How to annoy your audience

By Michael Goldberg

Knock Out Networking


I recently attended a Saturday morning business meeting. I went to the meeting (did I mention it was a Saturday morning?) for the sole purpose of supporting the speaker, whom I met at a past conference.

Seemed harmless enough...

The presentation started off in a very dynamic way, as the speaker began asking questions of the audience and creating interest in the topic. Extensive time was spent discussing clients the speaker has helped and the value delivered. Clients of the speaker were brought to the event to help promote the speaker’s coaching program. The last 20 minutes of the presentation were spent handing out an application for the coaching program and explaining how to fill it out.

None! That was the amount of value I got from the presentation. I left the meeting feeling a bit embarrassed and annoyed. When will I get that Saturday morning back? Have you ever felt like this when after leaving a presentation? Did it discourage you from attending future presentations for fear of another infomercial?

I see this scarcity mindset all the time with financial advisors that are looking to deliver seminars and “network” when, in essence, they’re looking to simply set appointments to explain “the value of their work.” It’s no wonder insurance agents and advisors get such a bad rap.

The best financial avisors, planners, brokers, agents and reps offer value in everything they do. Heck, if you attend a seminar and get a ton of ideas on how to solve a problem, aren't you more apt to hire the expert delivering the seminar? Become their client? Buy their book? Promote their services? Refer them business?

Here’s how not to annoy your audience.

Deliver great content at all times.

If you’re delivering a program called "How To Manage Your Finances," make sure you give actionable approaches about how to manage your finances. Don’t just talk about how important it is to do so and all of your success in helping people as an advisor. Take a how to approach (as in how to do it) rather than a what approach (what you should do is manage your finances and I can help you). See the difference?

Learn what your audience would value most and give them what they came for. Invite them to do business with you if they think you could be of help to them given your smarts, approach, philosophies and accomplishments. And leave it at that! Leave the applications and fact finders at the office. Deliver a quality product and see what happens.

Become a great speaker.

That is, if you’re not already. If you are, great! If not, no worries. You don’t need to be Zig Ziglar to deliver a great seminar. But it helps. Watch great speakers online (including Zig) and see what they do and don’t do. But watching other presenters isn't enough. The best way to improve your speaking skills is to join a Toastmasters club where you can find your technique, confidence and get plenty of practice. You’ll learn how to engage an audience, tell a story, infuse energy, create an upbeat rhythm, use humor and deliver a powerful call to action.
Practice is great, but still isn't enough when it comes to improving your speaking skills. You need to be observed by an audience willing to share honest feedback about what you’re good and not so good at. And then you get to practice and apply the advice. Remember, the more comfortable you are as a speaker, the more comfortable your audience will be with you.

Collect stories.

We all have them. Start a file where you can list stories and situations you've experienced by name. Then, when you’re planning for your presentation, you can decide which stories you want to deliver. You may not want to include that one from your eighth birthday party, but you do want to include the one where your client listened to your advice and had the necessary coverage to protect his family when the roof caved in, the car crashed, grandpa passed away and the market tanked.

Give your stories (and your growing file) some serious thought and plan to tell them — and tell them well. People remember stories provided they’re told well and have an important and relevant point. Sometimes, I open my presentation with a story. I just jump right into it. It gets the audience engaged immediately. Did you notice how I started this article?

Learn about your audience.

Remember, your presentation is never about you. Naturally, your stories and experiences can be about you, but your points must always relate to your audience. Think audience first! If you’re always focused on your audience, your points and stories will always be on the mark.

How can you learn about your audience? Simply ask them great questions. This means you must reach out to them (or a sampling of them) personally to learn about their successes, needs and challenges. Have questions prepared and ask the same questions of everyone. Here are some to get you started.
  • How did you learn of our seminar?

  • Why are you interested in our seminar?

  • What type of work do you do?

  • Do you like what you do? Why or why not?

  • What are your career goals?

  • When do you plan to retire?

  • Financially, what’s important to you now?

  • What needs to happen at this seminar for you to consider it time well spent?

  • What, specifically, would you like us to discuss?

  • Do you have a financial advisor/planner? Why or why not?

  • Have you been to financial seminars in the past? If so, what was your experience?

  • Who do you know that would benefit from this seminar?

  • Do you have any questions for me?
You may have other great questions to ask, but you get the idea. The answers to your questions will help you develop your content, approaches and stories. And really, what’s better than that?

Lessons worth being annoyed about on a Saturday morning!