by Ross Fishman
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got came from my old friend Paul Lisnek. I’ve known Paul 30 years, since we were in college together at the University of Illinois, both majoring in a fairly new discipline, Speech Communications.* I was a couple years behind him, and he was known as the most-entertaining and most-popular Teaching Assistant (T.A.) on campus.
When Paul heard that I was leaving my job as Marketing Partner of 100-attorney Ungaretti & Harris, he knew I was going to do some public speaking. “Remember, Ross, firms can find lots of speakers who can provide good information. If you want them to pay you a lot of money for your presentation, you have to give them a show.”
I learned quickly that Paul was absolutely correct. Before then, throughout the 1990s, I’d given a number of presentations, mostly at internal firm programs and local-chapter LMA programs. Frankly, I didn’t prepare all that much for them. The material was good, I knew it thoroughly because it came directly from my own experiences, and the audiences seemed to appreciate them. Graduating with a Speech Comm major meant that I left college having given enough speeches that I had lost my fear of public speaking and was pretty comfortable on stage. So I’d put together a dozen slides, a couple charts, run through it once or twice if I had the time, and give the speech.
But being a consultant is completely different. Firms now pay me a lot of money for the presentations. Since becoming a consultant, I spend hundreds of hours developing every single one of my presentations, which I suspect is fairly typical for the higher-dollar speakers.
I try very hard to make them fun and entertaining, with lots of powerful visuals. As an in-house marketer, my kids were going to eat regardless of whether the speeches were especially effective – I earned a salary from my real in-house job. If I got busy with an RFP or other emergency, the speech didn’t get rehearsed.
You have no excuses if you’re a consultant. Clients are paying for great material, and a show.
* now called the Department of Communication.