This past week I was lucky enough to speak at a conference in New Orleans. (I loooooove New Orleans.)
The industry to which I was speaking has been in flux over the past few years. The challenge was to offer them guidance for how best to move forward.
To help ensure I was as prepared as possible, I arrived at the conference at 9 a.m., although I was not due to speak until 1 p.m. I did this —I do this— because I think it’s important to have a sense of how the day is going for the audience. Plus, I love to watch other speakers work. I always learn something—or have a hunch confirmed.
And, in fact, the first speaker reinforced one of my most passionately held beliefs: that inspiration is like a cup of coffee. It wears off over time.
What do I mean by this?
Well, as mentioned, this is an industry in flux. The speaker’s approach to his talk, however, was to talk about how change is constant…change is good….they needed to embrace change…… And while he had a lot of examples of companies from other industries that had embraced change and gone onto greatness, he didn’t offer this group any practical information.
This drives me insane. Don’t tell me WHAT to do. Tell me HOW to do it.*
Because while all of his stories told were, indeed, life-affirming, heartwarming, and whatnot, they had no practical application to what this group was facing.
(My belief about the importance of this was confirmed by the first question asked by an audience member: “Do you have any nuts-and-bolts advice for us?”)
So, please, the next time you are given the opportunity to speak to a group, consider your mission: Is it to inspire? Or is it to inform?
In my dream world, it is possible to do both.
(*Should you be saying to yourself, “Well this is very nice, Frances, but can you give us an example of a practical piece of advice you offered?” I can do that. An audience member asked me what to do when he was heckled in a meeting and I gave him my new, favorite, line, “Wow, it sounds like you have an opinion about that….” I love this because a) it’s true and b) it’s cheerful. (You have to keep a sense of humor or hecklers smell blood.) My recommendation to him was to follow that up with, “Because time is short—and everyone’s time is valuable— I’m going to finish what I’m saying and take questions and comments at the end.”)