I had dinner on with my good friend Peter Pizor. I was sharing some of my notes from an NSA Convention. We talked about Giovanni Livera’s concept of adding Audience Impact Moments. AIMs are those elements you can add to a presentation to add impact, texture and WOW to a performance: Stories, Juggling, Humor, Poetry, Cartoons, Music, Dance, Gymnastics, Magic, Sound Effects, etc. The audience at the convention brainstormed a list of over 40 such elements. You could probably come up with dozens that we never thought of.
I told Peter I had a process which would help prioritize our efforts to most effectively add these elements to our talks. It’s a process I taught in my Time Management Workshops 15 years ago. Since Peter is one of the smartest guys I know, and has PhD, I asked him if my process was fresh thinking or old news. He told me that the process was known in the business and economics world as Gap Analysis. Since I do have an MBA, I most likely learned the technique back in the stone age and had internalized the process, totally forgetting when and where I studied it. Sometimes a flash of brilliant insight is nothing more than a cloaked memory.
Here’s the way the business analysis process of Gap Analysis works, in relation to improving your Public Speaking. Let’s say you have a list of performance elements, like the ones listed above, that could add more zip, more pizzazz, more variety, to your talks. Since you can’t add everything at once, which ones will give you the most desired impact by developing them first? Let’s look at a three step process.
First, look at each element and ask yourself, “Where do I want to be? And how important is it that I be there?” For example how important is it that I have HUMOR in my talks? The answer is not the same for every person. Rank its importance on a scale of 1-10. For most people, I think that this element would rank rather high. Probably an 8, 9 or 10 for many speakers. For me it’s a 10. Let’s look at another element. How about GYMNASTICS? At the NSA Lab in Las Vegas, Speaker Dan Thurmon opened with a gymnastics tumbling pass across the stage ending with a flip. Very impressive. Wouldn’t it be great to open MY programs that way? I’d try it only if I could figure out whether I or my client should pay for the ambulance. As cool as that would be, my potential to add a flip to my talk is zero. So gymnastics, for me, gets a zero as a ranking of “where I want to be.” MUSIC, on the other hand, is something I could add to my talk and would like to add to my talk. So I’ll give that an 8. You’d go through your entire list of elements and rank them on your “where I want to be” scale.
Second, you revisit the list of elements, and rank each one on a scale of “where am I now.” This is not a desirability scale. This is a status quo scale. Let’s look at the three elements we rated in the previous paragraph. Humor. I give that a 9. I rank that highly because I’ve studied it for over 30 years. I’m pretty good at using humor. But it’s not a 10. There is room for growth. Gymnastics. I rank that as a zero. I don’t do any gymnastics in my programs, I never have and I never will, unless I accidentally tumble off the stage. And last, Music. I rank that as a one. Remember, this is a ranking of WHERE I AM, not where I WANT TO BE. In the past, I have occasionally used music as part of my magic (I am a magician), but never with my speaking. And I haven’t used music in any way for almost 10 years.
Third, you analyze the distance from where you are to where you want to be. This is the Gap Analysis. For Humor, I’m currently at a 9 and would like to be at a 10. The gap is one. For Gymnastics, I’m at a zero and would like to be at a zero. The gap is zero. For Music, I’m at a one and would like to be at an 8. The gap is 7.
This analysis tells me that the gap, between where I am and where I’d like to be, is the largest for Music. Perhaps devoting time to developing this element in my talks makes sense. Perhaps the payoff for my efforts would be maximized. You analyze the gaps for every element on your list. You can then numerically see which elements need the most attention and might have the greatest rewards in time and effort. A rank listing based on your analysis will give you a priority list for adding or improving elements for your programs. You then apply the process of reverse engineering to figure out where you want to be and how you’ll get there from where you actually are right now. This will give you a task list of how to get to where you want to be. A simple lesson from the world of business and economics applied to the art of public speaking.