6 reasons you should stop pretending to be a thought leader

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Both before and after Steve Jobs' passing, businesses asked if it was possible to create a charismatic, entertaining, captivating, evangelistic company spokesperson -- a sort of Steve Jobs on demand. There are other go-to thought leaders and conference presenters such as Al Gore or President Obama during his '08 campaign that get mentioned, but most often Steve Jobs is the one named by business executives.

6 reasons you should stop pretending to be a thought leader

But when we ask, "Who do you want your 'Steve Jobs' to entertain, captivate, evangelize, and engage?" we hear, "We want to close more pitches," more often than, "We need a conference speaker to represent us."

The venue makes a difference. Studies in quorum sensing (collective behavior), situational attention, and situational awareness -- how, why, and where people focus, and how to get them to focus where you want them to focus -- prove that the skills necessary for a large audience presentation aren't the same as the skills required to pitch or close a deal.

Consider the differences of a pitch/close compared to the typical Steve Jobs or Al Gore large audience presentation:

  • Your pitch/close is in a conference room with maybe five to seven people on the client side and two to three people on the vendor side of the table, not in a large auditorium, grand hall, or stadium.
  • Chances are you're not an internationally recognized authority/personality or billionaire who's co-founded a technical juggernaut.
  • Your pitch is competing against every other pitch the client's heard.
  • Your pitch/close is in your head, your slide deck, and maybe some written notes. Your presentation isn't being read from huge teleprompters that keep you on topic and guide you along.
  • The client/prospect is sitting in front of you, looking right at you, not a videotron because they're seated too far away to see what you're doing.
  • The prospect/client won't interrupt your pitch/close with applause or give you a standing ovation when you're done, but they will ask challenging questions that you won't be able to answer off the tip of your tongue.

And now for the big one that differentiates large audience presentations from a pitch/close: You're asking the client to make a purchasing decision for which they will be held directly accountable.

That Steve Jobs/Al Gore persona won't work in a small pitch or close setting. But you can still be charismatic, engaging, evangelistic, and all those other nice things that will win the client/prospect's business. Here are six simple points and takeaways to keep in mind.



Lynn Salton
Lynn Salton June 27, 2014 at 5:17 PM

It's funny and it's sad... I'm over 45 and companies think I'm out of touch and no longer understand how to market because the internet wasn't in my high school. Yet I read articles like this one and I can't believe that someone actually felt this needed to be said. Marketers of my age know this stuff inside and out and believe me, we get the interwebs too. Next time you're looking to hire someone... try an old marketer, you just might find what you need.