If You Had to Talk to Me

If You Had to Talk to Me, or to any Audience, You’d Embrace the Opportunity

Shout out to CBS’ Charles Osgood for the inspiration for this post.

More specifically, shout out to CBS Radio’s Charles Osgood…

For decades, one of my favorite segments on the weekday morning newscasts on WBBM-AM/Newsradio 780 in Chicago was The Osgood File. It was a 60-second human interest commentary delivered by Charles that rivaled my earliest memories of listening to Paul Harvey’s radio stories dating back to the late 1970s.

One of my distinct Osgood File memories is from 25, maybe 30 years ago. Charles spoke about how many people back then had an “electronic butler”.

The electronic butler was voice mail.

At that time, voice mail was somewhat new. Answering machines and voice mail were becoming more widespread in the 80s and early 90s before the onset of cell phones and today’s smartphones. Charles’ point was that way before telephones and telephonic technology, only the wealthy had human butlers who could answer the door and tell the person knocking that somebody wasn’t home. Now, in lieu of an actual butler, tech advancements have given us all the electronic version.

Charles had an exceptional way of telling that story. He had a way of telling most any story.

In 60 seconds.

And now, as then, we simply didn’t have to answer the phone. Not anymore.

You no longer have to talk to the person calling.

Let the machine get it.

I wish to apply more of that thinking to the professional world.

Because, If You Had to Talk to Me…

You’d prepare for that speech, or business presentation.

Your slides wouldn’t do the talking. Better yet, you wouldn’t read your slides.

You’d rarely turn your back to the audience. You’d know your content, your story and your value props. You’d know what’s on your slides. And you’d know not to create eye-chart slides.

Your videos wouldn’t do (more) of the talking. You’d find a way not to fill a majority of your presentation time with them, and the recordings produced by somebody else — featuring other voices.

Your handouts wouldn’t do the talking. You’d know distributing copies of your slides to an audience before your presentation is the worst idea in the world.

You wouldn’t hide on that panel discussion with five other panelists and a moderator. A panel designed to fill 45 minutes and give each panelist five disjointed minutes of genuine speaking time.

You’d make eye contact with every member of your audience during your session. No matter if the audience was 1, 100 or 1000. You’d know you have to have the physical and vocal skills to connect with the audience. You either have ’em or you don’t.

If given the chance, you would introduce yourself to the audience and thank them for investing their time and money in your presentation. And you would stick around to speak with those who wish to speak with you.

You’d know who is in the audience, why they’re there and how you could add value to their professional lives and to those of their colleagues. And your co-workers would be in attendance to help.

You Say: “But I Am Talking to You!”

If you were, you would:

Know that I’m on the other end of your webinar, multitasking the first chance I get. It’s your job to prevent that.

Understand that simply turning on your smartphone camera and winging it with a homemade video isn’t talking to me. I don’t even thinking it’s talking at me. You’re just making noise. And I’m not really watching.

Set the tone of any conference call conversation by bringing a positive, energetic and solution-oriented voice to the call.

Know how to tell your story without slides. Or videos. Or demos.

In fact, I’ll pull the plug before your next presentation and you can use a whiteboard.

Better yet, a flip chart.

Let’s try it.

Because, If You Had to Talk to Me…

You’d know that it’s easier to get up in front of an audience of 1000 people than it is to tell your story, alone. When it’s you, and only you.

You could tell me about your products and services by making the complex understandable.

You could tell me about your customers’ challenges and allow me to identify with the problems and solutions.

You’d work on your presentation, ahead of time, not while sitting next to me on the airplane the day of…

You’d orchestrate presentations when joined by coworkers, partners or customers and instill teamwork and confidence and offer the best audience experience you could provide.

You’d practice and put in the work, more than once every five years.

You’d do the same for your employees.

And you’d actually show up. Not send your junior colleague to give your presentation for you.

If you turned up, I’d lift my head from my phone or computer during your speech.

I’d take off my headphones.

I’d pay attention.

I’d learn something.

But you don’t have to talk to me. At least you don’t think you have to.

So what? I don’t have to listen.

Even though I’m paying to be there.

Because, If You Had to Talk to Me…

I’d know it.

I see it, and I’d hear it.

And so would your entire audience.

Live, in-person or virtual.

On stage, on camera, on a webinar or on a conference call.

But Since You Don’t Have to Talk to Me

Live, in-person or virtual.

On stage, on camera, on a webinar or on a conference call.

And since you just have to get through it…

And since nobody’s going to hold you to a higher standard…

The audience will wander and tune out.

Maybe because you’re running long. Or short.

They may become a distraction to other audience members paying to be there.

Because you don’t really have to talk to me. Or them.

And we know it.

I see it, and I hear it.

So does your entire audience.

We’d rather hear from you than an electronic butler any day. Even though you voice your recorded electronic butler. Even though you produce your electronic slides, videos and recordings.

What’s more, you now mix-in other electronic butlers that somebody else produced.

But we’re not there for all that. We’re there to hear from you.

That’s why we attend your sessions. Why we tune in and call in.

We don’t want to hear from electronic butlers and the myriad of impersonal modern day communication devices, we want to hear from you.

Take center stage.

Embrace the opportunity.

Answer the call.

Tony Compton holds two degrees from Loyola University Chicago: a 1987 B.A. in Communication and a 1995 MBA. He has held a number of marketing and business leadership positions over the past three decades.

Follow Tony on Twitter: Tony Compton