Hey Noah!

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“Hey Noah, when you’re giving a speech, how do you manage the expectations and ultimately impact of your interactions/message to an organization?”      

– Tasha

Hey Tasha,

Early on in my speaking career, my friend Victoria Labalme introduced me to a concept called KDF. It’s an invaluable tool that I am grateful for every time I use it.

KDF stands for “Know Do Feel.” And, it works like this:

When you’re on the phone with the client, you simply ask, “At the end of my speech, when your employees walk out of the event, what do you want them to know, what do you want them to do, and what do you want them to feel?”

Then, you take notes. Lots of notes. The client will give you everything you want – and more. Sometimes you’ll have to ask a follow-up question like, “Is there something you’re hoping that I can get your people to do differently?” or, “What has to happen during my talk so that you feel it was worth your employees’ time to listen to me?” but you’ll always get the answers you need if (and this is a big if) you’re talking to the real decision maker. Be sure you’re talking to whoever runs the company or the division, not just the event planner. Event planners are in charge of filling a time slot with somebody who fits the budget. You want to talk to the person who cares about what happens after the event.

When I’m writing my talk, I work backward. It’s sort of a modified Stephen Covey “Begin with the end in mind,” in which I begin with the impact in mind. I write the KDF’s down and keep them in front of me the whole time I’m making slides and creating an outline. If a slide or a discussion point doesn’t serve the mission, I cut it, no matter how awesome it might be. Every slide has to audition for the right to be in my talk. When you have clearly defined KDF’s, it’s easy to judge if a slide belongs.

The next part of your question is the part that most people get wrong – speakers and companies alike.

On the planning call with the client, you should be asking, “How will you measure the success of this event?” 9 out of 10 times, you’re going to get a generic answer that won’t be helpful at all. The reason is that most clients don’t have a plan for measuring the success of your talk. Not a real plan, anyway. They’ll tell you that they pass out a survey (aka “Smile Sheet) that asks the audience how they liked you. Or they’ll say that they want each person to walk away with one new idea and if you can do that, you’ve succeeded.

I like to push back a little by saying something like, “Look you’re spending a ton of money to hire me, and you’re pulling your people out of the field, so wouldn’t it be nice to know that it was worth it? What metrics matter most to you? Let’s pick one or two that I can impact and tie my talk to that.”

In my case, I’m often hired to speak to salespeople, so it’s pretty easy to look at things like new accounts, or organic growth, or new lines sold to an existing customer, or whatever it is the company is hiring me to do. But the concept could just as easily be applied to customer service people but looking at a change in Net Promoter Score, Customer Service Index, repeat business, phone system metrics, or some other KPI.

The reality is that giving a speech is no different than any other service or product you sell. You have to ask enough of the right questions to define what the customer considers great, and then deliver more than they ask for. Most speakers chase the wrong outcome. A standing ovation is fun, but a repeat customer is what I’m after.


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