• Don’t make them say, “Get on with it!”

    Recently I have watched a number of American How To videos on YouTube, and noticed a common trend that occurs also in American sales letters and motivational speeches. It’s a reluctance to get to the point.

    One video was about improving your singing voice. That was the promise in the title. It opened with a question received from a fan who wanted to know the difference between the singing voice and the speaking voice.

    The presenter talked about opera singers in the past, about vocal projection over the sound of an orchestra, about the modern use of the microphone, about the difference between theatre performances and solo singing, and the expectations of an audience.

    She then compared the performances by different singers of the same song, and asked a series of rhetorical questions about each person’s vocal range, adding explanations of her own preferred key.

    This took four minutes, and she had not yet started any instruction!

    Another How To video was about learning to play a certain musical instrument. Half the short video was on setting the scene and describing the instruction that would be presented in a DVD set. The second half of the video was a demonstration of basic technique, followed by 2,000 words plus pictures, promoting the DVD set.

    In general, there seems to be a tendency, in the Unites States, to tell you what you should be doing and why it would be a good idea. Along the way the speaker will bask in stories that illustrate what works and what does not. But the actual instruction is a long time coming. They tell you What and Why, but not How.

    I’d call it the Prolix Tendency. It’s a form of self-indulgence by the presenter.

    There is a better way to create constructive tension and build the listener’s desire for your solution. With the right structure, both in print and in sound, you can grab and hold the attention of your audience, so that they will follow you all the way and enjoy the journey.

    Don’t make people cry, “Get on with it!”

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  • Wouldn’t you like to have the Voice of Leadership?


    What makes you a ‘must have’ in your business sector?

    How effectively are you putting that across?

    Send for your free e-book: The Voice of Leadership

    The American Management Association states that no matter how compelling the vision or how brilliant the strategy, without leadership communication there is no execution.

    Your great ideas, your grand plan, will lie dormant and may never see the light of day … without excellent communication skills. In fact, many a new idea or invention has had to await the communication skills of someone other than the originator.

    Let me ask you this: Who invented the sewing machine? Although Isaac Singer gets the credit, it was actually Elias Howe who came up with the idea. Singer was just better at the execution; better at making it happen and then at telling the world about it.

    You know the Post-It Note? Who invented that? Arthur Fry, who worked for 3M, saw the potential in the weak glue that was developed (by accident?) by Spencer Silver, a 3M research scientist. But Arthur Fry got the credit.

    The American, John J. Loud, invented the ballpoint pen as long ago as 1888, but he couldn’t get the ink to flow properly. 50 years later the Hungarian, Laszlo Biro, used printing ink, and in 1943 produced the first ballpoint pens for the RAF. And then Biro became the generic term for ballpoint pens.

    Ever heard of the Dynabook? Developed back in 1968, it pre-dated webpads and the iPad. But it did not have the benefit of Steve Jobs’s marketing genius.

    So how does this relate to you?

    If you are in a leadership role you have things to say: ideas, values and strategies that represent your purpose. You need your people to buy into them.

    Sometimes it takes an external eye or ear to give you feedback, guide your thinking, sharpen your message and the way you put it across. It’s what I do.

    Throughout history there have been remarkable leaders who have moved their followers to heroic efforts, to defy the odds against them, to make magic where lesser leaders would have merely presided over the same old same old.

    The Voice of Leadership is a short e-book that takes a look at the powerful speeches of:

    • Abraham Lincoln,
    • Jack Kennedy,
    • Barack Obama,
    • Martin Luther King
    • Winston Churchill and others.

    It provides a checklist of the principles of leadership and it offers some easily-remembered tips on sounding like a leader.

    In fact, it’s more than that. It will probably stimulate your own ideas on leadership. But you can read it and decide for yourself.

    I wrote it. And who am I? Currently UK Business Speaker of the Year and past winner of a cluster of public speaking titles, including UK champion a record seven times, Anglo-Irish champion three times, and second in the World Championship of Public Speaking.

    In addition, I have written eight business books on communication skills. The latest is just out. The FT Guide to Making Business Presentations. Expect to see it in Amazon and leading book stores later this month. Why not write a review?

    The Voice of Leadership is my gift to you. You may send for it without paying a penny or committing yourself in any way. Just send an email to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com“>phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com with Voice of Leadership in the subject line.

    Why am I offering you this e-book as a gift? Because I believe it is always better to demonstrate than to claim. If you like my ideas in The Voice of Leadership you may consider inviting me to discuss how I could make a difference to your own leadership and communication style.

    Later this month I’ll be making available a six-module online training programme. It will simplify the process of improving your business presentation skills. Let me know if you wish to be informed when the programme is ready. You’ll be able to take any one module or all six.

    You’ll find it here: http://www.pkpcommunicators.com when it’s ready.

    But now, send for your free copy of The Voice of Leadership with an email to: phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com“>phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com.

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  • Let me tell you a story …

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:
    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling.Go ye and do likewise.

    Phillip

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  • Who would you trust to sharpen your presentation skills?

    Is presentation skills training a waste of time and money?

    Sadly, most of the time it is. Presentation Skills courses have attracted some opprobrium because they can be ‘same old, same old’ – routine trudges through PowerPoint slides and cliché-ridden accounts of platform skills. And soon afterwards people return to what they were doing before. (Hand on heart, have you changed the way you present, after being on such a course?)

    It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Presentations should never be linear descriptions of a business offering, with slides in attendance, however slickly put together. They should be about reaching the hearts of your hearers and bringing about a change in their thinking, attitudes or behaviour.

    Not everyone knows how to bring that about. But the best speakers do.

    Let me ask you this: if you were looking for some tennis coaching, would you prefer to engage Roger Federer or someone who qualified through a tennis academy? I would choose Federer in a heartbeat, for two reasons:

    1. Roger knows everything that a tennis coach can tell you
    2. In addition, he knows what it takes to win

    Any number of coaches can teach you technique. A champion can give you something extra. Technique is something you need to practise, anyway, if you want to be good. What you get from a champion is insight into what it takes to be ‘special’.

    Business presentations should be designed to achieve results. They should also project that certain ‘specialness’ which lies at the heart of your business proposition. If you’d like to know more about that, give me a call.

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  • Making good contact with your audience

    It was the Final of the annual Anglo-Irish public speaking contest. A long-standing Toastmaster with a good record in these contests took to the stage, and the largely Irish audience pulsed expectantly.

    It was a brilliant text, full of clever linguistic jokes, puns and even verbal pictures. But one minute into the speech, the audience’s expectations had been replaced by a sympathetic tolerance, as they disconnected from the speaker and waited politely for him to finish.

    What went wrong?

    Two things: first, it was a written text, not a spoken one. The text that’s written to be read is not the same as the text that’s written to be said.

    Secondly, it was a recitation from memory. The speaker spoke AT the audience, not TO them. They sensed it and reacted accordingly.

    The language was too clever to be received and understood on the run, at 150 words a minute. Some of the vocabulary was unfamiliar, the sentences were long, and the meaning of some sentences was obscured by subordinate clauses. It’s like telling a story, and breaking off in the middle to give some background material that adds nothing to the story, but gets in the way.

    The speaker had written the text, and on the stage he was focused on recalling all 900 words (or thereabouts) in the right order. You could see it in his eyes. That’s one of the biggest dangers of delivering a speech from memory.

    The next speaker started by throwing fortune cookies into the audience, which engaged their attention immediately. He then related his message to the message in his own fortune cookie, speaking to the audience in terms that they readily understood and could relate to. So of course he won.

    To help you avoid a misconnection with your next speech or presentation, when you are preparing your material just imagine a member of your audience asking you these three questions:

    1. What exactly do you want me to understand and remember?
    2. Why should I care about that?
    3. Why do I need to hear that from you (and not someone else)?

    When you are delivering your speech, imagine that same person sitting somewhere near the front, waiting for you to answer those 3 questions.

    As you address that person, you will ‘feel’ a connection with the audience. It will make a huge difference to the outcome.

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  • The 5th Level of Competence

    I was talking to a Sales consultant recently, and he was asking me about my special skills. It’s a conversation I have had before, when I was exploring the skills of a friend or colleague. Now the boot was on the other foot.

    At some point I said, “I don’t know what I know.”

    I explained that I could articulate the subject matter of my training courses, as I have done on my website and in promotional literature or ads promoting specific courses, but that would not really explain my special skills. It’s a common problem, and one that you must have encountered yourself.

    Think about situations when you have been training or helping someone to solve a problem within your area of expertise. Under pressure, you come out with insights that derive from a deep understanding of your subject – wisdom that you’d find hard to explain or call to mind out of context.

    You could call that the fifth level of competence. It’s what distinguishes the true expert from the specialist.

    The other four levels are well known:
    1. unconscious incompetence, when the person is unaware of a deficiency in knowledge or skill
    2. conscious incompetence, when the person realises that deficiency, perhaps when trying to apply it
    3. conscious competence, when the person can apply the skill at will, recognising the level of competence and noticing how it improves with practice
    4. unconscious competence, when the skill or competence becomes automatic and second nature, like driving a car

    Some people progress further. Their knowledge of their subject moves to a higher level, so that they understand the principles underlying it, and can enable others to cope with any problems within it. Unconscious competence is about being able to carry out the skills themselves. The fifth level is about becoming expert and developing ‘wisdom’.

    Think about medical consultants, or lawyers who can find unexpected interpretations of the law. They, too, would find it hard to tell you what they know, but it’s much more than the stuff you’ll find in text books.

    When it comes to communication in business – speaking, leadership, presentations, sales letters and such like, I don’t know what I know. But I know I’m at the fifth level of competence.

    Phillip

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  • What’s the story?

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:

    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling. Go ye and do likewise.

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  • When is a Yes not a Yes?

    When I introduced Michael to Derek, a Methodist minister, the conversation turned to ethics and morality. “Are you allowed to lie?” asked Michael, a little aggressively.

    Pausing just fractionally, Derek replied, “In certain circumstance, yes. It’s called Situational Ethics. That’s when your answer is simply a way of saying Mind Your Own Business.”

    Michael was not satisfied. “A lie is a lie,” he maintained, “and a clergyman should set the example by never telling a lie.”

    A lie is defined as telling an untruth with the intention to deceive. However, if someone asks you a personal question, when they are not entitled to know the truth, do you have to answer truthfully? Do you have to empower them with the knowledge?

    Now imagine a situation in another country, somewhere in the Far East, for example. Your boss has written an article and asks your opinion of it. To tell him the truth would not only upset him but cause him to lose face. You are, after all, less senior to him, and it would be presumptuous to indicate that you could do a better job.

    What would you do? Would you lie? Of course you would, because you would be giving him the respect of his position, and you’d want to avoid hurting his feelings.

    In every case, telling an untruth carries the intention to deceive, but it may be to avoid empowering the other person or to prevent discomfort or loss of face. It may even be to protect someone from the person asking the question.

    The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that lying is always morally wrong. In the examples I have given, you may feel that there are exceptions, but some will argue that there is a change in the moral climate that makes lying more common these days. They may also claim that lying corrupts the process of free rational choice. A third consequence may be that it subordinates a person through fear of the questioner.

    In cultures that avoid saying “No” the distinction may be less well defined. In the Bahasa Indonesia language there are a dozen ways to say “No” and many ways to say, “I’m saying Yes but I mean No.”

    And when I’ve been training in cross culture abroad, some other nations have said they feel that way about Britain and ask, When is a Yes not a Yes?

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  • The 5th level of competence

    I was talking to a Sales consultant recently, and he was asking me about my special skills. It’s a conversation I have had before, when I was exploring the skills of a friend or colleague. Now the boot was on the other foot.

    At some point I said, “I don’t know what I know.”

    I explained that I could articulate the subject matter of my training courses, as I have done on my website and in promotional literature or ads promoting specific courses, but that would not really explain my special skills. It’s a common problem, and one that you must have encountered yourself.

    Think about situations when you have been training or helping someone to solve a problem within your area of expertise. Under pressure, you come out with insights that derive from a deep understanding of your subject – wisdom that you’d find hard to explain or call to mind out of context.

    You could call that the fifth level of competence. It’s what distinguishes the true expert from the specialist.

    The other four levels are well known:
    1. unconscious incompetence, when the person is unaware of a deficiency in knowledge or skill
    2. conscious incompetence, when the person realises that deficiency, perhaps when trying to apply it
    3. conscious competence, when the person can apply the skill at will, recognising the level of competence and noticing how it improves with practice
    4. unconscious competence, when the skill or competence becomes automatic and second nature, like driving a car

    Some people progress further. Their knowledge of their subject moves to a higher level, so that they understand the principles underlying it, and can enable others to cope with any problems within it. Unconscious competence is about being able to carry out the skills themselves. The fifth level is about becoming expert and developing ‘wisdom’.

    Think about medical consultants, or lawyers who can find unexpected interpretations of the law. They, too, would find it hard to tell you what they know, but it’s much more than the stuff you’ll find in text books.

    When it comes to communication in business – speaking, leadership, presentations, sales letters and such like, I don’t know what I know. But I know I’m at the fifth level of competence. That’s my ‘specialness’.

    Phillip

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