long time.

Oren describes the challenge of a subject matter expert communicating his / her knowledge in a way which connects with the audience, who are not subject matter experts, and whose boredom threshold is therefore normal. It’s very important to recognise that your and my own boredom threshold in a subject of our choice is not remotely normal…that’s why we’re subject matter experts!

So what are the choices?

  1. You can speak incredibly quickly…to cover the material which is already pared down from what you initially put together
  2. You can prepare 40 slides…and convince yourself that most of those are transitions anyway and you’ll pass over them in a few seconds.
  3. You can start slowly, realise that you’re not going to cover the material, cut huge chunks on the day…and confuse yourself and the audience!

I’ve seen all of these and probably done most of them by the way!


You can put yourself in the shoes of the audience who are faced with a day of 30 minute presentations. In my experience, that’s a bit like being in a form of intellectual ‘whip lash’, resulting in the sort of ‘brain dead’ experience that we all had as children. (Remember those days before ipads, talking tapes, DSi’s where the only entertainment was staring out of the window on a 5 hour car journey to some beach somewhere…awake but certainly not receptive).

From that position, I think there are five critical things to think about:

  1. Start by identifying the two burning issues which you want to address
  2. Make sure from the feedback that you’ve received that how you deliver those two burning issues is eye catching, thought provoking and creates an impression. I know this sounds like a sales approach…but let’s be honest…that is what you doing…selling.
  3. Develop a introduction and conclusion which are truly memorable. That doesn’t mean a recitation of your credentials and career experience or a summary of what you’ve just said…no one cares, you’re there to entertain them during a day which started with a degree of honest endeavour and ended in a text fest! 
  4. Tell at least one story…trust me, that is they will remember
  5. Practice…you owe it to them and to yourself. Don’t be fooled by the time, shorter is much harder than longer…and therefore requires more practice

And your reward? Amidst the debris of dullness from the day, you will be memorable.

Categories: Defying gravity, Language, Learning, Public speaking, Selling

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s