11/12/2013 01:16 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Don't Be A Huckster

Many of us have had the opportunity to give speeches, workshops and seminars, or just participate in panel discussions. At one time or another, all of us have been in the audience for such events. More often than not, everything goes fine, and the event is successful -- for the presenter, as well as the audience.

But at times, many of us have had to endure tedious, ill planned and poorly presented addresses that are no more than self-serving commercials for a service, product or company. These presentations embody the huckster problem.

Belonging to many industry and business organizations, I attend such events regularly. Over the years, I have been energized, motivated, bored, annoyed and outright uncomfortable. It all depends on the message: Relevancy is crucial. It's important to have a message that is meaningful to your audience. Your words do mean something, or you wouldn't be there in front of this group of people in the first place.

If your presentation is supposed to address a specific issue, state the issue and stick to the topic. Don't be a huckster, contorting and twisting the content to highlight your company and your company alone. Beyond letting folks know a brief history of yourself in business terms, focus on the subject matter you were called upon to discuss. Now is not the time for a full-length commercial.

If that is your modus operandi, you will actually be damaging your corporate image and the message. People attend these events for information and the opportunity to meet other business people. Your commercial should be reserved for the networking that occurs before and after stage time. The fastest way to turn off the audience is to drone on and on about how great you and your company are, and that you can cure all that ails.

As a member of a panel, the audience take-away from your participation should be one of high caliber input at least on par with the other panel members. You need to hold up your end of the bargain. You have been invited to participate because you have something to offer. Your presence on the dais is confirmation that you are a person of substance. Fulfill that role and that role only. Again, it is generally inappropriate to be a huckster in those settings.

Although panels are more flexible, and you may have the opportunity to plug some aspect of your enterprise, be cautious about overdoing it. The most elegant panel members are very subtle in their delivery. Above the fray, they exude confidence in themselves and their companies without beating their own drum. They know they're experts without saying so. Those are the panel members who always have the most people seeking them out for one-on-one conversations after the Q&A session.

Your goal is to be engaging, open and welcoming. Guard against being boorish. Guard against being an annoying commercial, or the audience will change the channel.

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.