Don’t spread the jam

Some time ago, I went shopping for a new wristwatch. Although I am working in the digital industry, for this kind of stuff I’m still pretty much into analog, and I don’t have the intention to buy a smartwatch anytime soon – at least not as long as the device’s battery life is comparable to my smartphone’s.

Trying to convince me about the superiority of his merchandise, the jeweler tried to explain me that the oscillator in a quartz clock functions as a small tuning fork, and is laser-trimmed to vibrate at 32,768 Hz. Huh?  Didn’t I enter his boutique for simply buying a new timepiece? Why did I need to know about all the internal mechanism of a watch? And was this guy really that smart that he knew all these nitty-gritty detail, or did he just try to impress, persuade or mislead me by dropping numbers and citing trivia?

Actually, this incident reminded me of the so-called jam principle:

The less you have of something ― expertise, knowledge, culture, or just marmalade ― the more you are tempted to spread it out.

Here’s some advice for the jeweler. As well as for every sales person, or anyone delivering a product presentation:

  • Not every person is interested in the nitty-gritty of your product. Keep your presentation short, sweet and to the point. Limit your content to the essential.
  • Even if you are the expert in the room, you don’t have to overload your audience with all your explicit knowledge. Don’t pump up the jam with superfluous details!
  • Try to stay within your comfort zone. Don’t introduce topics that you hardly know anything about. If your public has a bad day, they might start asking you more difficult questions  for which you may not have a detailed answer ready.
  • Don’t present everything you know about a single topic. As a rule of thumb, make sure that for every minute you talk, you have about three minutes of ‘backup material’ (more information, related topics, anecdotes,) available.
  • Always be prepared for detailed questions and discussions. And if you don’t have the right answer on hand, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “let me look this up and get back to you.”
  • Know your audience. Be able to change your style, your presentation flow and your level of detail. With the right tone of voice and a good story, you will certainly convince them that you’re a person of interest, that you are an authority on the topic you present, and that you have the “right to speak” (or to sell quartz wristwatches).

Even if you’re not dealing in clocks (or marmalade), you may still read these other posts on my blog:


1 thought on “Don’t spread the jam

  1. Pingback: 7 sins of the speaker (extended version) | b2b storytelling

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