These are strange times, and it feels even stranger to be doing “normal” things like sending out this newsletter. But for me, sometimes doing normal things helps me feel normal. The best kind of normal things? Those that bring strength. I love how author and speaker Marcus Buckingham talks about this. He says:
“A strength is an activity that strengthens you.
It draws you in, it makes time fly by while you’re doing it, and it makes you feel strong.“
When I feel out of control or unsure about myself, or these days, about the world in general, I think about Marcus’s words. I focus on doing something that makes me feel strong. Something I know I’m good at. Something that helps me recenter things.
Wanting to feel strong is one of those fundamental human needs. Indeed, it’s really another way of saying that people want to feel smart, capable, and good. It’s why people want to hear, pretty much right up front, what your message is going to do for them.
It’s something you see Douglas Burdett do super well in the first few minutes of his keynote opening he sent me. He tells the audience — while on his first slide — what question he’s going to answer and how he’s going to answer it.
Whether your audience is reading, watching, or hearing your message, here’s why doing that makes them feel strong:
- People like having answers. They don’t like unanswered questions. An unanswered question may be what drew them to your idea in the first place, but it drew them because they were looking for an answer. They weren’t feeling strong. When you tell people what question you’re answering, you’re telling them what they’re about to feel stronger about. And they like that. A lot.
- People like having strong answers. People like having answers, but the answers themselves have to be strong. That’s why you need to (a) make sure your answer actually is strong, and in a way your audience would agree with and (b) give them some way to judge that strength early on.
You’ll note that Douglas doesn’t tell his audience what the answer is right upfront. Whether or not you choose to do that depends on your own style (how much you like holding the audience in suspense) and the length of the message itself (the longer your message, the less tolerance people have for being in suspense).
The point is to make sure the audience knows there’s an answer, and to show them (not just tell them), that you’re a credible source for that answer. Douglas does a solid job of that, too, though as you’ll see in the video, I suggest he experiment with doing it in a different place. In my experience, it’s best to wait to talk about yourself until after you’ve talked about the audience and their question. Your ability to describe their world now shows them you understand them and their question. That’s the only way they’ll be truly open to a new answer from a new source (you).
In fact, that’s why it’s often best to wait to talk about yourself until after you’ve introduced the “real” problem as you see it — until after you’ve given them a perspective on why their question has been so hard to solve… until now.
And really, that’s what any great message does: it shows people a new, stronger way of achieving a goal without making them feel “wrong” or “weak” for following the old way. As I’ve said before, the answer — the answer of your idea — is never enough. It has to credibly answer the audience’s question. And, because people always want to feel strong, the connection between their question and your answer has to reinforce, to strengthen, how they see themselves.
That’s what gives me hope, and strength, when I need it most. Because I see it every day in the work I do and with the ideas you send me, I know this like I know little else:
Ideas are strength.
They’re your strength. They’re the way you figured out how to feel strong, how to be strong.
So, when things feel not strong, or when you do, focus on your ideas. People need that strength. They need you.When you tell people what question you're answering, you're telling them what they're about to feel stronger about. Click To Tweet
How can you make a Keynote opening even stronger? Two things, simplification and a little bit of restructuring. That’s what we’re talking about on this episode of what’s missing from this message. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com.
So let’s take a look at Douglas Burdett’s keynote that he apparently gave to the American Marketing Association in Birmingham. Okay, first impression. I told him I wasn’t going to be able to review the whole keynote, but since the title of his keynote is “3 Big Ideas from 250 Marketing and Sales Books Every Modern Marketer Needs to Know,”, what I’m going to do is try to get us to the first big idea and just talk about how he opens his talk and gets into that point.
All right, so the first thing … first impression of my Keynote reaction video is that is a really, really long title! I love the fact that it’s clear that I’m going to get three big ideas and it’s coming from 250 marketing and sales books. I like it and at the same point, it’s super hard to say.
One of the themes that I come back to over and over again here is that you need to check things out loud just because it’s really hard to say, Hey, I saw this great talk by Douglas Burdett and it was called, “3 Big Ideas from 250 Marketing and Sales Books that Every Modern Marketer Needs to Know.” But at the same time, I think it probably stands out from a list of other things and like I said, it delivers on what you’re going to get. But I think another thing that would make this title stronger is the outcome. So it needs to know why what am I going to get as a result of this talk.
Let’s look at what he says when he first opens. He says, marketers would you like to be the kind of marketer that every CEO wants to hire and you can’t afford to lose? You can do it. I think that’s a great way to start. Kind of starts with a big question that people may want answered. Then he starts to go on and explain how, in the next few minutes, he’s going to talk about these three big ideas that he’s gleaned from 250 marketing and sales books. Then he explains really quickly in this opening that he’s read them for his Marketing Book Podcast. He reinforces this you can do it line, and then is pretty clear right upfront with the fact that he’s not going to talk about tips, tricks, and tactics. He wants to give us three big ideas that would be helpful, not only just today but also in five or 25 years. The first idea he says it’s very specific to marketers and the other two apply to anyone in the business.
I’d like this as an opening. I think that it does a couple of things that are important. One, it sets out the question that this talk is going to answer, at least as far as I understand it right now. How can I be the kind of marketer that every CEO wants to hire and can’t afford to lose? Second, I know that I’m going to walk away with three big ideas and he set the expectation that this is going to be kind of useful concepts more than little tiny tips and tricks. I like doing that, particularly if you’re at an event where people are used to tips and tricks because it at least sets the expectation and you’re getting the audience’s permission right out of the gate that you may be doing things a little bit differently. So I like that.
Let’s go onto the next slide. The next slide, Douglas is showing a picture of what turns out to be himself. He’s saying, okay, but first, you might ask, well, how did I get here? Then he goes back and talks about two books that had a big impact on his career, but also why those books had an impact on his career. He talks about getting out of the army and getting his MBA and then talked about a buddy working on Wall Street and recommending a book and they recommended Ogilvy on Advertising. Read it and said, “Hey, that’s what I want to do.” He’s saying the right book at the right time can do that.
Two quick things on this right out of the gate is that I don’t typically love starting right out with any more credentials than he’s already given us. Because for instance, he told us right on the opening slide that he has read all these books for marketing podcasts. I think people are a little bit curious about you as a speaker, but most of the time they’re going to want to hear something that’s about them first. Particularly since one of the last things he’s just said was the first idea is very specific to marketers, but now I’m not going to tell you about it. I think this is probably good information for Douglas to have in his talk. I just typically like to see it backed out a little bit further until after you’ve established some additional credibility with your audience based on describing the world as they see it and/or introducing a new piece of information that they didn’t have before.
One of the things is right off the bat is this Ogilvy on Advertising. We don’t get a lesson from that one other than that this is the one that prompted Douglas into his career in advertising. The second thing that strikes me about this slide is this the right book at the right time that can do that? It feels like a point that’s a little bit off of the theme of the talk. What I mean is if the theme of the talk is how can you be an indispensable marketer, this feels like a side point that the right book at the right time can do this kind of a case for books. It’s just one of those things where it’s not that it’s wrong to include it, but when you’ve got precious time we need to be super careful to make sure that everything that you’re talking about is directly related to the theme or the red thread of the talk itself.
But let’s keep going. After he decides he goes into advertising … I love the fact that he uses a Mad Men slide here … and he says, he went and started to work at some pretty big firms. Then he started an advertising agency and then he started to see some changes happening. That’s when he’s saying that the added industry carnage from the growth from the internet had begun because there are all these Google guys and there’s the question all of these… getting all these questions about social media.
I like that he’s a little self-deprecating here because he realizes that he’s a dinosaur, as he says. Having had a background in an advertising agency, it’s very difficult to grow old in one, let’s just say that. When he was again trying to figure out what was happening … he is again giving us his backstory of, then I went to books again to start to figure things out. Now we get the second of the two books that he said had a big impact on him and in this case, he’s introducing David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR and then started to say, “Ooh, that’s the Eureka moment. This is where things are going.” That sparked him to start thinking about digital media and social media. Then he tells us he didn’t stop there, kept reading marketing and sales books and the more he read, the more the dinosaur scales could be avoided.
I like this transition. I like that he kind of plays off the fact that he’s showing us, David Meerman Scott, there and he’s telling us that he gets the books autographed, sports memorabilia and then he’s talking about how he launched the Marketing Book Podcast, talks about the details there. Then answers the questions. We, everybody, says, what’s your favorite book? He answers with this one, how to appear smart in meetings, then he gives a couple of the tricks and then now … where are we? We’re on slide 13. Now, to become the kind of marketer every CEO wants to hire and can’t afford to lose there’s an obstacle to your success as a marketer that will never be completely vanquished, beware some of you might be upset at what I’m about to say. I just want to point out that we’re 13 slides into this talk and my spidey sense says that we’re probably about five to seven minutes into the content and you, as a listener, actually haven’t heard about my life very much. I may, if I’m of age with Doug or if I’ve had a similar experience with discovering books, I may be engaged in his story, but that’s a lot of time to keep an audience from hearing more about what I’m there to hear about, which is how can I become an indispensable marketer? This is one of those places where I was saying I would perhaps move this stuff a little earlier and the backstory a little bit later, but I promised I would get to his first big point and talk about this opening.
Let’s get to that. What he’s doing here clearly is introducing a problem. He introduced the goal of the talk way on the first slide. It’s how can you be an indispensable marketer? He spent the next 12 sides, next 11 slides, talking about his own credentials with some interesting things to kind of interesting points. But again, not the three big ideas I was promised about, promised by him and now he’s introducing the problem. Here is this big problem that marketers have an image problem. He’s talking about a study. He starts … uses this as a kind of a humorous image to get into a study by the Farnese group. We’ll go to what that says in just a minute. My one thing about this slide that I think would make it stronger is to make it an image that you have paid for, or at least you’re giving credit, other than the fact that it’s got the watermark on it.
I would love to see that. It’s one of those little tiny things that people notice either consciously or not when they’re watching a presentation and it’s just one of those things that can communicate the level to which they can trust you. Just think about what the impression is when you’re using images from online without credit and or you’re leaving evidence of the fact that this is not an image that either you took or that you’re giving conscious credit to, or that you paid for so that you didn’t have to put a watermark on it. All right, so what is the image problem? Okay, a nice big piece of the pie. Then a nice piece of interaction with the audience here. Who can guess what percent of CEOs in that study trust marketers? It’s nice that he’s giving them a bit of a hint with a pie chart. 20% don’t trust them. Why don’t they trust them?
Because CEOs believe marketers are too disconnected from the financial realities of companies. Okay. There’s a perception by some that marketers are arts and crafts party planners who work in the make it pretty department. Again, this is an image that is pulled off of a site from a career college and I would be careful here because it does seem to be denigrating another career. This is one of those things that, yes, it could be perceived as funny. It could be also perceived as off-putting. I get that you’re trying to … that Douglas is trying to find an image that matches this kind of party planner piece, but it’s actually doing, it’s a disservice to party planners and meeting professionals. Generally, you’re probably speaking at an event that’s organized by “party planner and meeting with professionals.” So just tread carefully. I’m still looking for the big idea. I’m hoping we’re getting there because we have a book here. Now he’s saying in the 12 powers of a Marketing Leader how to succeed by building customer company value. Okay, we’re just being introduced to another study which gives us another insight.
So spoke to international CMOs about their work against what would you do? I manage the brand or I run our marketing. Then he’s explaining why that doesn’t go down well because they … Oh, because they’re not talking about the results that the business is looking for. This is what he says at the bottom of this. Good marketers work out how to link what they do with what other stakeholders within that organization want. Employee retention, improved profits, clear leadership. Well, amen to that cause as a marketer who talks to other marketers, I 100% believe that the brand doesn’t matter if people don’t want what you have to sell. We’re getting another book, 4 A’s of Marketing. Also, talk about the negative perception of marketers. Another book. There’s no BS like brand BS. Then here’s the simple recommendation.
Get in the revenue camp. That’s what the most successful marketing leaders do in the minds of company leaders and also in reality. They get in the revenue camp and so he’s backing this up with this book, or the podcast, this quote CMO who is related to revenue stays and the CMO who is not related to revenue leaves. It’s as simple as that, so get in the revenue camp. That’s what most successful marketing leaders do, in the minds of company leaders and also reality. Now I’m going to skip ahead here a little bit because we’re in slide 25. I, by the way, don’t buy into any of the one slide per minute piece here. Though interestingly, there are about 60 slides in this deck. But there’s some that are constructed in such a way that it’s clear that he’s going quickly through them.
I do like the fact that once he’s made it clear that you need to get in the revenue camp, that he is giving some specific examples of what our company’s financial goals are and what our company’s sales goals are, profitable customers, et cetera. He’s giving the audience specifics about what it sounds like to be in the revenue camp. Now, as I said, I’m going to skip forward a little bit because what he’s doing here is it seems like after this he’s continuing to bring some of these books in and making additional points. I think also about revenue and to kind of backup this piece that he’s already set up pretty well I would say. Now we’re I think at the third additional book and then we come back to the book he was talking about originally. Then here’s where I want to stop this review of this so far because he said back at the first talk, here’s what the successful marketers doing.
Our interviews revealed that the most successful marketers have one thing in common, a top management viewpoint. I think what he’s doing is reinforcing that this kind of get in a revenue camp fees. I believe this is the first big topic that he’s talking about. Then I think what he’s doing after this is starting to move to the second point, which is how to change that perception and he goes onto the other two points from here. My challenge is just that it’s not really clear, at least based on the voiceover and the slides from Douglas, that he’s finished the first point and he’s moved to the second one. Just the way that slides are typically built and the way that audiences are kind of conditioned to look at slides, that after those four revenue camp questions, I think people would expect him to move to the second point.
But it seemed from at least from what I could understand, what he was doing was continuing to validate that first point before moving to the second one. What would make this particular Keynote message stronger? Just based on what we’ve seen so far? Well, two things. One is a bit of simplification and two is a bit of restructuring. Simplification piece meaning makes it very clear when we’ve hit the major points that you’ve promised. If this talk is about three big ideas I want to make it super clear that we are still … like when we are talking about point one what point one actually is and when we’re moving to point two and why. That’s one really big piece because I want to make sure that that really comes through clearly so the audience doesn’t keep going to themselves, as I did a little bit working through, like is this the next point?
Is this the next point? Oh, I thought it wasn’t going to be a whole bunch of tips and tricks, but what we’re getting is a lot of different mini perspectives on one big idea. I’d love to see that simplification happens around those points. Show me when I’ve made … when you’re entering that point, or at the very least summarize that major point in a visually and in your voiceover before you move to the next point. The second piece on the restructuring. I get why given the structure of this particular talk and that it’s based on the books and this Marketing Book Podcast, why the temptation is very strong to start with his own story. But as we could see, it meant that we were probably about five minutes, maybe even seven minutes into the talk before we started hearing about what we were promised when we first sat down.
What I would suggest from a restructuring standpoint is to get really quickly into the problem that marketers are facing, because he’s got great backup for that, good studies, good examples from the interviews that he’s had. Once they’ve started to go, oh this is interesting, you know something about this, that’s a place to back up and say but let me explain to you either how I got interested in this or where I started to look for an answer and where that came from. It may not be the perfect answer for Douglas in this particular talk, but I just think that this is something that most people get can benefit from, is move back into the talk much further back the temptation to talk about yourself first because the audience wants to hear from you about them. Once they’ve heard about themselves, then they start to get curious about why you’re the one to listen to about that.
Many thanks to Douglas Burdett for sending me his Keynote for 3 Big Ideas from 250 Marketing and Sales Books that Every Modern Marketer Needs to Know. I had fun going through at least the first section of it to get to the first point. If you want to have your own short-form piece of content reviewed here on what’s missing from this message, send me an email to RedThreadMe@tamsenwebster.com. I’m Tamsen Webster of Tamsenwebster.com. Thanks so much for watching this episode of what’s missing from this message. Don’t forget to like and subscribe
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