Speakers and knowledge workers in the new era
For many years, the primary bottleneck of business was information access. If I just knew more things I would make better decisions and those decisions would make me lots of money! Who would claim that today? No one. We are no longer living in the information economy. Information flooded the market much like the way baseball cards did in the early ‘90’s, completely removing the value of my extensive collection in the process. So what does this mean for us?
Nobel Prize Winning Economist Herbert Simon wrote in 1978, “A Wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Today, attention is the scarcest resource in the market: for your customers, your employees, your family, and for you. And like all scarce resources, we pay for it. We will pay for people to pay attention to the work we can’t get to (consultants). We pay for people to pay attention to us (counselors). Attention is a precious resource.
I spend the vast majority of my time on the road speaking to companies and organizations. You want to know the dirty little secret? I say nothing that they can’t find elsewhere. It’s not just me. No one is speaking about anything that can’t be found somewhere online…for free. And yet, my job has never been more safe. That’s because I’m not being paid for information. Don’t get me wrong, people think that they are paying for information, but they are wrong. And people who think their information is what will get them paid will end up back in their parents’ house like the rest of my generation.
Want to get paid? If you are a knowledge worker, you will succeed or fail based on two simple principles:
1. How effectively did you filter the information?
The information your company needs is available. It’s free. And it will take a lot of time, money, and attention to find it. It’s like trying to find a seahorse when scuba diving. I’ve been scuba diving more than fifty times. I’ve never seen a seahorse. They are small, they are camouflaged, and those bastards hide well.
The internet has given us access to more ideas, concepts, facts (and lies), anecdotes, and funny cat memes.
Enter you: the successful knowledge worker. For a small fee, you can give them the 3 things that they can do today to improve their bottom line. Not only is this information particularly insightful, but you’ve distilled it into three easy-to- remember principles. The 3 F’s you call them.
Will they pay for that? They should, and sometimes they will. But they might not. And that leads us to your second key success determiner.
2. How well did you present the information?
Richard Lanham, a Professor of Rhetoric at UCLA, once asked how black and white text would ever hold the attention of a generation brought up by dancing and singing letters from Sesame Street.
I can speak as one of those kids. Sesame Street was the least entertaining TV show of my life. If only Sesame Street was the problem. You could be the most boring presenter of information in history and still have a shot.
But it’s not. And you don’t. The second reason companies will pay for a speaker is because that speaker can capture the attention of an ADD filled audience to ensure that information actually does something. If you want to be a successful knowledge worker, you have to learn to present your information well. Is your information structured well? Is it emotionally engaging? Do your non-verbals reveal excitement about the topic? Would you want to listen to you?
It’s that simple
Filter well. Present well. Then stop talking. And get paid.