You’ve heard the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade? Well, the Nour Family is going through a bit of rough patch, so I decided to take my 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son to a keynote speech in Chicago with me this past weekend. I got them on stage, the client was great, the audience had fun and we ended up having a great time together in the windy city together. So, it all worked out OK. While getting ready one morning, my son said something that resonated with me. It’s a line from a movie he had heard:

“You Shower– You Shave – You Show Up – those are the three Shushes!” I thought I’d apply them to professional speaking since a) it’s an incredibly easy business for anyone to get into – yes, unfortunately including many hacks who have no business being on any stage, and b) it’s a difficult business to sustain and profitably grow, particularly with many undereducated buyers not realizing that it is in fact a profession!

1. You Shower! Beyond hygienic cleaning up, before any keynote you also have to mentally clean up! That’s right – get your head on straight. How can you take your educational foundation, professional pedigree, and subject matter expertise and integrate their vernacular, nomenclature, key market challenges and opportunities that are both interesting and relevant to them? Keep in mind that they don’t want to know everything you know; they simply want to know that which will help them grow, personally and professionally. By the way, the smiley sheets don’t matter. The standing ovation doesn’t matter. The only outcome that matters is your buyer’s desired strategic outcome? Is the audience better off because you showered – physically and mentally?

2. You Shave!
That’s right, shave out the cheesy jokes, the pontification, the same crap you’ve been dishing out since 1972! Unless your thinking and approach remains fresh, how long will you remain relevant? Trim the excess slides, the excess comments, the excess models just to prove how smart you are! Instead aim to make the complex simple. It’s amazing how often we need to be reminded than we need to be taught. And by the way, common sense isn’t common practiced. What are you reading, how are you growing, how are you constantly adding unique intellectual property to elevate yourself above the market noise! And make no mistake about it: there is a lot of “noise” in the speaking profession! Clean cut is more than a shave; it’s also the manner in which you articulate your unique insights and independent perspectives.

3. You Show Up! I don’t care if the audience is 5 people or 5,000 people. You show up – early is on time and on time is late! You show up, prepared and your deliver – every time! You do as much due diligence for a group of students as you do a senior leadership or board retreat. You show up and you swing for the fence: with your opening and closing remarks and everything in between. Thanking “the academy,” or your parents for having you is a waste of their time and it dilutes your credibility. Grab them by the collar with what you say and how you deliver it to scream: “this material is important to listen to and, I’m exactly the guy to deliver it.” Your opening comments will set the tone for the speech. Your closing comments will set the tone of how you’ll be remembered and repeated!

The best client executives or meeting professionals I’ve worked with in the past eight years of delivering professional speaking engagements, also tend to think about their meetings differently. Here are a just three tips:

1. What’s your ROO? Respectful of the meeting profession, meetings are a means to an end. There has to be some kind of a strategic desired outcome! What do you want the audience to think, feel, or do differently because of this meeting? And how will you measure your return on objectives (ROO) from this meeting? It can’t be a stale survey of the food, the temperature in the room, or the trinkets you passed out.

2. Lead with the content! I’m often amazed that many organizations or planners secure the venue years in advance, coordinate the catering, schedule the entertainment and the extracurricular activities and somehow the content is thought of last! Last time I checked people fundamentally gather for two reasons: content and community. What new or compelling content can I get exposed to, and what new relationships can build or existing ones can I nurture?

3. The agenda is like fish – the fresher it is, the better! I’ve been a part of some great agendas, and I’ve unfortunately seen some really bad ones. One client offered yoga classes and walks around the property lake early every morning. I loved fresh meals (read: kill the starch) at one client meeting last year. Other clients have mixed in “get up and move activities” in between speech, after speech. Others have met in the mornings with outdoor activities after lunch. The ones who encourage spouse or significant others to participate are particularly relationship-centric; they feel involved, engaged, and build their own relationships which make the work part easier. One client took all the attendees to a nearby theme park. Another, brought painting classes, teamwork by writing and performing music, or a Lego building workshop to the session. Don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t all have to be fun and games, but who wants to sit there and be talked at for three days in a row?!? Inspire, challenge, provoke, educate and entertain them. But keep it simple, fresh, and moving!

What have you found to be great attributes of both professional speakers and amazing meeting planners?

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