It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of your upcoming talk, and get some clarity on what you want to cover. Because when you know so much about your subject, as I know you do, sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees.
In one of my first blogs, I talked about shifting perspective into the shoes of the audience so that you can see the subject through their eyes.
- Who is your audience, and what is important to them?
- What do you want your audience to do, think or feel as a result of your talk? and
- Where is the overlap between the two, the “What’s in it for me?”
By this stage, then, you should have found the overlap, and the “what’s in it for me for your audience”, and you should also have identified what your underlying message will be in your talk.
Now it’s time to get some clarity on what comes next: the actual technical content, and in this article, I will give you three steps to that clarity.
Step #1: Make an inventory of all the things you could include in your talk
As you prepare for your technical talk, and think about what you could include, the first thing to come to mind may well be the technical substance of the subject: you know, the legislation (national and/ or European), the case law, the circulars and other guidance….
Nah – not really that boring to me (remember I am still a tax geek in my soul).
But, yes – probably a bit boring to your audience of mere mortals who don’t live, breathe and eat your subject. You will probably want to include more than that.
What are all the other things that you could include in your talk?
- factors that will motivate your audience to listen to you – the benefits and disadvantages of following/ not following what you have to say;
- back up evidence to what you have to say – the statistics, the testimonies;
- stories you want to tell about when you have done something with this technical information to help your clients deal with their day to day problems and pain points; and
- silent questions – you know, the things that the audience really want to know, but they just don’t dare ask – don’t dare, or possibly don’t care … yet.
Go on then, take a piece of paper and jot down a list of ideas of what you could include.
But wait, wait – just a bullet point list at this stage, because you don’t need to go into detail on those bits yet. In a moment we will sort out the list of what you will include – do you see the nuance?
Step #2: Decide what needs to go, and what must stay
Now you have the list of what you could cover, it’s time to look back to the underlying message you want to bring across in your talk, and the “What’s in it for me” for your audience.
Look long and hard at that list of things you just pulled together, and think very clearly about these questions:
- What must you definitely cover in your talk?
- What can you leave out of the talk?
- What elements are simply a “nice to have”?
Because, let’s face it, you can’t cover everything in your talk or we’ll be here till Christmas.
To decide what stays, think again about your audience, and to the point I have made on numerous occasions – that this talk is not about you, it’s about your audience. Look at your subject through the eyes of your audience and start to make decisions.
Let’s take an example of a talk I worked on with a client at the end of last year about new accounting rules coming in January.
Part of these rules related to the way that some expenses would be dealt with differently in the accounts.
Having ascertained that the audience would be full of accountants, who just wanted to know what would change and what would have to be done differently, we could quickly ascertain the following:
- We needed to include some kind of worked example,
- We needed to make reference to tangible accounting entries, and
- We needed to be able to compare the treatment in 2016 with the treatment in 2017.
- We didn’t need to include definitions of the different kinds of expenses (because the audience were familiar with the terms),
- We didn’t need to include reference to specific case law about how to interpret those definitions (though that might be a good to have), and
- We didn’t need to include reference to the particular articles of the law (because that would be complete overkill)
As you look at that list of things you could cover in this talk you are preparing –and you think about the subject through the eyes of your audience – what jumps out at you as things you must cover, things you can leave out, and things that are just “nice to have”?
Step #3: Choose an appropriate skeleton
Now you know what elements to include in your talk, let’s choose a skeleton/ structure that will keep things simple as you explain the technical content.
As a starting point, every speech should have a:
- Middle, and
We’ll think about the start and the end at a later stage, but for now, let’s think about the middle.
Here are some examples of very simple structures you might want to use:
- The power of three
No idea why this works, but the “power of three” is a pretty neat way of structuring things. Three seems to be a good number that is neither too little, nor too much.
For example: three lessons learned … , three steps to …, three mistakes that …
- Pain, solution and benefit
The pain, solution and benefit angle will allow you to give some background and context to your talk that will also help you illustrate the practical implications of the legislation that you are speaking about.
What is the pain point that the (legislation) deals with? What solution does it offer? What benefit comes as a result?
- Chronological order
Setting out the past, present and future is another simple structure that you can use for your technical talk. It can deal with, for example, the history behind the changes in legislation, and what it is setting out to achieve.
Ok that’s it: by now you should have clarity about what your talk will include and what kind of structure it will have.
Now it’s time to flesh it out and write your talk.
What you waiting for? Let’s go ….
Based on an article first published in Agefi Luxembourg, October 2017