A Superb Speaker Introduction

Excellent public speaking makes those who have it appear both credible and smart and those who wish to obtain or maintain the appearance of authority and expertise are advised to cultivate the art.  Public speaking not only refers to s/he who makes a featured presentation—keynote speakers, guest lecturers, panelists, moderators, or the toastmaster at a social function—but also includes s/he who introduces a speaker.

An invitation to introduce a speaker is an honor and a vote of confidence and you would be wise to prepare for the occasion.  The introducer bears the responsibility of preparing the audience to respect the speaker and trust his/her information or story line.  If you receive an opportunity to introduce a speaker, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Show that you have the credentials to make the introduction

S/he who introduces a speaker must earn the confidence of the audience.  The leader or some other high-ranking member of the sponsoring organization usually introduces speakers, and earns that confidence by way of the authority vested in his/her position. Alternatively, a VIP speaker may be introduced by a similarly ranked colleague or guest VIP, who earns the confidence of the audience and as well conveys the importance of the speaker.  The guest VIP who introduces the high profile featured speaker will merit his/her own introduction and that will be given by a member of the sponsoring group.

Direct audience attention to the speaker

A speaker introduction is in reality a sales presentation and obtaining audience buy-in for the speaker and topic is your mission.  Your first order of business is to persuade the audience to be fully present in the moment. Typically, audience members are engaged in other activities in the intervening moments between speaker presentations, or as they await for the program to begin.

Some will be in conversation with those nearby, perhaps discussing the previous speaker or the program agenda.  Others will be focused on electronic devices, checking email, sending texts, or posting social media updates.  Your introduction must provide a bridge that transports the audience away from distractions and leads them to the subject of your introduction, the speaker.

A clever way to gain audience attention is to capture their imaginations with a rhetorical question related to the topic.  Consider opening your introduction with “What if…?“, “What is it about…?“,  or “Have you ever wondered how…?” The question will allow you to segue into the topic, which ideally will be perceived as compelling, to validate the audience member’s decision to attend.

Endorse the speaker

Now that you have the audience’s attention and confidence, it’s time to portray the speaker as an expert who is deserving of the audience’s time, attention and money (if admission was paid).  Put them in the mood to hear the talk by saying something like… “I first heard (the speaker) about three years ago, at a reading s/he gave soon after his/her book (title) was published.  I’ve been anticipating the release of this new book (title).” “I’ve heard more than one expert address our topic this afternoon, but I believe that (the speaker) gives the most comprehensive and clear representation of the facts…”

You may in addition give a build-up that precedes the above by listing awards and honors that the speaker has received, if applicable, or reading quotes about the speaker that have appeared in important publications.

Create intrigue and excitement about the topic

Tempt the audience with a smidgen of how the speaker will meet or surpass their expectations for the talk.  Read a sentence or two of an early review of the book that will be discussed.  Describe a useful piece of information that audience members will receive as they listen to the presentation.  Make them know that a worthwhile pay-off awaits.

The introduction

Continue to demonstrate that you make excellent speaker introductions by weaving the sense of anticipation into your actual introduction, perhaps in this way… “Let’s all welcome (the speaker) and let him/her give us the real story about what’s going on.” “Let’s invite (the speaker) to tell us what happens next in the ongoing saga of this character. Please join me and give him/her a warm welcome.

Thanks for reading,




The 7 Minute Presentation Rule

Freelance consultants are often called upon to make business presentations, at a client meeting or even a board meeting. Getting one’s point across clearly, succinctly and convincingly is an all-important component of one’s success as a leader or manager. Droning on in an unfocused way is not desirable, but communicating the required amount of information is paramount.

“Anything you have to say in a business setting should fit into a seven minute window”, says the computer technology, writing and presentation expert John Brandon. Brandon is a speaking coach and frequent presenter; experience has taught him that in seven minutes, it is generally possible to deliver your important message and maintain audience attention as you do. Like a stage play, he has blocked out a diagram of the action that will teach us his presentation method.

First, write a draft presentation and design your Power Points, if you elect to use slides. Confirm that all necessary information will about fit into seven minutes, perhaps with some judicious editing. Do an initial run-through and check your time. If the talk exceeds the seven minute window by a few minutes, further rehearsing may allow you to bring the delivery time down to the target time limit. You can also take another look at your material to consider what might be edited out. Here is Brandon’s presentation roadmap:

Minute  1: Grab audience attention

Brandon urges you to open your talk with a “bang”. You might begin with a surprising statistic or provocative point, verbally or depicted on a slide. The “bang” must persuade the audience to want to hear what you have to say. The opening is NOT where you deliver your main message. The “bang” whets audience appetite for your knowledge and perspective on the topic. Achieving the “bang” in 60 seconds requires discipline, editing and creativity. You can do it.

Minute  2: Summarize in one minute

The right “bang” will be the perfect entrée to the heart of your talk. There will be no need for a transition statement—the audience will be more than ready to hear you. Brandon says that in this segment, you tell the audience why you are standing before them today. Give a 60 second overview of what you are selling, recommending or explaining.

Minutes 3-6: Present the main message

Your audience is keen to hear what you have to say. You have earned their respect and undivided attention. In this segment you deliver the goods, the heart of the talk, in four minutes. You will defend and explain your quirky or provocative “bang” with charts, graphs, non-text-heavy Power Point slides, or maybe just your silvery spoken words, perhaps with an anecdote of two sprinkled in. You may do and say whatever you feel will be most effective to win over your audience. It’s your talk!

Minute  7: Summarize the main message and conclude

Use the final minute to debrief the crowd. Close the deal by summarizing your main points, to help the audience retain the information. Do you have a call-to-action—do you want the audience to advocate for your idea or buy your product? Tell them in this segment. Leave the audience with an idea and information that they will savor and remember. That’s it!

Thanks for reading,


Have Composure, Keep Calm and Carry On

Sooner or later, we all must enter a room filled with our adversaries and it is no picnic. I must do exactly that on the evening that this post will publish. The event is quasi- social business and the attendees will be members of an organization in which I hold the highest leadership post. These colleagues belong to a separate, smaller subgroup of the primary organization and the subgroup has a separate leadership team. The subgroup depends on the primary organization for financial assistance and they are an entitled and self-aggrandizing lot.  My goal has been to limit the hand-outs they receive and oh, boy, are they resentful. So into the lion’s den I go!

I must be friendly and supportive of establishing a cooperative relationship between the two groups, yet let it be known that the primary group does not exist to be in service to the subgroup. I will need a big dose of composure and lucky for me, composure is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. Officers in the Marines are taught a communication style called SMEAC: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Command, which goes a long way in encouraging the development of composure and control when vital information must be communicated to others. Those who perfect the SMEAC communication format learn to use precise, carefully chosen words to clearly express their message. SMEAC is now taught at the Harvard Business School.

On our own, it is possible to learn a precise and concise speaking style through observation and rehearsal. Get started by identifying those whom you consider to be highly effective communicators. You are listening for well-chosen words that carry impact. Next, select the two or three points that you must make your audience understand and then refine the language you plan to use. Boil down, clarify and simplify your message. Practice your speech out loud and as well, pay attention to your tone of voice and speed of delivery.

SMEAC works best when we have the luxury of preparation time, when we are scheduled to deliver a presentation. If you must make your points from a meeting table rather than from a podium, the agenda will allow you to choose and rehearse the points that you’d like to get across.

How we speak is a combination of presentation style, word choice, tone, speed and cadence. Maintaining composure is essential when we must speak formally to an audience, particularly when the audience is unfamiliar or potentially hostile. SMEAC is an excellent communication technique that is especially suited for crisis communications or other high-pressure, high-stakes public speaking engagements.

Thanks for reading,


Presentation Checklist: Audience Matters

Next week, I will make two 15 minute presentations and in four weeks, I will make a 30 minute presentation and also preside at a big meeting. The latter engagement is an annual event and I knew well in advance of my obligation, but requests for the first two talks came up unexpectedly. Fortunately, I have time to prepare for all. Here’s how I’ll get ready to stand and deliver:

Who’s in the house and what do they want to know?

All presentations are ruled by the audience and the information that is desired. That information is the purpose of your talk and it determines what you’ll present. Find out also if any stakeholders whom you must persuade will be unable to attend and arrange to follow-up with them personally, if possible.

Hecklers and haters

While researching your talk, ask the organizer if anyone in the audience might have a reason to undermine your objective and why that would be so. To neutralize expected opposition, acknowledge somewhere in the solutions section of your talk that some in the audience may have considered another recipe for resolution and state how your approach will likely be more effective, sustainable over the long term, easier or less expensive to implement, or whatever. Handle the matter like a sales objection, because that’s what it is.

Audience size

The size of the audience guides your method of presentation. An audience of five is intimate and calls for a different approach —most likely more relaxed and personal— than an audience of 50. A larger audience often requires that the speaker use visuals, along with a speaking style and pacing that engages a bigger room.

Does the audience know you?

Friends in the house will make your job easier because you will feel more comfortable standing in front of them. If you are mostly an unknown quantity, it’s important to establish rapport with the audience early in the talk. A statement about how you understand or empathize with a priority or concern is a good ice-breaker and gives you credibility, since you agree with them.

What do you want audience members to do post-presentation?

Design your presentation to frame your call to action as logical, effective, beneficial and inevitable. Describe what you would like audience members, in particular the thought-leaders and decision-makers, to do on your behalf. Do you want them to donate money or time? Approve your proposal? Vote in a certain way? If you are able to make fulfilling your call to action easier for them, then do so.

Thanks for reading,


Pictures Spice Your Presentations

When it comes to Power Point presentations,  a good picture really is worth 1,000 words.  The importance of the images that accompany your presentation is not to be underestimated.  Images help tell your story by highlighting key concepts that complement your topic and helping to maintain audience attention.   Additionally,  a good structure is elemental to your presentation.  The architecture of the talk aids audience understanding and has the added benefit of leading you from point to point,  helping you remember what you want to say.

Construct your talk

Your presentation is shaped by what you must communicate and achieve.  You may be asked to inspire a group to support a particular cause and call to action.  When in a sales process,  your job is to persuade the prospective client of the value of your product or service.  Storytelling is appropriate in both scenarios.  Your story will help the audience connect to you and the goal you aim to achieve and portray you as authentic and trustworthy.  The story will fit within your presentation and both will have a beginning,  middle and end and will be easy to follow and concise.

Motivational talks fit easily into a Past – Present – Future  structure which is ideal for allowing the speaker to first provide the history of the situation,  then describe the current state of affairs and finally culminate with a rally of enthusiasm and support for the call to action that will bring about the preferred future  (outcome).  A Compare – Contrast  structure works well for sales presentations,  as it allows the speaker to communicate the advantages of the products or services as compared to competitors’.   A Cause – Effect  structure is useful in either scenario,  as it allows the speaker to describe the underlying logic of his/her position.

Speak,  do not read

Text-heavy slides cause audience members to instinctively read the text and tune out the speaker,  a detriment to the talk.  Master presenter Steve Jobs was famous for the one word slide.  It is a daring act.  I tried it once,  found it effective and I will do it again.  In order to make the tactic work,  rehearse the talk and rehearse some more,  until you know your material cold.  Too much text on the slides,  even bullet points,  draws attention away from you,  the star of the show.   Yet a few well-chosen words serve to focus audience attention and draw them into the subject.  Think large font and few words.Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape

Quality images complement your talk

Images used in your presentation should complement your topic and be of good quality.  There are websites that have thousands of free images available for upload.  The free images used here are from MorgueFile  http://morguefile.com.  Attractive images help to maintain audience interest and illustrate relevant themes.



Charts and graphs

Charts,  graphs and diagrams are an excellent way to illustrate statistical and financial data and demonstrate trends that occur over a period of time.   A colorful bar graph,  pie chart or flow chart helps the audience grasp information that may otherwise seem too complex.  A visual interpretation can be very helpful and,  as noted above,  help to maintain audience interest as it facilitates comprehension.

8-03-2Start with an eye-opener

Grab audience attention when you open the presentation with an unexpected fact that speaks to their priorities,  values or concerns and advances your purpose.  The speaker must quickly lead the audience to focus on the topic because time is finite.   You may want to open your talk with a one-word slide  (it worked for me).  Build the rest of your presentation to answer and address that fact,  following your chosen structure.

People attending a Congress









End with an ask

At the conclusion of your presentation,  give a brief summary to tie together your main points and help the audience remember what is important.   Next,  make your call to action and ask the audience to do something.  In a motivational talk,  you may ask the audience to support a certain strategy or vote in a certain way.   In a sales presentation,  you will ask the prospective client to hire you or purchase your product or service and to do so now,  rather than later.



Presentations: Impromptu and Prepared

In June of this year,   I became president of a local membership organization that is primarily social.  I’ve been a member for 12 years and a board member for 8 or 9 years.  I find the experience to be very gratifying.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve continued to develop and refine leadership skills.  I am fortunate to preside over a board that is comprised of top drawer members who are committed to the organization and who work diligently to develop strategies and plans that will sustain the organization over the short- and long-term.  I do whatever I can to create conditions that enable board and committee members to do their best work and then get out of the way and let them do it.

To become an organization leader is to become its public face and unifying symbol to its members.  Public speaking is part of the job.  It is often necessary to offer words of inspiration and encouragement and verbally demonstrate that you embody the vision,  mission and values of the organization.  There are impromptu speaking  “opportunities”  that arise when you are half way through a second glass of wine and surprise! someone asks you to say a few words.  How do you successfully make an unrehearsed speech and manage to sound reasonably eloquent (and sober)?

There are also impromptu speaking opportunities that are professional in nature,  where one must speak ex tempore about business.  These speaking obligations are unscheduled but they are not completely unexpected,  since one attends certain events with the desire to meet and greet peers and prospects and talk business.  Finally,  there are scheduled speaking opportunities,  when one presents information to prospective clients.  Three types of speaking opportunities:  how can you stand and successfully deliver?

I.  Let’s start with the easiest,  the business meet and greet.  This is where your elevator speech is delivered.   You must decide which version you will roll out.   Are you being introduced to someone and asked what you do?  Keep your elevator speech conversational and limited to what the business provides,  your role or title and the name of the organization.  If someone asks what you do while in conversation,  give a vague but accurate description of the outcomes or benefits of the service you provide or products you sell.  Formulate a sentence that describes the business function and your role,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  In either scenario,  provide more information only if the person seeks more information.  Make the encounter a dialogue by asking questions of your own,  to establish whether this individual has a need for your products and services,  or is just making conversation.

2.  Twice,  I have been unexpectedly asked to address members of the organization for which I serve as president and twice I did a good job.  How did I do it?  Primarily,  I was fortunate to have a very good set-up introduction and I was smart enough to listen and pick out a phrase on which I could launch a quick little speech.  In the first,  I found a good tag line that I still occasionally use.  In the second,  I was able to find a theme and spin it into a good three-minute talk.  The moral of the story is,  a leader must anticipate public speaking obligations.  Keep your antennae tuned for anecdotes or observations made by organization members or others that can be used to develop an inspirational mini-speech.

3.  I pass along to you my interpretation of a Power Point presentation template developed by Bahar Martonosi of Princeton University.  You may find this template useful when auditioning for a prospective client or delivering a report of findings during a consulting assignment:

Your name and business name   (1 slide)

Project outline: work that the prospect would like performed   (1 slide)

Rationale: why is the project or problem important to the organization    ( 1 – 2 slides)

History: what has been done before   (0- 2 slides)

Method: your firm’s approach to the project or problem   (1 – 3 slides)

Results: this is the body of the talk.  Present the key results and findings. Do not present all results or findings.  (2 – 6 slides)

Summary:   (1 – 2 slides)

Back-up:  prepare slides that answer expected questions   (1 – 3 slides)

Keep things simple and focus on a few key points.

Repeat the key insights.

Know your audience and adjust the presentation as needed.

The post-presentation informal Q & A is very important.

Make eye contact,  be approachable and it’s OK to smile  (but this is business, not social, so know your role).

Make your audience want to learn more.

Thanks for reading,


Escape From Power Point Purgatory

Presentations are an excellent way to sell yourself and your product or service.  The late Steve Jobs of Apple Computer was famous for delivering presentations that  never failed to inform,  educate,  inspire and entertain his listeners.

Overwhelmingly,  presentations mean Power Point,  no matter the number of obituaries written on its behalf.  Power Point continues to dominate,  despite the presentation capabilities of the iPad tablet  (sorry, Steve).  The challenge is to avoid the tendency to use Power Point as a teleprompter and leverage its advantages.

The secret to working with Power Point is to keep things simple.  Venture capitalist and author Guy Kawasaki  (“The Art of the Start”, 2004)  says  “A Power Point presentation should have no more than 10 slides,  should last no longer than 20 minutes and should contain no font smaller than 30 points.”  Communications coach,  author and popular keynote speaker Carmine Gallo likewise advises that 20 minutes is the ideal maximum length of a presentation,  based on research by neuroscientists from the University of Kentucky,  who found that attention spans drop precipitously after that time.

Every presentation is a story,  a narrative that has a beginning,  middle and end.  When invited to present to a client,  frame the story that is your presentation as a challenge.   After you’ve told your listeners who you are and established your expertise,  begin your talk by describing that challenge.  Next,  highlight any major obstacles that might impede success and then explain the solution you will deliver to resolve the matter.  In conclusion,  give a concise summary to reinforce the key take-away points.   Ask for the business and take questions.

Regarding the design of your slides,  experts recommend that you keep those simple,  too.  Janet Bornemann,  who designs Power Point presentations for corporate clients and is the creative director at PowerPoint Studio in Acton, MA,  recommends that when making slides,  think 5 x 5:  five lines per slide and five words per line. “It is very important for the mind to be able to rest on an idea or thought,  so if it’s a constant flow of words,  people will grow tired”,  she observes.

Treat your slides and the presentation overall as an extension of your brand,  your image,  like any of your marketing collaterals.  There shall be no clip art and no jazzy slide transitions.  Your presentation convey that you are capable, trustworthy,  confident and professional.  Bornemann says,  “Be consistent with colors and fonts.  Focus on the message—everything has to have a reason.”

Jim Confalone,  founder and creative director of ProPoint Graphics cautions against the overuse of charts and graphs and advises that any art and charts you include must be integral to the story and move the narrative forward.   Some presentation experts feel that the first slide should show a startling fact about the challenge the client is facing,  some attention-grabbing adverse outcome that the client must overcome and that captures the reason for hiring you.

Do not bury your listeners with minute details.  They will probably remember only three or four key points.  Leave your audience of decision-makers with a sense of your expertise,  your ability to produce the deliverable; describe the primary benefits derived by the organization if your solution is chosen to resolve the challenge that is the project; and let them know that you give excellent customer service and will respond to their needs and fulfill or exceed expectations.

Finally,  muster the discipline to rehearse your presentation and then rehearse some more.   Jim Confalone says that the number of hours it takes to create the presentation equals the number of hours you’ll need to adequately rehearse.  In order  to shine,  you’ve got to know the thing cold.  One does not read from the slides, ever.  Know your material,  be enthusiastic and connect with your audience and exude confidence.  You might even enjoy yourself!

Thanks for reading,



Presenting a Webinar

Last Wednesday I presented my first (and perhaps only) webinar.   To prove to myself and the world that I’m capable of presenting a webinar made it a worthwhile experience,  although I suspect that there will be no tangible benefit derived.  I was not paid to present (same old story, hey?).  So far,  the only follow-up has been a guy who wrote to me looking for free advice (of course!).

Nonprofit Webinars offers free one hour presentations each week and the selection is very good.  My topic was  “A Business Plan for Your Nonprofit”.  If you’re interested,  please visit   http://nonprofitwebinars.com   and you will be able to access my presentation,  plus several others.  Maybe you can explore the possibility of presenting a webinar yourself?

Putting together the presentation text was not a huge chore,  since I teach business plan writing on a regular basis.  The challenge was editing down a 6 hour workshop to less than one hour (to allow for a Q & A session) and adapting the focus to a nonprofit,  rather than for-profit, venture.

The part I hated was creating the Power Points.  I am no graphic artist and I resent that audiences expect as much graphics works as they do content.  My feeling is that a webinar is like radio.  Content is king and graphic art is the chorus.  The mere thought of producing graphic art work caused me severe stress.  But I had to do the deed.

I found out how to get free online images and registered myself at Morguefile  http://morguefile.com ,  which has hundreds of very decent high-resolution photos available for download to your desktop.  A respectable number of them were applicable to my topic.  I chose photos that were interesting and somewhat ironic or amusing,  yet still related to my topic.

High resolution photos present a problem,  though,  because too many photos cause your file to be too “heavy” to send as an attachment.  Thank goodness a friend who is proficient in producing customized Power Points shrank some of the images and combined with text on some slides and wrote text on top of other photos.  She also used the Power Point animation feature,  which I know exists,  yet was totally unable to figure out.  As I said,  graphics work is not my forte.

On webinar day,  there were technical issues to surmount.  Go-to-Webinar refused to download in Internet Explorer,  but thank goodness I also have Firefox.  Second,  one is supposed to speak into a land line with a headset.  I had neither,  but my iPhone 4 gave good sound quality,  according to the moderator,  and it was better without the headset.

I rehearsed,  but I could have done more  (my schedule went crazy).  I got a little nervous and talked somewhat too fast.  I synched the slides,  the text and my voice over rather well.  I did my best to sound more conversational and less preachy because a webinar is radio,  with visuals.

I developed simple poll questions to help me know who in the audience had done business planning and strategic planning previously and I took questions at around the 15 minute mark and again at around 30 minutes.  I preferred to address a few questions as I went along,  rather than holding all until the Q & A.  The moderator handles all questions and the presenter gives the answers.  I got some very good questions and I felt good about my answers.  I conveyed my expertise,  which was the objective.

Toward the end of Q & A,  my phone connection cut off and I had to dial back in,  which was frustrating.  I handled it like a trooper and traded some relaxed banter with the moderator.

So what grade would I give myself? A solid B.  If by some miracle I do this again,  I’ll make myself rehearse more.  Other than that,  I’m happy with my performance.  If only I could get a client out of it!

Thanks for reading,


C-Suite Presentations

Your diarist will present the workshop  “Become Your Own Boss:  Effective Business Plan Writing”  on Wednesdays October 10, 17 & 24 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Boston Center for Adult Education.  Perhaps you’d like to become a part-time entrepreneur,  maybe cater parties on the weekend while you keep your day job?  Find out how to launch your mini-business  http://bit.ly/RnyIBP .

The one thing you have to remember about the C-suite is that those who abide there are under pressure.  They must produce results,  hit a home run every time they come up to bat.  In order to produce results they must delegate responsibility,  delegate to those who have talent and can be trusted. They like people who meet deadlines.  People who don’t make major errors.

Therefore,  if you happen to meet a C-level executive,  you must appear both talented and trustworthy,  as he/she defines it.  In general,  you must demonstrate that you know your stuff.  Demonstrate that you are able to produce results.  To do anything less is to disappoint,  to waste the exec’s precious time.  One must make a very good impression.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to make a sales presentation to a C-level executive,  whether he/she is alone or with a team,  take the time to do things right.  Arrive early.  If you are there to demonstrate a product,  do a few test runs at home and do one also at the office.  In advance of your appointment,  ask the  executive assistant if there is a room you can duck into to do one more dry run product demo.

If you will present your service and will use Power Point,  do several rehearsals.  Again,  ask the assistant for early access to the conference room in advance of the meeting, so that you can set up the equipment and make sure it works and make sure that you can run it smoothly.  You do not want any A/V glitches and arrive one hour early if A/V equipment will be used.

When you do start talking,  cut to the chase.  It is politic to ask the C-level what he/she would like to hear first.  Plan to go off-script,  so know your material very well.  Expect lots of questions.  Anticipate what those questions might be and role-play answers.

C-level execs have many plates in the air,  opportunities to identify and evaluate,  stubborn problems to resolve and fires to put out.  They are thinking about seeds to plant today that will bear fruit three years down the road.  Make your presentation about how your product or service can beat the competition,  how to hang on to current customers,  how to win new ones and how to increase net profit.  In your presentation,  do address the problems they will have achieving those objectives and how your product or service will help them reach the goal faster,  more easily,  less expensively.

Bruce Gabrielle,  teacher of Power Point and presentation techniques and author of  “Speaking PowerPoint: The New Language of Business”,  says you should focus on painting a vision of a better future.  Once your exec is nodding at the your description of the vision—and ONLY after—should you address product or service details.  Cost will be less of a concern at this point,  he claims.

Gabrielle also notes that while most execs like Big Data and like the idea of making data-driven decisions,  they trust their gut and experience more than they trust numbers.  They like customer success stories. They gain confidence in you if their colleagues have used your product or service.  Have two or three  success stories that make you  shine ready to roll.  Introduce the stories first and then follow it up with any quantitative data that you have.

Be advised that your C-level exec will judge you by the quality of your presentation.  Consider it a test.  He/she will see whether you are authoritative and know your business;  will know how you handle pressure by your response to tough and unexpected questions being thrown at you;  will gauge whether you are trustworthy and credible.  In short,  your C-level will quickly figure out whether you are someone to do business with,  whether you are worthy of his/her time and money.  if you pass the test,  you will win his/her confidence and will be able to count on the exec’s full support.

Thanks for reading,


Charisma and the Way You Say What You Say

Is it my imagination,  or are people called upon to do much more public speaking now as compared to 20 years ago? I had a 15+ year career in sales and that kept me talking all day.   In addition to sales calls,  there were company meetings and I was frequently called upon to give presentations and participate in the whole give and take.   But  there was no need to be  “on”  and repping a brand 24/7.   In fact,  human beings didn’t consider themselves a  “brand”—we had reputations.   We had off hours, during which time we could relax without feeling anxious about it.   That was then.

Now I’ve got the Freelance consulting thing going on and demands to stand and deliver have about doubled.   Networking plays a major role in business development for the self-employed and business owners.   I do some teaching and occasionally speak to a local business group,  to demonstrate my credibility and promote visibility.

These days,  we’re all out there self-promoting and doing all that we can to attract new customers,  retain current clients,  obtain venture capital,  get a job or a promotion,  get our child into the  “right”  school and generally look like we are a valuable asset to those who are holding the goodies we desire.   For obvious reasons,  the ability to communicate well has never been more essential.  We need to learn how to inject some charisma into our presentations.

Charisma means a special gift in Greek and charismatic speakers have the unique and valuable gift of connecting with their audience and persuading them to grant the speaker their trust and loyalty.   Charismatic speakers are able to make their audience understand,  buy in to,  identify with,  get excited about and remember the cause and message that they addresses.   Charismatic speakers are adept at painting vivid word pictures by judiciously weaving stories and anecdotes,  humor and metaphors into their presentation in a way that causes the audience to align with them and their goals and opinions.

We all come by at least some of this naturally.   We all use metaphors,  rhetorical questions and other turns of phrase on a regular basis.  We can learn to become more conscious of our natural speaking style and ability by practicing speaking techniques when chatting with friends and family.   In time,  you’ll be able to comfortably inject some charisma when called upon to speak to a group.

Metaphors  are an excellent way to explain and illustrate a message and can persuade a skeptical audience to understand and embrace a new concept.   Martin Luther King, Jr.  displayed his mastery of the use of metaphor in his 1963  “I Have a Dream”  speech,  when he likened the US constitution to a  “promissory note”  that guaranteed the inalienable rights of life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 Contrasts  often combine reason and passion.  They clarify the speaker’s position on the subject by comparing it to its opposite.  In his 1961 inaugural address,   President John F. Kennedy spoke the immortal words,  “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”  Benjamin Franklin noted that  “Content makes poor men rich;  discontent makes rich men poor.”  Similes  also compare and contrast,  as Muhammad Ali did when he famously announced that  “I’ll be  floating like a butterfly and stinging  like a bee.”

Then there is the use of story telling.   Stories can be where to use Analogy,  which points to the similarities between two things and on which a comparison can be based.   For example,  if your purpose is to build confidence and loyalty in a group and rally the members to face a difficult challenge,  the story you present may summarize when yourself or a group of people  (e.g. Londoners during the bombing in World War II)  pulled together,  kept their spirits up and faced the challenge with courage and resolve,  eventually prevailing.

Charismatic speakers are compelling and memorable.  Their skill is formidable,  but not entirely unattainable.   With practice,   we can learn to paint the picture for the audience,  frame the message,  influence priorities,  win confidence and portray ourselves as a leader.

Thanks for reading,