Secrets for Excellent Presentations—There are None. Just Lessons Learned.

I am going to share some idiosyncratic and insightful stuff today from Dr.Tom Peters, famed management and leadership guru for over forty years, In this rambling and some times incoherent reflections on Presentations and public speaking Tom nails a few great points for all of us to learn from in the art of speech giving. Here are a few of his ideas for you to noodle on today or review before your next speech.

Quotes that say it all:

“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”—JFK

“In classical times when Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, ‘How well he spoke,’ but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, they said, ‘Let us march.’”—Adlai Stevenson

Tom’s stuff  reinforcing the quotes— ” Reason’s for Total commitment to the Problem/Project/Outcome.

As JFK told us, above, keep your mouth shut unless you commit yourself 100% to moving a mountain—or at least a hillock.

Reason #1: Why bother to go through this hell unless “it” matters to you—a lot!

Reason #2: If you are not committed, somehow or other it will show through like a spotlight as you present. People can smell belief, passion and commitment and energy and determination—or the absence thereof .

Reason #3 . Fix Your Attitude before Presenting–Have you ever said to yourself before a speech I don’t want to be here. I have to be here. Well, that’s not true—except in a way it is. The peerless leadership guru Warren Bennis made an extraordinary assertion. He said: “leaders have no particular desire to be leaders. Instead, there is something they must get done. And to get it done, they must put on the leader’s mantle”. You could say the same thing about speechgiving—or you ought to be able to. I haven’t traveled my 5,000,000 miles or so to give speeches. I’ve traveled those miles to have the opportunity to present a set of ideas I care deeply about; and, at 70, I’m still traveling. (I assure you the thrill of air travel has long faded.) Change the world? That’s a bit grandiose. But, try to make a wee difference? That’s my story—and, within reason, I judge that it will be the case for any long-term successful speechgiver.

Reason # 4. Know what the hell you’re doing unless you specifically make it clear that you are merely providing early conjectures. JFK tells us not to open our mouths unless we aim to change the world. I’d add, perhaps unnecessarily, don’t open your mouth until you know what the hell you’re talking about. You’ve got to be clear, albeit indirect, that you’ve worked your ass off on this topic—and would not ask the audience to waste their time listening to you pontificate.

Reason #5. A compelling “Story line”/“Plot.” A speech, long or short, to an audience of 1 or 1,001, will only grab the recipient if there’s a powerful/compelling story-with-a-plot unspooling. First, evidence from the neurosciences supports this—our brain reacts to stories. Second, please listen up, research by the likes of Steve Denning reveals that stories are as important as hooks to techies and economists as to an audience, presumably, of poets. A good speech has a good story at its core. A good speech is, in effect, a string of stories that takes us from here to there—and makes us, in effect, say, “Let us march.” Stories. Stories. And more stories. Use personalized stories or short vignettes you believe in and are relevant to audience members.

Reason #6 Negative doesn’t sell. Period. Negativism can kill a speech in … 30 seconds.

Final Tips and challenges–

 Speech giving is a “One 2 One” conversation:

Talking and connecting to one-guy-at a-time with good body language on both of our parts,

I’m getting through to all 1,500 people. If I’m talking to “everyone,” from behind a podium, I’m getting to no one!

A Presentation is an Act. Never forget you are an ACTOR.

**********

Relax! Be yourself! ARE YOU NUTS? One of the most commonplace pieces of speaking advice is to “be yourself.” What a crock. No, you should not be stiff. Or look as if you were on the way to the guillotine. But you are performing a professional act.

And  as I—and FDR—said, you are an actor when you’re on stage. And you are putting on a performance. Can you imagine a coach telling one of his players before the Super Bowl,“go out there and be yourself”? I want to look as though I’m comfortable, sure, but I am also controlling every move and every breath to achieve an end that is a matter of professional life or death to me—not in terms of “success” or “failure,” but in terms of my determination to pass on a message I believe is of the utmost importance. Indeed, enjoy yourself—in the Green Room after the speech!

CONNECT! CONNECT! CONNECT!

You have all the time in the world to connect. Of course you don’t! But you must spend the opening minutes creating trust and camaraderie—not silly camaraderie, but something more like empathy. You can’t appear to be wasting time, but you must sink your personalized hooks to connect with others. (I am adding these examples of how to gather info and build rapport with audience members. Before the speech arrive early and talk with a few people to get a sense of who they are and what is relevant or important to them about managing others? Personalize the conversation by asking inquiry type of questions.. Where did they grow-up? Where did they go to school?. How long have they been with the company and in there present position? How much technical or management training have they been required to get annually? What is their biggest problem in managing others? What one thing or question if answered would make this a great speech? )

**********

Only connect! For example,

“ That was the whole of her sermon.

Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted.

And human love will be seen at its height.

Live in the fragments no longer.

Only connect …

—E.M. Forster, Howards End

I am sure if you read Tom’s full paper on presenting you will pick-up other stuff I did not touch on here. So do yourself a favor and read his entire piece because it is very insightful and we seldom get someone who for 45 years has been successful in captivating and inspiring audiences all over the world. Oh, and by the way Tom Peters receives 65,000 to 70,000 dollars in speaking fee his performances.

Have fun with his material and let us know what stuff you found important. Coach Mark

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