Archive for the ‘Presentation Tips’ Category

Mary Barra and the Spoken Word: Her First Test

Recalled Cobalt

Recalled Cobalt

Well, that honeymoon didn’t last long. Less than two months into her new job as CEO of GM, Mary Barra is face-to-face with a huge crisis:  GM has admitted that the company knew for more than a decade about a defective ignition problem that cost motorists their lives, but it began recalling vehicles only in the past month.

Barra has yet to give a speech about the problem, but she took on the crisis in a short video to GM employees, and has given a press conference. (She is due to testify before Congress soon.)

She did a pretty good job in those early remarks. In the video, she made very clear that she understood how serious the problem is. “Terrible things happened,” she said. And she got personal, saying that the loss of life “hits home to me as a mother.”

She also said that, while GM had apologized,  she knew that was just a first step. In her press conference she added, “I take full responsibility for the work going forward. Our goal is something like this never happens again.”

To be sure, she never quite said, “This is GM’s fault. We did wrong, and we’re going to fix it.” I suspect that’s because of influence of company lawyers.

Still, she’s made a good start. I hope she gives a major speech, and keeps moving in the right direction.

A Jew, a Muslim, and a Speech

clear empty podiumAs you can tell from it’s title, “A Jewish Comic And A Muslim Researcher Walk Into A Party …”, was a charming NPR story earlier this month that showed how people from very different backgrounds can work together. It’s also worth a listen because it offers some great advice to executives who want to become better public speakers.

The piece told the story of Dalia Mogahed, a Muslim policy analyst who has advised the White House, and Judy Carter, a Jewish comic and author who teaches people to make use of humor in public speaking. Through a combination of circumstances, they met, managed to overcome misunderstandings, and wound up working together as Judy helped Dalia become a better speaker.

Judy’s challenge was that, as a professional policy analyst, Dalia was most comfortable using statistics, PowerPoint, graphs, and more statistics. But Dalia came to realize she needed to connect with audiences in a more human way.

Judy worked with Dalia, helping her unleash her sense of humor and fold it into a presentation. (Note to readers, I generally advise speakers to be very cautious about humor. But if you use it, it doesn’t hurt to work with a humor professional.)

In addition, Judy said, “But humor is only part of the formula needed to captivate an audience.  [Dalia] also needs to reveal of herself some personal heart stories that dig deeper into her life.”

Dalia was reluctant to do that, too, but eventually came around. When she spoke to a huge meeting, in front of 7,000 people, Dalia not only included humor, she told the story of being warned not to go to the mosque the day after 9/11, because it would be too dangerous. But when she got there she found “half the mosque was filled with members of other faith communities” who had come to demonstrate support. At that moment she realized that in that mosque she was face to face with America’s promise.

Every speaker can learn from Dalia and Judy:

  • Cut way back on the statistics
  • Use humor (carefully)
  • Find personal stories that connect with your topic and the audience.


Million Dollar Tips

Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo

A couple years ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article, The Gift of Gab, which began with these words: “Give a speech. Win a client.” It was a terrific piece that described how sales people were discovering speeches could be a much better way to win business than traditional sales calls.

Earlier this month, presentation guru Carmine Gallo wrote a piece for Forbes that adds another dimension to that argument. Gallo describes how “a manager for one of the world’s most recognized technology companies” dramatically improved his presentations to the company’s potential customers. As a result, he put himself on track for a promotion to “country manager,” a position that carries with it bonuses and salary of $1million. Not too shabby.

Gallo also describes the techniques the manager has used (based on tips from Gallo) to take his presentations to the next level:

  • His presentations are visually engaging. (No bullets on his slides.)
  • His presentations obey the rule of three.
  • His presentations introduce heroes and villains.

I can’t guarantee those techniques will earn you a million bucks, but I can promise that they will beef up any speech or presentation.

How to Succeed as an Exec? Use the Spoken Word…

leadership arlJan Day Gravel is a super executive coach, who also edits “Leading Edge,” the online newsletter of Leadership Arlington, a great organization that inspires and encourages leaders in Arlington, Virginia. She was nice enough to ask me to do a piece for her in the November issue. You’ll find it here, where you can see what I have to say about everything from strong starts to powerful finishes.

Keynote Speeches in the Social Media Age

ragan_logo_blueAfter I was on a panel with Karen Bate (PR guru and social media consultant), we got to talking about writing an article on how speechwriters could make better use of the impact of social media. We approached the folks at the Ragan Communications‘ website, and they were interested. Karen’s and my effort just appeared on the Ragan home page. Take a look. I think you’ll find some interesting tips on how speechwriters can incorporate social media into the speeches (especially keynotes) they write.