Paul Castain's Blog

The Fluff/Substance Conundrum

Posted September 28, 2010

As an accomplished public speaker, I consider school in session (for me) several times a week by watching various speakers via Youttube, webinars etc. It’s something I recommend to everyone I coach and I will guarantee you that you won’t leave that development time empty handed.

Now, I’m about to go off on a half rant. A half rant is when I’ll harness my inner smart ass and tell you how I really think about something but then bring it around to some tangible take aways.

Fair enough?

OK, I’m going to do this one sans foreplay . . .

I can’t stand it when someone goes over the top with fluff at the cost of substance!

I was listening to someone the other day on an internet radio interview who was all “Honey” this and “Girlfriend” that. Now aside from the fact that I’m a card carrying “dude”, congrats, you aren’t giving me anything. No content. No substance. Nada!

She was confusing “attitude” (which I dig by the way) with content. So I opted out after about 5 mins of glorified nothing.

All I got was a Red Bull adrenaline shot with the debilitating crash!

And you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about too.

There you are feeling all good and pumped up and then its like someone left you high and freakin dry without cab fare on your night table! Why? Because there wasn’t anything for you to sink your teeth into!

On the other hand, I’ve met some brilliant people who induce “outer body experiences” with their monotone, boring, mundane and otherwise awful presentations.

This one bothers me to no end because in most cases they were people who had a cool product or service but just sucked at keeping the attention of their audience. And to make matters worse, they weren’t paying attention to the signs that people were mentally checking out!

So which is worse . . .

All fluff but no substance?

Great substance but outer body experience inducing?

Well before this resembles a trip to the Eye Doctor who keeps asking “One better or two. One or two?” I think you actually need careful measurements of both!

And just so I don’t go all “Fluff” on you today, here’s some substance to chew on:

1)    Energy and enthusiasm go a long way in business. Heck, you can even bump those bad boys up a notch or three and demonstrate a true passion for what you do. Just make sure you give them a side order of “tangible”.

2)    One way to kick up your substance quotient is to offer “Evidence” such as a cool demonstration of your product, Samples, Facts (and cite your source) Examples, Analogies, A good story to illustrate a point, Testimonials and Statistics. Now who the hell can’t bite into that stuff you anti fluffernutter rock star! 

3)    Video yourself when you practice. Watch the video and ask yourself if you would believe that dude if you were on the other side of that presentation. Does your “BS – O – Meter” go off? Do you look confident? How about your mannerisms. Your “ums” “you knows”?  Did you go to say something and one of those low pitch throat burps sort of happen? Sorry, but they count as fluff!

4)    Whenever you practice, make sure you are clearly articulating your “main thing”. Your “main thing” in this context is your point. Ask yourself “If I were listening to this, what would I take away?” If the answer is nothing . . . then you just caught the fluff monster dead in his tracks! Kudos! Note: Your prospect is pretty good at spotting bull sh*t too. Don’t ever forget that!

5)    Tape yourself: Taping yourself will keep you focused on your words, your tonality etc. Note: If you find that you are boring yourself into an outer body experience . . . there’s your sign! How’s your energy level? Can you hear passion in your voice bro’chocho? One cool thing you might want to do is use crescendos, decrescendos some strategically placed pauses.

6)    The 2-5 Min Rule: Every 2 minutes you must make your presentation interactive somehow. How? Ask a question and then facilitate dialogue (isn’t that an important part of collaborative selling?) Hand them a calculator and have them crunch numbers so they experience your point. The point is to come up for air every now and again and get them talking.  By the way . . . this is how you re engage someone who is just starting to pack their bags for that outer body experience.  Or you could simply clap your hands at the person and yell wake up if you are certain you will win the lottery at some point in the next few days.

7)    Group Training: Get together with your team (or even some people from your network or mastermind group) and take turns doing a presentation of your choice. It could be company presentations, a product specific presentation, presenting an article or book report etc. Evaluate each other and make sure there’s a healthy mix of “fluff” and substance. If someone goes over the top in either direction . . . you need to offer your constructive feedback.

So today I want you to focus on your message. You certainly don’t have to be like the Dos Equis dude and transform into the most interesting dude in the world. Just beware of those outer body experiences.

And as far as fluff, well please save that for something I’d tell you to save it for if I knew what to write here. 🙂

Keep it real!

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  • Seema Chauhan

    This is great advice Paul, I am sure to be taking this on board..will have to dust of the old video cam now!

  • bob

    wow – absolutely, so engaged i muted the fox 5 and turned off the tv – within the 1st paragraph –

    retrospect – advertising / marketing – so many miss by dismissing FLUFF as product awareness – not realizing how many tune-out
    Marketing stunts can be a lot of things—funny, weird, innovative, maudlin, hectoring, and of course flat-out stupid.

    Uncle Paul, if you need inspiration – you might look at

    and if you need a smile the 30 worse ads for 2009 – hundred of millions were spent on garbage – from people who forgot about the message


    bob gagliano
    arbitrage productions

  • @ Seema: The first time someone video taped me I was bummed because I got to see how bald I was from the back. After I got over that I learned quite a bit from that video.

    Thanks for stopping by and happy videoing!

    Paul Castain

  • First off, I love fluffernutters!!
    Ok, secondly, I completely agree!! I can’t even count the number of conference presentations or webinars by “social media gurus” (blech) who have zero to contribute. I feel lucky if I at least get a fluffy pep rally! Its better than the boring drivel usually being lavished upon the audience by someone who read a book on facebook 4 years ago. Ugh.

  • Chuck

    If you’re looking for a great place to learn public speaking, try Toastmasters. Just search for local clubs, visit a couple, pick one and go. The Club I belong to is full of sales people and we have a great time and learn a lot about presenting information.

    I really like your 2-5 minute interaction guideline. I’ve heard it before but it’s good to be reminded.

    If you’re ever in Dallas, come visit our Club:

  • Hey Paul. I also love Fluffernutters but don’t think I have had one in over 30 years! We can always count on you to articulate and share what so many of us think anyway. 🙂 I can’t tell you (or maybe I can) how many times I read a LONG article and at the end realize the author said NOTHING! Let’s face it, how many different ways can one talk about reputation management, Internet presence, SEO, etc. This is where being creative is helpful – as long as the creativity doesn’t remove substance and end up as science fiction. In marketing it is always a challenge to make your message compelling enough to hold the reader’s attention while making sure the use of common fluff words like “state-of-the-art”, “fully-integrated”, best thing since canned corn (OK – we don’t really use that one), etc. doesn’t replace the perceived value of your offering AND relays this in the first 3 seconds or so – because that is about all you have of someone’s attention before they move onto the next thing.

  • Too much fluff and I’m racing for the door as fast as I can.

    Paul, you really nailed it. I have watched/listened to some of the most substance-less presentations ever. It is so rude to the audience really. Aren’t they important enough to really prepare yourself before going on stage, jumping on that radio interview or webcast.

    Along the same lines of your topic, Paul. It also drives me nuts when a seminar or event program sessions are billed as one thing and the content delivered is something else completely. There’s substance allright but not what I actually signed up to hear about:)

  • @ Corrie: Yep Fluffernutters rock! I share your pain and couldn’t agree more.

    @ Chuck: Great suggestion and I will be sure to stop by your club next time I’m in Dallas!

    @ Julie: You and I will start “The best thing since sliced corn movement” the world needs us 🙂 As always, your point is well taken!

    @ Barb: Your comment has really underscored the feeling we all have when someone waste’s our time with a lack of substance . . . its rude and I couldn’t agree more with you. And your point about the “bait and switch” tactics of some of the seminar presenters is spot on!

    Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and contribute!

    Paul Castain

  • Paul,

    Great Post and reminders on preparing & Practicing.

    And “feeling you” on when you saw how bald in back you were. Recently saw myself on video and got really pissed at my friends. I had aged and got out of shape (too many Fluffernutters)and none of my friends told me!?!? Some friends. Sheesh!

    Keep up the good work! Tally Ho!

    PS: Looking for some “Organic” Fluff, anyone know where I can get some?

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