The Leadership Talk

Leadership and motivation are critical challenges for meeting planners. After all, you get the best results when you're taking the lead to motivate clients and colleagues to take action. In fact, if you're not coming to grips with the challenges of leadership and motivation, you're selling yourself short. However, working with leaders in companies worldwide for the past 22 years, I've found that many professionals in leadership positions misunderstand what leadership and motivation are all about.

One of the main reasons is that they're choosing to communicate through presentations, not leadership talks. When you replace your presentations with leadership talks, you'll see a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of your meetings.

A typical meeting planner is faced with many circumstances where they have to communicate information while exerting some form of leadership: pre-event strategy and planning sessions; managing the meeting staff on-site; the post-con with the hotelier after the event; and, of course, the schmoozing that goes on during site selection trips and at trade shows and other supplier events. It's in the interaction of those speaking encounters, multiplied daily, month in and month out, year in and year out, that you succeed or fail in your job and your career. If those encounters are defined by leadership talks instead of presentations and presentation-type interactions, the effectiveness of your leadership will be dramatically increased.

Here's why: There is a hierarchy of verbal persuasion. The least effective form is presentation, which communicates information primarily in one direction. On the other hand, the most effective way to communicate is through the creation of a dialogue, specifically a leadership talk. This not only communicates information, it helps the leader establish a deep, human, emotional connection with people—so important in motivating them to achieve results.

One of the key principles that will help you deliver great leadership talks is the three-trigger motivational process. The triggers are: Know your audience's needs; have a strong belief in what you are saying; and have an action plan.

I'm not saying that if you don't have all these triggers in place you can't give a leadership talk. These triggers are not stumbling blocks but stepping stones. A missing trigger is really an opportunity for you to think through what you'll ultimately need to lead successfully. Let's look at each of the three triggers.

Do you know your audience's needs? The leadership talk is results-oriented. It's about achieving not just average results, but great results. I call those great results "more results, faster, continually." You will not have people getting those results unless they are choosing to be your ardent cause leaders. And they will not make that choice until they believe that being cause leaders will in some way help solve the problems of their own needs, not your needs.

All needs are problems crying out for solutions. When you're helping clients and colleagues meet their needs, you've got a good chance of motivating them to make the cause-leader choice. Here are seven questions that can be asked to determine what those needs are. (1) What is changing for them? (2) Who would they rather have leading them besides you? (3) What action do they want to take? (4) What do they fear? (5) What's their major problem? (6) What makes them angry? (7) What do they dream?

Do you feel strongly about what you're saying? The next step involves communicating your strong feelings to your clients and colleagues. Remember that your own belief isn't the key issue in a leadership talk. The issue is, can you transfer your belief to your clients and colleagues so they'll believe as strongly as you do?

When you speak to potential cause leaders, they want to know two things: who you are and why you're there. Who you are involves your knowledge and skills. If they perceive that you have weak knowledge or skills and/or weak commitment, they'll peg you as unworthy, or worse, untrustworthy. There is only one answer to why you are there: You are there to help them best meet their needs. Clearly, organizations are not formed to solve the personal needs of their members. They're formed to get results. But the best results come when you have critical convergence of the needs of the people and the needs of the organization.

Can you motivate the audience to take action? Clearly, what you say is important in a leadership talk; but what's more important is what your clients and colleagues do after you've spoken. This is the most important trigger of the three. You can know the people's needs. You can bring deep belief to what you're saying, but if you don't get them to take action, there's no leadership talk.

The ancient Greeks had a saying, "When Achenes speaks, we say 'How well he speaks; but when Demosthenes speaks, we say, 'Let's march against Philip!' " Most presentations I've witnessed end, unfortunately, with no call to action at all. Every leadership talk should end with your challenging people to take action. Get people "marching."

From now on, when engaging in the many communications needed in your planning, live by this imperative: Don't give presentations, give leadership talks. You'll find your leadership activities will become so effective you'll never go back to giving presentations again.

Brent Filson's recent books are The Leadership Talk: The Greatest Leadership Tool and 101 Ways to Give Great Leadership Talks. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. and coaches leaders of top companies worldwide. For more about leadership, visit