BBJ Entry 021: Mind Your Own Business – and Theirs, Too


[FYI: The title “BBJ” refers to Bill’s Business Journey]

Years ago, most of my colleagues were hardware and software engineers, who spent long hours typing on keyboards. An ergonomic office specialist visited our lunch room one day to show us some demos and sell us some products.

Things didn’t turn out quite as well as expected.

After the first demo, one of the engineers said, “That won’t work for us because we don’t use A, we use B. What do you recommend for B?”

To our surprise, the specialist had no solution for B, and simply moved on to the next demo.

As soon as it was finished, another engineer said, “That won’t work for us either, because our set-up isn’t X, it’s Y. What do you have for Y?”

Again, the specialist had no solution, and moved on to another demo.

About halfway through, a third engineer interrupted and said, “We’re an engineering firm with very specific circumstances, none of which are covered in your presentation so far. Do you have any solutions customized for engineering firms?”

I’m afraid you can guess the answer.

Although the specialist knew his business, he clearly didn’t know ours.

Final score: demos 4; sales (and positive feelings) zero.

Recently, a friend encouraged me to offer my presentation training services to a group that I likely would never have approached: trial lawyers. I’d always assumed that as professional public speakers, they already gave presentations like professional public speakers. And I knew nothing about their business.

But recalling the painful experience in that lunch room, I tried a different approach: I talked to some trial lawyers. Here’s what I learned:

First, trial lawyers get no training in public speaking or presentation development while at law school (I know, right?!). So I could clearly provide them with something they needed and didn’t have.

Second, lawyers are required to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education (CE) annually, typically by attending Bar Association-sponsored presentations. So there’s an established forum for presenting to lawyers.

Third, most of the CE presentations are delivered by other lawyers, who (according to my lawyer contacts) aren’t particularly skilled in engaging presentations. So I could bring a quality to the event that would likely stand out.

Lastly, I sat in on a live trial to determine exactly where I could offer the most value as a presenter.

When I made my proposal to the local Bar Association, I knew who I was proposing to and what they needed. I landed the gig.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Launching a venture obviously requires that we diligently mind our own business. But succeeding with that venture clearly requires that we mind other people’s business, as well.


This blog chronicles my adventures with my public speaking and presentation coaching business, Rhetorio Presentation. To learn more about it, visit the main site at For presentation-specific tips, scroll down the right-hand sidebar for the 3 presentation categories: #1: Think, #2: Show, and #3: Tell.

8 comments on “BBJ Entry 021: Mind Your Own Business – and Theirs, Too

  1. Kathy B. says:

    Very clever and strategic thinking!

  2. L says:


    Selling to the need!

  3. John C Slothower says:

    It seems so obvious, but then, it is truly amazing how often the obvious is overlooked! Nice callout.

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