Digging deeper

Yeah, sure, inspire me!

But please don’t stop there.

At every virtual corner, people want to inspire us to reach our true potential, the next level, or you name it.

We have short talk formats that provide a glimpse into exciting topics. TED has spearheaded that movement. Great videos that let us skim the surface.

We have stickers, images, and inspirational quotes on Instagram and other networks.

But you know what I actually prefer: to dig deeper. To understand things. To connect the dots. To commit.

Inspiration might be an initial flame that gets one started. But what good is it if we ever only get started. If all of us are inspired, but none of us actually travels to the finish line to understand the deeper meanings, complexities, and relationships of things? If we never reach anywhere meaningful.

The willingness to dig deeper and the ability to communicate what you’ve discovered is a skill that becomes more important as the addiction of surface skimming is multiplied by the social networks.

This niche is broadening quickly. So, what’s a topic where you dig deep?

Mastering complexity

If you are passionate about what you do, there will always be more interesting things to say than time to say them.

But what to leave out?

The common approach is to collect all the things you could say and then shuffle things around, deleting a bit here and a bit there … only to discover that, well, it’s still a lot.

The thing is: deleting is hard. Because when you care you care for the details, too. And when you care for something, it’s hurts to delete that thing.

But what if you didn‘t have to delete things in the first place? What if instead of leaving things out it was all about including things?

As it turns out time and again in my workshops and in my coachings, this is the most satisfying way to master complexity, both for a speaker and even more so for their audiences.

To achieve this, you don’t start by collecting all the things that you could say. Instead, you start at the endpoint. What is it that your audience absolutely needs to understand? Not the ten most important things, nor the 3 most important things? But the most important thing.

This is only one thing.

And then you’ll continue just the same way. What is now the most important thing that you need to tell your audience in order to understand this?

And then you repeat this process. What’s the most important thing to relate to this? What’s one story to visualise that?

And again. And again. And again. At each step, you’ll include exactly one thing … until you’ve reached the point of no return. The point where your audience sees clearly. The point where they want you to give them all the details. Where complexity is what they seek.

This way, you don‘t have to delete any of the details that are so near and dear to you because you have only included those details that actually matter to your audience.

Speaking to audiences means talking to people

The old way of presenting was the lecture. The monologue. The speaker preparing a speech and delivering it to the audience. The audience’s role was – in essence – to accept the delivery. (And if it didn’t get it, it was more the audience’s fault than the speaker’s).

Today, we know that a much more satisfying approach is to consider presentations and speeches as conversations. When you think of a conversation, it’s not about speaking to masses but about talking to people. To the humans in your audience.

For the best speakers, this conversation starts long before the moment they step onto the stage and doesn’t stop when they leave the stage. Great speakers – as well as great leaders – talk to people all the time. They talk to people so that they themselves can listen. Because only when you listen will you be able to attach to what’s important to the people.

Speaking really means talking to people, before, during and after the speech.

Don’t sell bad news as great news

A question I get asked a lot is how to offer bad news.

The thing with bad news is that they won’t magically turn into better news if you put a sugarcoating on top.

So, if you ask me, then just tell the bad news. Make it short and stick to the point. It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt, anyway.

One thing that this attitude does for you is that it increases your credibility. If you earn a reputation for meaning what you say then people will trust you not only when you offer bad news but also when you offer great news, especially then.

However, if you hide bad news behind a curtain of dust and smoke, or worse, if you sell bad news behind a façade of great news, sooner or later people will notice because sooner or later it is going to hurt. And so, whenever you have news, they will be unsure about what to make of it.

Don’t sell bad news as great news.

Showing up in times like these

Many people think about marketing as being about winning. As manipulating people into buying their product.

This has never been more wrong than today. In times like these, we learn how communicating with honesty and in a helpful and human way is what our audiences appreciate the most.

Don’t get me wrong. Sneaky marketing techniques still exist and thrive. They won’t go away. But what’s changed is that people are more sensitive towards the difference between those who have been honest and helpful and those who have been deceptive.

The fascinating part is this: If what you offer is truly helpful then the best strategy to make yourself seen and heard actually is to speak from your heart.

The frightening part is this: that includes showing up in the first place.

Surprisingly many people have quite good antennas for bullshitting. The success of the selfish marketer doesn’t stem from the fact that they have better marketing copy (often, they don’t) but much rather from the fact that they are willing to show up consistently and loud.

If your offer makes a difference, please show up. And then speak up from your heart. We need your voice and we need you.

The driver’s seat

Time’s serial. It just passes by.

When we read a book, we are in control of the pace with wich we process the information. We can slow down to read less in a given amount of time. We can also skip ahead or turn a few pages back to re-read some information that we need to refresh.

When listening to a speech we can‘t do any of that. We are not in the driver’s seat. The speaker is. If she’s driving too fast, we’ll miss the point. If she’s choosing a bumpy road, we‘re probably not going to enjoy the ride. If she’s driving too slow, we’re likely going to fall asleep.

As a speaker, being aware of that helps a lot in making the ride more enjoyable and satisfying for our audience. Keep in mind, though, that not everyone enjoys the same kind of ride. While some love the feeling of a sports car others prefer the feeling of a well-balanced limousine.

The loooooooong pause

Many people tend to believe that tension is created by holding back information and having people wait for the reveal. Casting shows love to do that (“The winner is … looooong paaaauuuuuse … the winner is … even looooooooooonnnggger paaaaaaaauuuuuuuuse …”).

Often, though, a much more satisfying experience of tension is created by the opposite approach. By providing information leaves your audience in awe and begging you to tell them more. When you manage to create tension precisely by the things you say then it’s not the performance but the information itself that creates the tension.

If that’s the case you’ll know that you really hit a nerve. Also, it’s the beginning of a conversation rather than the end. Instead of being satisfied by the piece of information they receive, audiences become curious by it. Instead of feeling relieved by the information, tension is built up by the information.

What is a piece of information that you could give your audience that makes them want to know more?

Do you mean what you say?

They often say things like: “We care for our customers”. Yet, when you interact with them you don’t feel like they actually do.

Others do care but don’t speak about it. Yet, as long as you don’t interact with them you will never know.

So, most customers will just default to choosing the former company simply because they don’t know what they’ll get from the latter. Which is a pity because it encourages the kind of marketing messages we all so dislike: messages that are only façade.

This is why it’s so important that you show up and speak up. Because we need you as an honest and trustworthy voice among the many bullshitting marketing messages. If you do care, find a way to make yourself seen and heard.

The 5 most important things are probably not as important as you think

If your service is anything but trivial there’s a lot you could tell us about it. I bet you could easily fill an hour speaking about fascinating details about the product.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that I, too, must understand all these details. Yet, when I don’t, what happens? Or if I just don’t care about the details? Then what happens? What if I remember only 4 out of the top 5 things I need to remember about your product?

A more useful approach is to think about the most important thing. And that thing could even be a feeling. Actually, more often than not people fall in love with a product not because of the details but because of how it makes them feel.

The fascinating part is this: If that most important thing really does make a difference for me, if I really do care about it improving a profound aspect of my life, then I will automatically dig deeper and I will want to know more.

That’s what matters: How does your product impact me? Rather than me having to learn something about you, things get much easier for you if you learn about me.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz