Make sure you’re writing the right book! Peter is joined by Zoe Chance for a discussion on getting the right message, the right content, and building a brand around the book. Zoe talks about starting, and restarting, her book project to ensure that her first book is an approachable and powerful encapsulation of her work.
She tells us about the journey searching for a writer for her book, taking personal ownership for the work, and finally building a relationship with an editing partner who can capture her ideas.
Connecting skilled writers with unique voices is a day in the life of our podcast guest this week, Dan Gerstein, President of Gotham Ghostwriters, joins Peter to talk about discovering voice, creating content, and building the relationship to create your next book or speech.
Dan shares insights on how writing a book is like being CEO of a pop-up business and bringing in a writer is like hiring a Chief Product Officer. If you’re looking to maximize the impact of your book, this episode is required reading.
Many thought leaders mistakenly believe that they are effective teachers of their content. This belief begins with a simple assumption: “Because I understand a topic, I can teach it.”
But the skills that make a thought leader expert can work against them when they become a teacher. It’s called the “Curse of Knowledge.” The more you know about a subject, the harder it becomes to envision a beginner’s needs and questions. You assume that what’s obvious to you is also obvious to others. You create a learning experience that makes perfect sense to you, but will bewilder your audience.
Over the course of my career, many thought leaders have asked me to review their courses. They generally ask, “How can I make this more effective?” I’ve found that thought leaders fall into several common design traps caused by the Curse of Knowledge:
Content Out-of-Order: Content is arranged in a way that makes total sense to an expert but is confusing to a learner.
Missing Steps: Experts are often blind to intermediate steps, because they become instinctive. Learners sense a gap and become frustrated. They can’t see what’s missing.
High Bar of Entry: Experts assume that learners already know more than they do. If the initial hurdle of learning is too high, learners quickly give up, saying “It’s not worth my effort.”
Not Enough Practice Time: Experts often vastly underestimate the amount of practice learners need to develop basic skills. Learners lose interest when they can’t practice.
The Curse of Knowledge occurs because you, as an expert, have internalized so many basic principles and ways of thinking that you can skip over steps without noticing them. You’ve forgotten what it would be like to be consciously incompetent.
The Curse of Knowledge has existed as long as the art of teaching. Many thought leaders routinely fall into these traps because they haven’t been trained in the science of learning. Whether you call it “pedagogy” (as academics do) or “instructional design” (as HR professionals do), developing expertise in the transfer of knowledge is a skill which must be mastered.
Surprisingly, this Curse of Knowledge even impacts people who have been trained in pedagogy. I’ve seen curricula from top-tier MBA faculty which offers incredibly insightful content but fails to transfer knowledge and skills effectively. It’s hard to step outside of your head and look at your work through fresh eyes.
How do you teach your ideas more effectively? Here are four tips to make your learning content more accessible to learners:
Slow Down: Map your ideas and processes out. Look carefully for hidden assumptions.
Get an Expert Opinion: Find someone who is an expert in pedagogy and/or instructional design to review your teaching methods and course design.
Interview Prospective Learners: Make sure you understand what they already know, as well as what they don’t already know.
Prototype: Run pilot testing and get user feedback. Revise! Revise! Revise!
You cannot ever fully eliminate the Curse of Knowledge, but you can train yourself to become aware of it and counteract its most harmful effects. These four techniques, taken from the world of instructional design, will help you see some of the invisible gaps which make it hard for learners to understand your content.
If you’ve ever tried to do product development first and market research second, you may wind up with a great product that no one wants to buy. Content expert, David Mammano, joins Peter for a conversation about the journey of an entrepreneur in the content space. David talks about letting the market determine which ideas are worth investing in and licensing content to drive business growth.
Your model is the skeleton that your content needs to anchor it. This week, Erica Dhawan joins Peter to discuss model building, content development, and business growth. She explains how she shaped her assessment tools with a data driven mindset and translated that data into targeted sales strategy.
If you are looking for strategies to establish a lean and powerful sales funnel, check out the episode. Erica’s strategy and tips would have a powerful impact on any thought leadership business.
Consulting is a problem solving business. Those problems are changing. The modern consulting landscape needs to change too. Futurist, author, and thought leader Thomas Koulopoulos joins Peter to discuss the ways that thought leadership and consulting businesses can adapt to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
From the overall strategy and product design to tactical decisions and deployments, the conversation covers all aspects of thought leadership business and gives a clear idea of how to plan for success when planning future products.
Thought leaders often underestimate the value of the red-carpet privileges they receive when they work with clients. I’m not talking first class flights and five-star hotels. Those perks are nice, but they’re not uncommon. You can book most of them online!
There’s one asset that most companies guard jealously—their CEO’s time. An average salesperson can’t simply call and request an hour with the CEO. Most salespeople spend their careers working leads and building relationships with connectors and influencers. Getting to a CEO can take months or even years, if ever.
But it’s entirely commonplace for a thought leader—after being booked to deliver a keynote or a consulting session—to ask the client, “Can I get a prep call with the CEO and other senior leaders?” This request is good customer service, and it’s often given a greenlight by the company’s gatekeepers.
Thought leaders—keynote speakers, scholars, and authors—have privileged access into the leadership of an organization, but many of them unintentionally squander this C-suite access because they don’t know how to make the best use of the time.
So, when the client’s gatekeeper gives you the “Yes” to speak with the CEO, what should you do?
First off, remember that someone booked you and saw value in your content. But that’s simply table stakes. You need more information to be able to serve your client and execute a great first event. And more importantly, the CEO will be evaluating you!
Getting a meeting with the CEO is a significant accomplishment. Don’t waste it! By following these five tips, you’ll keep the meeting on-point:
Do Your Homework: Study any information you’ve received from a gatekeeper in previous calls. Be informed about the company and its leadership. What have they been working on?
Lead with smart questions. Quickly uncover what matters to the CEO. Prepare questions in advance, and make sure they’re smart, targeted, and engaging.
Listen rather than talk: You want to spend about 70% of the time listening to the client’s context, and only 30% of the time talking about yourself or your
Create a reason for a follow-up: Don’t rush to sell. You’ll come across as self-serving and pushy. Instead, listen and build a relationship. Spend the first conversation focused on developing a great solution, but also plant a seed. Create a reason to touch base after your event.
Respect their time: Have an agenda, stick to it, and aim to finish early.
If you haven’t spent significant time in the c-suite environment, it’s easy to make rookie mistakes. Some people learn these skills inside organizations, working as an executive themselves or as a direct report to the c-suite. Others learn these skills as external consultants or salespeople.
As a thought leader, you could probably talk about your ideas for hours. However, you probably haven’t honed your sales and consulting skills as finely. Don’t mishandle precious executive conversations just because you haven’t learned to stop talking! Listen, learn, and uncover what the buyer really wants.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk and create content without worrying about perfection! Roger Brooks from American Real joins Peter to talk about content creation, audience segmentation, and finding your tribe. If you are a thought leader creating content online, this is an episode that can’t be missed.
Roger shares his experience learning about podcasting, video creation, and then passing his skills on to others on American Real. Roger shares how he got over his perfectionism and committed to creating content that is exceptional and accessible – skills that will help anyone build their brand in the modern content landscape.
The thought leader’s journey is never a straight forward A to B. You’re going to have to forge your own path, define your strategy, and set your own targets. Leadership expert, speaker, and author Ron Carucci joins Peter to talk about how he got his journey on track by working with a professional coach and the experience of being on the other side of the consultant’s desk. Ron talks about the insight he gained in setting his goals and defining his audience to capitalize on his content.
Authors, speakers, and thought leaders typically have no shortage of great ideas. That’s a good thing! However, such enlightened individuals rarely know how to prioritize that seemingly endless list of game changing ideas they’ve gathered. Thought leaders have a brilliant idea, and they’re excited about it – but it never goes anywhere, and “the work” is never finished in their eyes. So, they get stuck.
Typically, a thought leader will try to focus on one project. A book, a new app, a tool, a partnership, a collaboration. But then, before the first project is complete, the thought leader moves on to something else. And then, something else. It’s not uncommon to find a potential client with 13 “things in the hopper” – and all at various stages of completion. These projects may stretch back months, or even years!
When I meet with such a thought leader and they tell me about their many projects, I always ask, “So when will x, y, and z be ready to go to market?” and, “What will success look like for you when you finish this project?” My words never fail to evoke an interesting combination of blank stares, throat clearing, and confused looks. “Finished?” they ask. Yes, complete. “Success for the project?” they look confused. Yes, a clear definition as to what success looks like for each initiative.
Logical? Yes. Do I hear definitive answers to my questions? Very rarely.
Thought leaders and authors are known to be creative, and that’s a gift, a blessing. However, it also takes focus, and discipline, and structure, in order to be able to be truly effective and connect with — or even inspire! — business audiences. Creativity is a thought leader’s muse. But structure, processes, and discipline are a thought leader’s best friends.
Prior to pouring energy, resources, effort, and money into an idea du jour, take a moment to consider if you will actually follow through on the project – with absolute commitment to seeing it finished. A dozen projects that never make it to the finish line are worth vastly less than one that has been properly completed. And, someone who can complete a few things very well will outperform those that have many plates spinning, but none completing their task.
Starting is easy. It’s pushing yourself through to the finish that causes many would-be leaders to fail. Those who have amazing ideas but can’t codify them will quickly be forgotten. Those who have amazing ideas, and know how to deliver on goals and deadlines, complete prototype projects, and improve business processes through strategic application of tested and sound ideas….those are the true thought leaders.