Get out of the Presentation rut!

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In the hundreds of presentations, I have seen and there were very few that I would say moved me, made me want to act, created some interest or made me want to buy something. Rarely in those hours and hours of PowerPoint did I see anything mildly interesting. (And it wasn’t a chart!)

That is simply not effective. To be effective you have to be natural, be yourself … and tell a story. Tell a great story. TELL A COMPELLING STORY!

“But I work in a boring field. The stuff I have to present is boring!”

Your audience probably doesn’t think that, and moreover,  you are not boring. People are looking and listening to you. You are interesting, fascinating, unique and I have never met anyone who did not have a great story. And all of those stories are fascinating.

We all know that most of the presentations at conferences and trade shows are, in fact, sales pitches.

So, why would you NOT take that opportunity to be really interesting? Cut through the clutter! People buy from people. And those people are trusted, interesting and they deliver results. At a conference you have a captive audience of potential customers. Use it to your advantage.

Why don’t you tell a story of an interesting client challenge you had? Make it a Case Study Mini-Play. What did they want? How did you strategize the solution? What happened next? Was there any tension or drama or timing issues in the delivery? How did you handle it? How did you solve it!

Here are Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama

Aristotle considered these six things to be essential to good drama.

  • Plot: This is what happens in the play. Plot refers to the action; the basic storyline of the play.
  • Theme: While plot refers to the action of the play, theme refers to the meaning of the play. The theme is the main idea or lesson to be learned from the play. In some cases, the theme of a play is obvious; other times it is quite subtle.
  • Characters:  Characters are the people (sometimes animals or ideas) portrayed by the actors in the play. It is the characters who move the action, or plot, of the play forward.
  • Dialogue: This refers to the words written by the playwright and spoken by the characters in the play. The dialogue helps move the action of the play along.
  • Music/Rhythm: While music is often featured in drama, in this case Aristotle was referring to the rhythm of the actors’ voices as they speak.
  • Spectacle: This refers to the visual elements of a play: sets, costumes, special effects, etc. The spectacle is everything that the audience sees as they watch the play.

In presenting, this list has changed slightly, although you will notice that many of the elements remain the same. The list of essential elements in presenting are:

  • Character
    These are the main ideas you want to convey – less is more. And no more than THREE!
  • Plot
    The storyline. Is it seamless and linked? A solid beginning, interesting middle and fabulous ending.
  • Theme
    Tone and manner of the presentation. start big, drop down and build to the climax.
  • Dialogue
    The words you use must be powerful “speaking” words … not written words. You are an orator not a leader of a read along.
  • Audience
    Always begin a presentation from the viewpoint of the audience. What are they looking for?

I always try and gauge the results of a presentation I have just witnessed. I ask others in attendance what they thought. The last conference was shocking – after one session almost all of the responses from the other attendees went from “OMG that was awful!” to “Why do I sit through these?”

Is that how you want your audience and perhaps your potential customers to react? I know I don’t.

A great presentation should end with audience members coming up to you after the session asking for more.

For more on Professional Presentation Skills check out my book.

Fear of Failure

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Fear of failure is something that will be with you for your entire career. It never goes away.  

At the beginning of your career when you start the working business process, it will inevitably feel half-baked. You are always going to be looking over your shoulder waiting for somebody to call you out. “You are an idiot.”  “You are a fraud and an impostor.”  “This is never going to work!”

Getting used to these feelings and these sensations is a good thing. But, it takes time.

I have been in business for 40 years and have run very large companies and have been at the helm during some very trying times. I still look over my shoulder and wait for someone to say, “You really don’t know what you are doing?” 

You have to anticipate and embrace the inevitable sensation of fear. You will always feel fear. And you will always feel risk.

Using positive imagery, where you can imagine yourself in a position of success cannot happen unless you go through these zones of risk and terror. That feeling of horror that you are certainly going to fail never goes away.

What happens is you get accustomed to those feelings. “Oh, right. I know these feelings! This is that phase where I am sweating bullets.”  

Certainly, we do fail sometimes. And that is ok. But, you cannot balk at these feelings and simply give up or run away.  The main message I am relaying to you is that even the most successful,  senior and powerful people go through this. As you age and get more experience you start filling your personal trophy cases with wins. You will find that all of these feelings start revealing themselves to you as a natural human condition.

You have to anticipate and embrace the inevitable sensation of fear. You will always feel fear. And you will always feel risk.

The notion that geniuses and/or masters of their art, sport or craft put in 10,000 hours is true. Anyone who has mastered their field has put in the time. And the best way to overcome the fears is to “Get over yourself, and get to work.”  Start putting in the time!

Let’s talk about the different type of failure.

Choking, for example I believe is thinking too much. “I know what to do, I have mastered a task and do not have to think about doing it.”  But being in a situation where there is all this pressure and when I need to perform my job, and I start thinking about it – that takes me out of my unconscious zone. We see this time and time again with athletes. The game is on the line and instead of doing something they have practiced thousands and thousands of times – they start to think about each piece of minutia of the moment and blow it.

Panic, on the other hand, is a type of fear of failure that comes from being in a situation that has never presented itself before. “I don’t know what to do?”

These are the polar opposites in failure – one afflicts people who are good at what they do and the other is what happens to novices. These are two very distinct situations. If someone chokes it is because they are outside of the unconscious zone they prepared for, rather than someone who is unprepared and in a situation totally foreign to them. The person who chokes, I believe, is an honorable failure, the person who panics is a dishonorable failure.

For years I have taught folks how to speak publicly and to learn how to present professionally. In the thousands and thousands of speeches and presentations I have seen, rarely has someone, who was rehearsed, got up in front of a crowd and choked. It is more than often, the person who has shirked their responsibility by not practicing or rehearsing effectively, who gets up in front of a crowd and says, “I will speak to the slides!” “I will wing it!” That type of failure is inexcusable. That is your fault, you did not rehearse enough and you did not take it seriously.

Choking is very different. If I see someone choke under a moment of pressure I understand that they are in a situation that no matter how much they practiced, they were not prepared for the type of pressure that only that situation created. That is where you can be more forgiving. I know these folks simply need experience and will be back stronger than ever.

Moral:

Take responsibility for those things you can control and forgive yourself for all those things you can’t!

 

 

What Innovators Do

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Kristopher Roller

Consider the differences:

1. Some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity.

2. Some people tend to focus on past failures with sadness or disgust. Innovators look at the same failures and analyze them to figure out what to do better next time.

3. Some people hear an oddball idea, and say, “that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.” Innovators hear the same idea, and think “Interesting! What a great idea!“

Innovators thrive in a massive world of constant, never-ending swirling ideas.

4. Some people seek solace from others in order to avoid controversy. Innovators seek out groups of people to grab, share and get feedback on new ideas

5. Some people wish that everything around them would just stay the same. Innovators are eager to change everything they can.

6. Some people think that progress is great, and that’s gone on way too long. Innovators thrive on the opportunity and challenge what tomorrow brings.

7. Some people tend to hang out in peer groups that mimic their behaviour. Innovators bounce around among different peer groups, seeking the innovation oxygen that different opinions bring to the world.

8. Some people would react, “it won’t work,” when confronted with a new and radical idea. Innovators immediately set out to figure out to make the oddball idea a home run hit.

9. Some people prefer to study an issue to death until they can make a decision. Innovators look at the same issue, and say, “let’s do it now!”

10. Some people like to keep their world perspective small. Innovators thrive in a massive world of constant, never-ending swirling ideas.

I believe life, a successful life, is all about perception. And as they say … perception is reality!

 

3 Ways Emotions Boost Online Engagement

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Mayur Gala

If Martians were to land in your backyard today and wanted to know what being “human” was like, what would you show them?

Perhaps you’d show them examples of people looking after each other: parents looking after a baby, volunteers hammering together a house for someone whose life will be changed by it; or the way we stop for someone who has tripped to ask if they’re all right; or perhaps the way an entire nation donates food and medicine to countries in need. It’s when we’re caring for one another that we’re at our best.

Emotions add a human touch

We could all do well to understand this. While the real world is about distances keeping people apart, the ‘net is about shared interests bringing people together. This is the Cluetrainway of thinking at its finest. I teach it, write about it, lecture on it – and I have the rights to the material for my courseware.

The Cluetrain Manifesto states in part:

“The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns. The community of discourse is the market. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.”

When a brand loses its human voice, people tune them out. They simply become part of the online noise because there is no emotional connection. Emotional connection is key.

Emotions are the reaction to your brand

I am working on a strategy session for an association because its marketing efforts have stopped working. This association has a brand out there that most folks either don’t understand, dislike, or ignore.

Why?

In my strategy sessions, I have culled input from about a dozen people. These folks are fairly high up in their client food-chain – all of whom believe the association to be irrelevant. To be fair, none of them have actually said this – but it’s an overall general feeling. I have my hunches as to why it has happened, but my hunches aren’t important here. What matters is the feelings of those dozen people. It’s an important word, feel. Feel = Emotion.

And in when it comes to your brand, emotion trumps everything.

Emotions help connect your message to your masses

This particular association’s list of members and prospects has been burnt to a crisp through overuse; they deluge the recipients with the same stuff, over and over again. Now, if a client were to call me several times a day, I’d be delighted. However, this could be bothersome if it comes from someone I don’t have an emotional connection with; even hearing from them once a month could leave me annoyed.

When a brand loses its human voice, people tune them out. They simply become part of the online noise because there is no emotional connection.

And that’s the crux. A brand has to make a positive emotional connection to get through to people. It’s the only way to reach them and start and create a conversation. When communicating to an audience, the words information and content should be replaced with the word relationship.

Yay! Another meeting – said no one, ever!

I have tried to avoid meetings as much as possible all my life. This thinking of mine stems from an article I once read from a 1939 copy of The Harvard Business Review that stated: if you have more than two meetings a month, you will go out of business.

Likely an unpopular sentiment in those days, and yet, in more modern settings, I have seen the elimination of meetings work wonders for companies.

Deep-six the roundtable discussions
All the companies I have been involved with were encouraged to eliminate 10 to 20 percent of their monthly meetings on an ongoing basis.

Of the many large corporations where I was hired as a trainer and facilitator, two come to mind; an insurance company and a credit card company. Both had reduced the amount and length of meetings. One company’s reports claimed over 200,000 dollars of staff time was freed up – just by eliminating meetings – thereby giving employees time to be more productive.

Send a memo instead
I believe the bulk of meetings can be handled by sending a document to all parties involved and asking them to send back comments in a timely manner. If a meeting is needed the same process is followed:

“Here is the issue we need to be resolved, as outlined in the attached document. Please return your comments by (Insert defined time) and be prepared to discuss them in a short meeting. It starts at (defined time and date); we will spend 15 minutes on this.

The bulk of meetings can be handled by sending a document to all parties involved and asking them to send back comments in a timely manner.

Meeting musts
When it comes to having a meeting, here are some must-dos:

  • Set a clear objective to the meeting. Don’t be vague. Set an agenda and make sure all the participants agree to the agenda. If it needs to be adjusted, then do so.
  • Invite only those people who need to be there. The worst thing is calling people into a meeting only to have them wonder “why am I even here?”
  • Set strict guidelines for who speaks and the duration. By keeping everyone “on the clock,” this helps to reign in the dominant talkers who tend to take over and prevent everyone from contributing.
  • Remember that time is money. A meeting should start on time and end on time. A rule of thumb I have always followed is that when a meeting starts no one is allowed in after the starting time. Late starts and stragglers send the message that the meeting is not important.

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”
― Dave Barry