Do as I say, not as I do. It seems like everyone is guru these days yet many of these folks don’t follow their own advice. For example: the Facebook guru that tells people to “always include a personal message when adding someone as a friend” yet rarely does that herself. One of my biggest frustrations which many so-called speaking experts is that they tell people that they should do things when giving a speech, yet they clearly don’t follow these rules themselves when they’re “teaching” this advice.
People like consistency — if you say that something is so (and make a convincing argument in favor of the idea) then you better practice what you preach. In the software industry, there’s the concept of eating your own dog food. A few years back I developed a personal information manager application to help me organize my life. Now if I tried to market this product but used Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes to manage my appointments, contacts and to do list, I wouldn’t be walking the walk.
So that’s why I tend to be very harsh on many people who claim to be speaking experts. I’ve sat through enough presentation skills training that I’ve seen a whole spectrum of ideas and advice. However, I’ve also seen many (if not most) of these folks simply talk the talk during their own presentations. I had one person evaluate at two minute talk I once did in front of the rest of group and tell me that I needed to do a better job of grabbing the audience’s attention right away. I was told that I only had six seconds to capture the audience’s attention and I needed better attention getting devices.
I was tempted to explain that this is purely a myth, completely untrue and that anyone who supposedly knows their stuff when it comes to public speaking and tries to pass this off as real advice is either clueless or disingenuous. However, I simply said “then why didn’t you start off this training with something to capture the audience’s attention within the first six seconds?” I then pointed out that sharing one’s personal background and triumphs may be interesting to the speaker, but not necessarily to the audience and that this certainly wouldn’t capture the audience’s attention within the first six seconds. I resisted saying that this information should have been relayed through someone else in a speech introduction, but the presenter got my point and simply said “let’s just agree to disagree.”
I don’t have a problem with someone explaining who they are when they don’t have someone to introduce them — I do that myself in most of my classes. Where I have a problem is with people saying that you should do something that they clearly don’t believe in doing. They are essentially like parents who tell their kids to not use drugs yet their kids get their drugs from their parent’s hidden stash.
So whenever you give someone advice, ask yourself if you’re walking the walk. If you own a business, ask yourself if you’re really the person you tell your customers and employees that you are. If you work in a management role, ask yourself if you’re willing to do the things you ask your subordinates to do. If you’re in sales, ask yourself if you’d really find the product or service helpful if you were in your prospect’s shoes. If you’re a parent, ask yourself if you really act the way you want your kids to.
Walking the walk is an eye-opener. But it’s a critical step if you really want to succeed in any position where you have (or desire) influence. So give it a try and see what happens. And if you see me not walking the walk, contact me and let me know.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.
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