Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re ill and you go to the doctor.  You get into the examination room, and the doctor arrives, and before you’ve even opened your mouth, she prescribes a pill for you.  What would you think?

Of course, you’d think the doctor didn’t know what she was talking about.  You'd think to yourself, what a terrible doctor!  We all want our doctors to listen first, talk about the problem with us, and then give us the answer.

The same holds with public speaking.  Most speakers make the mistake of our hypothetical doctor.  They immediately start dumping what they know on us without listening to us or talking with us about our problems.  

Speakers need to establish both credibility and trust with their audiences, just like doctors.  You must establish trust first, by showing the audience that you understand its problems.  Then, you can demonstrate your credibility by showing that you know how to solve those problems with your expertise.  If you go for credibility without trust, your relationship with that audience is doomed.  

Remember the doctor.  Focus on the problem first, then your solution.  Trust, then credibility. 




  1. Nick, I love this powerful analogy!
    You’ve made it so clear that to the doctor and the speaker who “dump first,” it doesn’t matter who is in the room.
    I sure don’t want to be a dumper!

  2. Great analogy. As it happens I went to a seminar over the weekend where the presenter did just that – in addition to speaking non-stop for a full 2 hours and using a Powerpoint presentation full of text-only slides for about an hour of it. She openly admitted to being an inexperienced presenter so I emailed her afterwards to let her know the info was great but I had a few ideas on how she could restructure her presentation. She is open to having a chat so hopefully this will be one we can put on the right track.

  3. Hi, David —
    Thanks for the comment and the great anecdote. I suffered with you vicariously through that 2-hour presentation. Let’s hope you can set her on the path to presentation redemption.

  4. Nick,
    As usual, you’re right on the money.
    I work with teams who are making bids on huge contracts. They inevitably want to start their presentations by 1) giving a company overview, and 2) explaining their solution.
    I ask them to start by defining the prospect’s problem. Don’t say anything more, I say, until you see them nodding their heads in agreement. You want them to know that you understand their problem, their pain, and their hope.
    When they resist my suggestion, it’s usually because they’re afraid that they may not fully understand the prospect’s problem. Which makes me wonder how they can believe that their solution is the right one.

  5. Thanks Chris —
    You’re right on the money with the advice you give clients. We do the same. There’s little more off-putting than listening to someone launch into “let me tell you a little about us” at the start of a talk.

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