Secrets of Public Speaking No. 3 :: Using Relevant Examples

Friday, July 29, 2016

Too many speakers use companies like Starbucks and Apple for presentation illustrations because it is easy. Yes, these companies are clearly successful and, yes, there are lessons to be learned from them. When you’re speaking to small business owners, however, it's better to use examples of companies that are more relatable.

Some small businesses want to scale at a Starbucks level — to one day be a globalized multi-billion dollar empire. Most don’t. Most want to build a company that allows them to do what they love while feeding their family and creating jobs for others. They want to hopefully leave a legacy of creativity and to be remembered for making their corner of the world better in some way. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Where possible — and this is easier to do when you require the attendee list in advance — use examples of people in the room to illustrate the point you’re trying to make. Maybe no one in the room is doing everything perfectly, but most companies have at least one area they really excel in. Whatever you do, try not to use an example of an audience member's competitor who could be attending this particular workshop or conference but chose not to — it’s a slap in the face to the people who made the investment to hear you speak. Honor the attendees of this event by giving them public credit.

As a bonus for you, this increases audience buy-in, because it shows you’ve done your homework and, as Dale Carnegie was fond of saying and scientific research has proven, the sound of a person’s name is — to them — the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Starbucks and Apple are great — but we’ve read those books, too. Tell us about a company who looks like us, who faces (or recently faced) the same challenges as us, yet who is nailing it in a certain area. That’s much more empowering.

Originally published January 2015

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