Banish the "Pompous Professor"


“affectedly and irritatingly grand, solemn, or self-important”

Yes, I admit it. Sometimes when I speaking, I slip into ‘lecture’ mode. I love my content. I’ve studied persuasive communication for years. I love understanding words, the human mind, and how to influence through speaking, writing, marketing. I nerd out.

But, it’s never to my advantage to sound too much like a professor, like I’m ‘lecturing’ or telling people what to do. It turns people off.

My own “pompous professor” persona comes out when I catch myself saying things like “you should” or worse, “people should” and then telling people what to do.

Or it also comes out when I use terms that people may not understand, but I don’t explain them. Or, I start explaining basic things that my audience already knows (which happens if you don’t research the audience ahead of time).

[Personal Story] – I was once being coached on my speaking by one of my mentors, Callan Rush, and she stopped me mid-sentence and told me I sounded like I was lecturing, that my tone or words was likely to turn people off. I gotta admit, in that moment, it stung a little bit. The last thing I want to do is to turn people off. I want people to like me, to want to hear what I have to say. Yes, I have an ego. (Apparently a well entrenched one at that, because at that moment, I felt hurt, I wanted to argue with her).

But she was right. It was subtle, but I did have this ‘pushing’ feeling inside me, just wanting to push the information out to them and kind of demand they listen to me.  It’s important to have a coach, someone to notice what you aren’t noticing. Sometimes just the tone, the delivery, a subtle choice of words, can make a big difference in how you are perceived.

As a speechwriter/presentation designer (and speaker coach), I’m careful to word things so that it sounds more like an invitation than a demand. Usually, people don’t like being ‘told’ what to do – they want to feel invited, offered. They want to feel as if they’ve made the decision themselves. I word things in a personal way, using persuasive words and phrases. Instead of saying “you should do this”, I’ll say “I invite you to …” or “Consider doing this…”. I engage their imagination and creative brain, saying “imagine if this were true ..” or ask them questions like “what would it be like if …”

Persuasive communication is sometimes a bit of a game. It’s playful, fun. It’s like a dance, back and forth, leading, then following.

Let’s say you are launching a new product online. The pompous professor comes out when all your marketing, your blog posts, social media posts, emails leading up the launch are all about the great product or service you have, all its benefits, and why they should buy it. It’s like you are a professor, just lecturing to them. A true influencer weaves a seductive story around the product, makes it seems enticing, almost mysterious, the ultimate solution to their problem.

In a speech, the professor comes out when you spend too much time ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’. In other words, you have lots bullet points, data, analysis, slides, but not enough stories, stories that connect the data with your personal passions – stories that provide the meaning behind what you’re teaching.

A lot of this is very subtle, and when you are ‘too close’ to the content, you may not even notice when you start lapsing into professor mode. Even though I’ve been speaking and writing for years, I still get coaching and feedback on my work – because we all have a blind spot when it comes to our own work …

and that pompous professor is always lurking around. 🙂

If you are about to launch an online product, or put on a speech/webinar or presentation that means a lot to you, then contact me today. I’m offering a limited number of FREE “Discover Your Story” consultation sessions for the next few weeks. Jump on the line, and let’s talk about how to make your next venture, product launch or speech a ‘wow’ experience.

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