I’m pleased to announce that my virtual presentation training session is now available (for virtual delivery). Running for 90 minutes, the virtual course is based on my own experiences in presentation delivery and training (both physical and virtual), along with extensive research into the fundamentals of good online delivery.
With physical meetings, training sessions and conferences all around Australia being cancelled, service providers are scrambling to reinvent them as online experiences. But running a successful online event takes more than just a webcam and a microphone. If you’re looking for advice on how to host an effective online expereince, you might want to check out some of the tips from industry experts in my story for CMO.
I’ve also switched over my own communications and presentation training seessions to be conducted virtually, and am looking forward to starting deliver to clients next week.
When it comes to public communication, it’s one of the most fundamental questions we can ask ourselves. And I don’t mean in the biological or spiritual sense. I mean, why have you shown up in the first place?
It’s a question your audience is probably asking itself as
well – why have you shown up? And why should they listen?
But it’s a question that seems to get forgotten in the rush
to talk about the ‘what’ and ‘who’. Knowing why you have shown up is the central
thread that sews everything else together – it is the landmark you use to
navigate through your communication. When you offer up something that doesn’t help
you achieve your goal, you risk wasting time – yours and the audiences. Hence
always knowing why you are there becomes critical.
There is another ‘why’ that should take primacy however in
all communication – and that is the ‘why’ that the audience is asking. Why
should they give up their time to listen to you in the first place?
Quite often, your ‘why’ and their ‘why’ won’t immediately
match up. I see this frequently in the technology sector, where the ‘why’ of
the communicator might be to sell more products, but there is a good chance
that the audience doesn’t want more products – they have plenty already.
They might want is a solution to a problem. Or an insight
into a desirable future outcome. Or something else that that will make their
The gaps between ‘what’ and ‘why’ can be summed up in the
difference between two words – ‘want’ and ‘need’. Because there are a lot of
things in this world that are needed rather than wanted.
Take accounting for example. It’s quite likely that there
aren’t that many business owners who really ‘want’ an accountant. What they
want is to stay compliant with tax law, or to better manage their cashflow, or
to invest wisely for the future. But in most instances, they need assistance
with that, and hence an accountant is ‘needed’.
The same thinking applies in the technology sector. When a
technology provider focuses on what they do, rather than why anyone would want
it, a disconnect opens up.
Take cloud computing for instance. It is likely that there
aren’t that many business owners who really want cloud computing (it’s equally
likely that many of them also don’t want to be running computers on-premises).
What they want is a powerful, reliable and flexible computing environment that
enables them to better perform that tasks that are essential for running their
business. They want a means of ensuring their technology does not prevent them
from responding swiftly to changing market conditions or hold them back from
The ‘why’ – business flexibility – is much more meaningful
than the ‘what’ that delivers it.
Hence when someone commences communicating by only
considering their ‘why’ – to sell more of something – they immediately
disconnect from the audience. But when they take into account the needs of the
audience, magical things happen.
By articulating that you understand the problems, challenges
and concerns of those listening to you, you immediately build rapport. You
demonstrate concern and understanding and cease to be someone who is selling
down to them, but rather appear as someone who stands alongside them and knows
It is a fairly basic concept, but one that is frequently forgotten
in the rush to talk about the latest new thing (the ‘what’) and the
organisation or person that will make it possible (the ‘who’). What you are
offering and who you are should always be secondary to the ‘why’ of the
Considering the ‘why’ of the audience and what they really
want earns permission to talk about the ‘what’ and ‘who’. It also creates a
means of aligning your ‘why’ (build brand awareness, change behaviour, sell
more stuff, etc) and placing it into a context that the audience will respond
Much of my working life is spent developing thought leadership articles and reports, which provides me with fantastic opportunities to dig deeper into concepts and hopefully get people thinking a little differently as a result.
What I’ve learned over the years however is that there are certain conditions and processes that need to be considered if a thought leadership exercise is going to deliver the desired results.
A good thought leadership piece is not simply an announcement – that can be better achieved through a press release or an ad. Good thought leadership is about joining a conversation that is already taking place – or better still, starting a new one.
Unfortunately for some brands, they have no natural place in the conversations they wish to enter. Hence the goal is to find a point of connection around which they can build their relevancy, and use that to earn the permission needed to join into the conversation. Just because a brand hasn’t yet earned its place in a conversation doesn’t mean it should give up however. Authenticity and relevancy obviously help, and often these can be established over a period of time. But doing so requires commitment.
Other times a brand will simply be too late to the conversation to offer anything meaningful. This happens a lot regarding discussion on transformation – a topic that is very important, but which many people have tuned out of. Earning a voice in this conversation requires significant effort to establish a perspective that is new or different – a difficult task given everything that has been said about it already.
Being part of a conversation means being committed to that conversation over the longer term. A single discussion paper or research report might gain some attention, but its true value is unlocked when it is part of an ongoing campaign that builds over time, possibly using multiple different voices in many different forums. In some ways building good thought leadership is a bit like building a brand – it takes consistency and commitment.
Good thought leadership also needs to be something that is not immediately obvious .If the outcome is a conclusion that anyone could have come to – or worse still, one that obvioulsy is designed to serve the brand message and nothing else – it will have no impact. But having a recipient say “I hadn’t thought of that before” or “I’d never looked at it that way” is likely to ensure that the core ideas remains in their thinking over the longer term.
It helps then if the concept is one that is easy to grasp. This points to one of the most important truths regarding the creation of thought leadership – while the ultimate product needs to be simple to understand, the process of its creation is usually anything but.
Many of the best thought leadership projects are the result of extensive research and discussions, which is designed to bring forth basic truths that might have been hidden under layers of noise, and shine a light on hidden patterns. Hence it is best to commence a thought leadership project with a question, rather than stipulating the outcome from the outset. Many great thought leadership projects simply give life to concepts which might at first glance seem obvious, but which have not yet been expressed so simply and eloquently. These projects that bring life to the obvious are often the most powerful, as they exist within a framework which can be easily grasped, but are the result of a long process of sifting and sorting.
All of this points to another basic truth of thought leadership – that it is earned. For a brand to simply blunder into a conversation for which it is neither relevant nor prepared is to invite disaster. But when a brand is prepared to put in the hard work to earn its position, and then build that over time, amazing things can happen.