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Something to Say…

Why is it that those who have something to say can’t say it, while those who have nothing to say keep saying it?

I recently sat on a CMO Council panel in lovely Monterey. It occurred t me as I sat up there with my fellow panelists how different this was from keynoting an event. And, that we really only train our spokespeople on how to deal with keynotes.

Guy Kawasaki’s latest book – The Art Of The Start – is indispensable for anyone looking for proven counsel on communications basics. If you are too cheap to buy a copy, take a look on Always On – he covers the basics of sitting on a panel really well. Here are the first four:-

1. Control your introduction. Bring a copy of your bio and hand it to the moderator to introduce you. Don’t depend on what the moderator came up with. And, like in speeches, cut the sales pitch about your organization. To make your organization look good, be an informative panelist not a loudmouth braggart. (Note from me ~ write this in a single paragraph. I’ll often hand my biog to the moderator and rather than reading the first para they go on, and on, and on… do as I say, not as I do).

2. Entertain, don’t just inform. Answering the moderator’s or audience’s questions is only half the job of a panelist. The more important task is to entertain the audience. You can do this with a penetrating new insight, humor, or controversy. Always be asking yourself, “Am I being entertaining?” (Note from me ~ this goes for keynotes as well. Scott McNealy and Steve Jobs probably have this down better than anyone. Too many CEOs forget that in most instances – the audience paid to be there!).

3. Tell the truth—especially when the truth is obvious. Most people expect panelists to lie when they encounter a tough question, so if you don’t lie, you establish credibility for your other answers. (Note from me ~ and don’t talk about anything you even vaguely think you shouldn’t talk about. It’s just amazing to me how often an executives brain disengages from the mouth and all kinds of things that really shouldn’t be said pop out.)

4. Err on the side of being plain and simple. Often a moderator will ask a technical question, so the temptation is to answer with a technical statement. This is usually a mistake. Keep it plain and simple: Enough to show that you know what you’re talking about but not so much that it makes you incomprehensible to 80 percent of the audience. (Note from me ~ that means if you have to read your slides you shouldn’t use them. If the audience is reading while you are speaking then you just introduced a level of complexity you don’t need.)

Get to Always On our Barnes & Noble for the rest… I’ll drop my full review of The Art Of the Start up here when finished. In the meantime, also get a copy of The Highest Goal by MIchael Ray. A real stunner. Hey – you might even get free shipping for buying both at once.

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