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The Quest for Content
by Chris King

I recently attended a presentation by an excellent professional speaker who was leading a session on using the Internet to our advantage. He started by telling the group (at least 65 attendees) that he had two presentations prepared - one with stories and illustrations, warm and fuzzy; and the other loaded with information and fast speaking and note taking. He asked the audience to vote on which one they would prefer.

It was a unanimous vote for the second choice. This made me stop and consider a different look at many of the time-tested speaking techniques we have discussed in my many articles. How do we, as presenters, consider the present day Quest for Content.

Content is King. If you have done any writing for or even surfing the World Wide Web, you know that we are in the middle of the Information Age. Web sites filled with interesting, useful and updated content are the sites that are visited often and by many. Even though there have been rumors floating around that we are heading toward a paperless economy, it just isn't true. I receive more magazines weekly (many of them free, even though brimming with fascinating reading) than I used to over a whole year. The libraries and bookstores are loaded with people thirsting for knowledge. So, what does this mean for us as presenters? Read on.

As presenters, we must give our audience the content they crave, but in ways that work. I have talked with many speakers who for years have been known for giving inspirational and motivational presentations filled with good examples and stories, but who are now focusing on becoming known for the strength of their content. As a storyteller, I know the power of telling the right story at the right time, but I also realize that audience members want to leave a presentation with action oriented content that will be useful in their lives and careers. I know that in other articles I have stressed keeping your message simple and lively - usually with only three important points. I still feel that this approach can work with a bit of creative tweaking.

Ask yourself what ways you can use to impart your message along with strong content and information. I recently had only an hour and a half to show a group of storytellers - all at different levels of technological savvy - How to Establish a Professional Presence on the Internet. I highlighted and covered the following three areas: e-mailing marketing, including opt-in e-newsletters; web sites; and e-books. Unlike most workshops I give, I had to tell the group upfront that I was going to cover a huge amount of material and would not take any questions until we had covered the material. I prepared a quiz for people to receive as they entered the room (something to do and share with others while waiting for the session to start). I asked some simple to more complex questions. They received a handout with the full answers at the end of the presentation, along with a two page list of useful resources (web sites, books, and e-mail addresses) where they could find any in-depth information that they might need in the future.

This was my way of adding to the content that I could sail through in my mere 90 minutes. I didn't tell any stories, but did share examples of what has worked and not worked for me. I did use PowerPoint (only ten slides) to keep us on track, but didn't waste paper printing up copies of the slides. My feeling is that these are usually tossed in the waste basket. My experience is that when we take notes, we retain and learn what we need to know - most were taking notes furiously.

Does this method work? It might be too early to know. Most of the feedback I received was positive. Many said that they wished we had had all day - there was so much they wanted to know. I have always heard and felt that if people leave a presentation wanting more, it indicates a success. I have also attended many technology and/or computer oriented presentations where questions were allowed and the whole presentation swerved off track and left us dissatisfied with the lack of content. I have also been bored by technology speakers who have no personality and too much content given with no direction or purpose.

We speakers need to re-evaluate our presentations and approaches to speaking. Just as with everything that is changing in our worlds, we must keep up, move ahead and try new techniques. We will never satisfy everyone, but the more people we help with our information, delivery and content, the more times we will be asked back. And, we will have the thrill produced by learning more ourselves.

I would love to hear how you are changing your techniques. And I don't mind if you disagree. It will just make this site more lively for all of us. Send me your feedback.

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