Is Your Business All Ice and No Fizz?

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When I was in college my friend Janet worked at the fast-food joint on our college campus. She gave me the skinny on some of the dumbest business practices I ever had the misfortune of witnessing. To improve profits, her manager decided to have a contest between work shifts to see now long they could make tanks of soda last. The shift that served the most drinks from one set of tanks got a small bonus in their check. The goal was to cut costs and boost employee morale. Have you figured out yet why this wasn’t a good idea?

By the end of the first shift, cups were filled with 90% ice. News spreads quickly on college campuses. By second shift sales down by 35% and everyone was asking for “no ice.” It took almost a week for the restore the restaurant’s market share. The second and third shift employees were mad because they went through twice as much syrup as usual with all of the “no ice” drinks they were forced to serve.

And here is the kicker, three weeks later the manager did it again with french-fries. :-/ Some people never learn.

So what does this have to do with you? Do you use too much ice?

I see a lot of speakers use too much ice. They turn their talks into an infomercial. No real content, no tips, no take aways, just sell-sell-sell and they’re shocked when people don’t ask them back to speak again. Hey, there’s only so many times you want to see the “Sham-Wow” guy.

I recently coached a women who had an interesting story, but when I asked her what her message was … she didn’t have one. If you follow my blog, you know I’m into using stories to make your point, but stories are the “ice.” Your message is the soda. An entertaining story by itself can’t carry your speech. If you want to get asked back or create great word-of-mouth referrals you have to start with a great message. That’s why I coach people to work backwards. Dream up your message first and then create the content that it’s packaged in. Most people do it the other way around.

Another case that comes to mind: One of my coaching clients is a great speaker. Super technique, great articulation, wonderful pacing, you name it he had it … but no message. Once again speaking ability can only take you so far. It’s just more ice. People like cold sodas so ice is important, just like stories are important, but no one wants just a cup of ice.

Just like the angry customers at the burger joint, if you don’t give the audience something to take home with them, they feel ripped off. Even if you’re speaking for free the audience is still giving you their valuable time. Honor that investment and give them something of value. If someone can better their lives with one of your tips you’re well on your way to getting their business.