Last night I attended a class on how to do a pairing of fine wines to some of the world’s finest chocolates from cacao’s (of which chocolate is derived) famous farming regions. My husband had surprised me with the class as a conclusion to one of our “date nights” and I was excited to find out more about chocolate and taste some amazing wines. Even better, the teacher was an author of a book on the subject, delivering her delicious education within the confines of a quaint high-end chocolate shop. Billed as an expert in all things chocolate I was eager to learn.
Upon our first encounter, she was intrigued by my career as a national speaker and informed me of her desire to take her message to a national platform in the hopes of promoting and selling her book. At first I thought she might have a nice platform in this niche market, that is, until I experienced her presentation.
The presentation was frustrating for me in a variety of ways. At one moment she was very informative, explaining how cacao is grown and harvested, yet she would follow-up with a discussion of how the procedure was very “secret” and even her supplier would tell her little if anything of the process. This was followed up with little educational content on cacao or the health benefits except to say that she loved it, she lost weight eating 2 oz. a day on it and that we might all consider adding more cocoa powder to our cooking whenever possible.
The whole evening was a demonstration on how not to present yourself as an expert on a subject.
Whether you are an author trying to promote a book, a speaker looking to widen your platform, an entrepreneur trying to sell a product, or a company looking to brand itself as the leader in an industry, it is critical to offer solid content that brings value to your customer. If you fail to deliver information other than subjective reflection, or fail to flex your expert credentials, you will lose potential customers in the process.
The enterprising world is busy connecting, networking and disseminating information that many feel is either original, artistic, informational or helpful. If we’re not promulgating something of value what’s the point? This is precisely why it is critical to deliver solid content to our audience, and to our potential customers.
Think of your favorite author; you likely respect them for being an intelligent leader either in the depth of what they’ve shared or in their ability to demonstrate expertise wielding their craft on the page. Consider your favorite company or product; do they offer value to you in delivering information or demonstrative effectiveness in answering a problem or challenge you have encountered in life?
I anticipated the chocolate and wine pairings course would offer specialized information on chocolate and wine, thus delivering to me valuable insight. Unfortunately the class ended up giving me nothing I could take away except a belly-full of truffles and eclectic sips of wine. Slightly enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying.
At the end of the class the speaker/author offered her book at a 30% off price reduction. Not one person bought the book. This was an opportunity lost upon our speaker/author as we were a captive audience and if taken with her, she would have converted us into book sales. Nobody wanted to buy because she wasn’t demonstrating to us, (her audience), anything of substance.
Deciding there is worth in every experience, I considered how I could share with others some lessons learned from an incomplete wine and chocolate course. Thus was born 3 Things I observed at a Wine and Chocolate Pairing NOT to Copy in a Presentation:
1. “I don’t know how to make chocolate, I just bought the shop. Just ask my children, I don’t cook, I’m a business woman.”
Communicate that you are the expert, that you are invested in your topic and that your passion for what you do is the lifeblood of your purpose. Never communicate that you’re in some way not knowledgeable about your topic, and never let-on to your audience that you are incapable or inept in your chosen industry. Did the speaker need to be a chocolatier to be credible? No, she does not need to be the technician who makes and creates the product. However, she made a critical error in highlighting her lack of connection to her product. This might have been true information, but not appropriate for broadcast to her audience and her potential customer. If you write a book on chocolate, remember to cast yourself as knowledgable about chocolate if you want to make sales conversions, create a following and establish yourself in the community as someone who can offer valuable information on the topic. You don’t have to “own” making the chocolate but you don’t have to highlight that either. Highlight what’s of value and skip the rest. If it doesn’t uplift and promote your message of expertise in your area, cut it out of your presentation.
2. “I don’t really know wines, I just drink a lot and use my palate. If you don’t like a particular pairing just drink more wine and eventually it will taste fine with the chocolate.”
People don’t pay for middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy anecdotal accounts of your personal life. Thats what Facebook posts are for. If you’re wanting to sell a book or a product, if you’re wanting someone to give you money for what you have to say, you need to have an informed opinion based on facts. What are you trying to teach? What does your audience want to know? Can you help them by offering insightful information? Why would someone seek you out on a topic if you don’t have sound, authoritative, information? If you’re Unique Selling Position (USP) is that you are the expert and you are teaching a class in “how to” pair fine wines with the world’s most exquisite chocolate, it’s critical you have factual knowledge about “how to” do exactly that. What can YOU, the expert, offer to the novice looking to learn a few tips? If our speaker/author would have had even a few juicy nuggets, I think it would have been a motivator to buying her book.
3. “I forgot the wines tonight so I ran across the street to the liquor store. This is a white, but I don’t know this particular grape. If we drink enough, it won’t matter, right?”
Show Up To Do Business. Be prepared. Be Professional. Context is everything. If this had been a family gathering or a group of friends collected together at someone’s house for an informal pairing of wines to chocolate this would have been pretty hilarious. However, in a classroom full of strangers who have paid for a wine to chocolate pairing, it shows a lack of professionalism and expertise. In my business I would never casually share with an audience I was unprepared for them. Before each and every speaking engagement I do, I’m extremely well-prepared to over-deliver and exceed my audience’s expectations. I value other people and their time and I think that people know when they are being valued and taken care of. It’s called Customer Service. Customers, readers and audiences need to feel special and they require the feeling that we have and are delivering our very best to them.
It takes more than passion about a subject to be able to teach, speak, or sell a product. Passion is fabulous, but passion must be paired with demonstrated expertise in order to package and sell it. I might have a passion for writing, but unless I am serious enough to study my craft and hone my prose to be grammatically correct and demonstrate I am proficient, no matter how creative I feel my idea or premise to be, no one will be interested in buying or reading what I have written.
In business we must set ourselves up to be an expert and leader in our industry through experience, education, and delivery of solid content, otherwise we won’t gain market share. Whether writer, speaker, entrepreneur or executive, we must take the time and initiative to educate ourselves so that we can be of the highest service and value to our audience and our customers. It is critical we structure our endeavors to always demonstrate not only facility and expertise in our chosen profession, but also a devotion and a dedication to being the best that we can be to deliver our highest version of ourselves in order to meet the needs of others.