Earlier this week, via the Leadership Development Centre, I attended a seminar by the leadership guru Ron Heifetz. He was an interesting study as a presenter partly because he made very effective use of story and metaphor. Any of us could adopt his approach just by putting in some work:
Heifetz showed he had done his homework before coming 'Down Under'. He discussed Winston Churchill as a leader. Heifetz had a New Zealand version relating to the iconic events of Gallipoli, rather than choosing an aspect of Churchill's life less close to our hearts.
He used simple local anecdote - using a visit to a local cafe to develop a metaphor for routine technical leadership. Plus he complimented us about NZ coffee at the same time!
An ancient story from Heifetz's Jewish background made another important point. People said to me that they found the story intrinsically interesting, plus it gave Heifetz a chance to share something of himself with us.
A couple of current New Zealand metaphors showed he was up to date with things Kiwi. One of these metaphors, the Whale Rider story from the New Zealand film, took a central role in his development of his approach to leadership.
Heifetz also connected to us, 'parent to parent' by using events surrounding his son's bad skiing injury.
Okay, we may not all be Harvard University leadership gurus, but each of us could create valuable stories from our own and our audience's worlds.
By accident, this week I discovered a very useful website. It contains a series of podcasts at a website called www.managertools.com. From the site you can get weekly podcasts on manager tools and on career tools.
The two guys, Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne, provide very interesting conversations about simple practical approaches to a set of work challenges. The management tools podcasts include the use of one-on-one meetings with staff, and skills such as delegation and feedback.
As well as the podcasts, there's a blog and a range of other resources.
Have a listen. I am sure you will find their ideas useful and stimulating.
A client this week began rehearsing a presentation. Within a minute he was churning out turn-off expressions such as: 'Today I'm going to tell you about...' 'I just want to cover...' 'Then I'm going to move on to...'
You often hear these deadly phrases at the beginnings of a presentation. None of them captivate an audience;instead they destroy any energy and attraction.
Aim to create energy with the phrases you use: 'Our company is in a unique position....' It is important that we understand...' 'Of course there is another key aspect....' You don't have to stray into too much hype.
These empowering phrases not only interest the audience more - they energise the speaker as well.
As a second simple step: Switch to the active voice. With this change, you quickly move energy levels up another notch:
'Our company is in a unique position....' becomes: 'The addition of Jane Smith to our group puts our company in a unique position'
' It is important that we understand...'becomes: 'We must understand...'
There are some great and well-written ideas for the start of a presentation at the interesting brain blog: Create Passionate Users
To ease yourself back into work, take a look at the perfume critic, Chandler Burr, presenting on the Pop!tech site. If you have never heard of a 'perfume critic', join the club - he's the first in the English speaking world - writes for the New York Times.
Chandler Burr is yet another example of an excellent presenter who breaks a lot of the rules. He uses very long words, complex ideas, talks fast and yet here is a large and varied audience enthralled by the presentation. This presentation is proof that audiences can cope with very technical material, if it is presented well. Burr succeeds because he is passionate about perfume and his topic enables him to waft prestige, status and sexual attraction around his audience.
There's more to it than that though: His presentation appeals to our sense of curiosity. In this case Burr presents on a topic which we take for granted and gets us to see it completely differently. Perfume is an innately good topic because smell is a very powerful sense that connects deeply with our emotions.
Look at how Burr uses audience involvement with the perfume samples. The audience gets to do things as part of the presentation. He also shows respect for his audience's intelligence with his questions and builds suspense around possible answers. Plus no slides - yippee!
Keep an eye on Pop!Tech. The site provides a very interesting lineup of presenters, including Malcolm Gladding ('Outliers' and 'Tipping Point'),Richard
Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, and a big range of medical experts such as Stephen Badyluk - a specialist in regenerative medicine.
I found the site when on the trail of one of my favourite
self-help writers - Ben Zander. Zander is the conductor of the Boston
Pops and with Rosamund Stone Zander has written a really good self
-help book called: The Art of Possibility. The half hour Pop!Tech video has
Zander exploring the ideas from his book as he coaches a fifteen year old cellist.
Slide:ology has a recent post giving useful advice on how to use maps in your slides. The post has stimulated comments that have some more useful tips from people's experience. Slide:ology plan a Part 2 to this post.
They mention the guru of informational design and visual literacy, Edward Tufte. If you really want to get into this side of creating sides, he is a stimulating read. I find his books quite demanding to follow, but The New York Times described Tufte as 'The Leonardo Da Vinci of data'
There is another plus of public speaking that Casanocha doesn't mention - public speaking can attract people to whatever you are doing in that day job - the courses you run, books you have written, great causes you espouse and so on.
By the way, my link to this post came from Tyler Cowan's blog: The Marginal Revolution. It has been described as the 'best economics blog in the universe'!
People are still discussing the Obama election night speech. A surprising number of generally cynical Kiwis seem very impressed. That's got to be some sort of sign of Obama's effectiveness!
Last week a guy on one of our courses told me about attending the speech. He and a group of friends, decided to go from New York to Chicago to experience it for themselves. He said that Obama's presence reached out across the massive bullet proof glass shield and seemed to speak to every single individual in Grant Park and the surrounding streets.
A friend told me of some very valuable recent advice she was given for handling her prickly daughter. The suggestion was that if she needed to ask questions and the conversation was tense, set the context first and then ask the question.
For example: 'It's a big and complicated assignment. How long do you think it will take you?'
She says it works very well and I have successfully experimented with it in other prickly conversations, even when the person isn't a daughter!
The technique fits with the NLP approach of creating a bridge into a difficult question. I guess that the context gives the person time to adjust to the question topic before they have to answer. Presumably the prickly person may feel less defensive as a result?