The Marketing Word | Differentiation Marketing

The Platform Speaker Has No Clothes

OK.  I'll admit it.  I'm jaded.  Cynical.  Bitchy.  All of the above. 

But I also call 'em like I see 'em.  And I have to tell you, I am really tired of the hype and B.S. coming from the speaker at the front of the room. 

It's called platform sales and it's a great way to market your product or service or yourself.  Don't get me wrong on that point.   Most of my clients come to me by seeing me speak at a live event (which is ever so much more fun than a dead event).  But I think it's time speakers stopped with the crap.  Crap like: 

Hand-Me-Down NLP:  "Perhaps many of you like me have tried many times to be successful."   Wow, I am so glad you scanned through NLP for Dummies while you were swilling your Starbucks Vente (which actually means "twenty") at Barnes and Noble.  "I was sitting in the audience, just like you are today, blah blah blah."   There is more to Neuro-Linguistic Programming than scattering a few trick phrases into your talk.  If you are going to use NLP, spend the time and money and learn what it is all about.  Clumsy NLP doesn't work.  Think nails on a chalkboard.

Tale of Woe:  Stories are powerful ways of relating a message, no doubt about it.  But it seems to me that every speaker who gets up to sell has to have been  1) raised by horrendous or neglectful parents; 2) raised by loving but dirt poor parents; 3) been down to his last eighty-seven cents when he sadly watched his car being repossessed in front of his wife, children and mother-in-law; and, of course, 4) lived in a van down by the river.   I actually watched one psychologist/personal coach do a 90 minute presentation where he laid out all his issues with his mother.  He left home when he was about 15 years old.  When I saw him, he was well over 60.  He had 45 years to resolve his issues and move on with his life.  Obviously, he hadn't.  I am thinking that this is not the guy I want as my mentor.  Get over it.  And stop sharing.  So you had a whacked out mother.   A lot of people did.  Suck it up and move on you baby.  He's wasted an entire lifetime and then he had the nerve to waste 90 minutes of my lifetime.  Just doesn't work for me.  Sorry. 

Touching the Audience:  I'd love to name a particular name here, but then I couldn't tell you all I want to.  Let's just say there is a male speaker who has an old school carny barker style and he likes to rest his hands on audience members' shoulders as he speaks.  He thinks he is demonstrating a "connection" to the audience.  I have actually seen him kiss audience members (male and female) to demonstrate that he loves them all.  One word:  Ewwwwwww.  First, the guy is creepy.  Second, he doesn't even like himself, so how could he possibly love others.  Third, some people don't like to be touched by strangers, even non-creepy ones.  Fourth, he's an asshole.  No.  Really.  Fifth, did I mention Ewwwwwww?  He may sell like a little banshee (and I have heard his trainings are actually great, full of content and he really likes to help people) but he would be so much better off leaving the Grecian formula pompadour and attitude behind.  That "Rich Jerk" style doesn't do it for me.  Which leads us to…

Look how rich I am!:  "I'm rich.  You're not.  You suck.  I'm great.  If you want to be rich like I am (and you are some sort of pinko commie loser if you don't want to), buy my course."  I have to rank this right up there with loudly berating a waiter because the food wasn't EXACTLY the way the high-maintenance jerk special ordered it.  If I have to put people down to elevate myself, I'm in deep kim-chee.  On another note, most of the guys putting up those pictures of themselves and their toys (and, insulting all the women in the room by including their trophy wife/girlfriend in those pictures) don't really have them.  How many times have you seen some guy or gal standing next to that rented Bentley in front of the rented mansion?  Puh-leeeeeze.   We know the house.  We know the car.  We know it's rented.  

Can I get an A-men?:  No, you can't.  I don't want to spend time shouting your fruity, stale catch-phrase back at you just so you can think the audience is "with" you.  And that includes all of you guys still using the Austin Powers "Yeah, baby."  It's obnoxious.   If you want to know if the audience is with you, see if they start filling in the words on their own.  Regurgitating is not learning. 

Shoulder Massage Train: "Everybody turn to the left and rub the shoulders of the person in front of you."  OK.  See touching the audience above.  Ewwwwww.  I don't want strangers giving me backrubs.  Take me to dinner first.  Hello!

Bottom Line:  All of these are effective means of connecting with an audience when used correctly.  My complaint is with the clumsy and stale ways that these sales techniques are applied.  Marketing is constantly shifting.  Our economy has taken a wild swing from a few years ago.  People are smarter and more sophisticated about marketing.  They can fact check and product check in seconds by going online.  Old school marketing is just that.  Old school.  And it isn't working in today's market atmosphere.  And here's a clue:  If this stuff isn't working for platform speakers anymore, then these same techniques that you are adapting to one-on-one sales situations won't work anymore either.  That's your heads up.  Take a look at the way you are presenting yourself and your product.  And start really relating to what your target market wants and needs.  Cuz tricks are for kids.

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  • Dave Lakhani · 02/06/2010 at 8:31 am

    Barbara –

    As usual you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem with NLP and Hypnotic language is A) it is designed to be used in a therapeutic environment where agreement occurs in advance (for the most part) and B) most people who sell from the stage are not well practiced enough at the things that matter to use them effectively so they end up using language that the believe is sleight of mouth and just sound like they can’t speak well. It is painfully obvious and even more ineffective.

    I’ve written about this extensively here: and did a detailed interview about coercive leaders here:

    Connecting with an audience is an important thing that every speaker must learn to do and that means emotionally and physically. But, when you become inappropriate you are . . . well, just inappropriate and no one enjoys that. I won’t go so far as to say that you need people’s permission to touch them but you darn sure better be good enough to know when people don’t want to be touched.

    In terms of the singing, the shoulder rubbing, the chanting, etc. These are simply attempts at creating group compliance. They can be very effective and are often highly manipulative. Running people through a series of emotions and breaking them down where the only way to recover is to buy a multi thousand dollar product is inappropriate at best. EST, Landmark and many others do this better than anyone and while it works to create a following of a certain kind of person, it always falls apart. I’m more a fan of creating a long term customer who will grow and learn with you continually because they are getting good and valid information vs someone who follows blindly, those are not good long term clients.

    Unfortunately, while many of the techniques that you’ve described work to varying degrees depending on the skill of the practitioner, it is the speaker who provides real value, real training and real products that will stand the test of time.

    But whether or not people want real information and want to do the hard work to learn it and then implement it is fodder for another post. Sadly though, there are always people who are ready to shell out their last dollar for a magic pill, especially if it is wrapped in a nice melodic chant and a couple of massages.

    Most people hate hard work and learning new things . . . and that is exactly what it will take to thrive in this and the future economy. Hustle and hard work outweighs magical fairy dust, secret laws of attraction and one size fits all business in a box packages.

  • Dan Stojadinovic · 02/07/2010 at 8:41 am

    This is why I’m doing the Speaker Academy to show there there is a new way. I hate what so called trainers tell new speakers to do, they even tell them to lie and they are fine with it

    DISCLAIMER: Not all but a lot of them! I like to show speakers they can make money while giving good content and being honest.

  • Admin comment by barbarag · 02/07/2010 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks, Dan. This post came about because I watched a very nice young man give a talk and I could tell you EXACTLY who trained him and who had trained his trainers. A great guy who had been trained not to be himself. I’ll be speaking on being yourself and relaxed in front of an audience at Dan’s Speaker Academy. If you are interested in learning more, go to

  • Admin comment by barbarag · 02/07/2010 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Dave. You always bring the salient points to the fore.

    Too many people want magic beans and too many hucksters are all too eager to sell magic beans to them. I am seeing more hesitation in audiences when it comes to the buying decision, which is good. In boom times, people spend their money freely and if one thing doesn’t work, they move on to the next miracle cure. With money tight and jobs uncertain, I am seeing people weighing whether or not a product or service will actually benefit them before buying. This is good news for the people providing the sometimes unsexy but solid mantra of hard work and education. The “too good to be true” scale is coming back into vogue. People will still buy what they want over what they need, but they are not parting with their dollars recklessly. Speakers, salespeople and business owners need to adjust their selling strategies if they want to keep up with the new economy.

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