Archive for the ‘presentation skills’ Category

posted by Peter Roberts

BP held their annual general meeting yesterday. It was their first since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. The one image that dominated the coverage was that of a syrup smeared Diane Wilson. She’s a protestor and the syrup looks convincingly like crude oil. Wilson was one of many protestors locked out of the meeting at London’s Excel Centre, and subsequently proved to be the focus of much of the media’s interest.

BP did what any responsible business would be expected to do when it comes to protestors – keep them out. As a BP spokesman put it, “We have a responsibility to run an orderly meeting that allows our shareholders to vote on resolutions and engage with the board.” Quite so; BP is a big commercial enterprise and its priorities, it would appear, are with its key stakeholders. Well, that’s the way it reads. However, what price to the company of letting the same protestors into the meeting – a bridge too far? Probably for attending shareholders, but how about its own brand values – possibly? Yes, there will be heckling; maybe some commotion, but in its efforts to address its current corporate reputation such a move could be extremely productive; presenting a business that’s inclusive, accountable and understanding of broader concerns. It’s with such boldness that public perception will, albeit slowly, begin to change and it’s with such boldness that leads the ‘man in the street’ to start thinking that enough’s enough with these protests, let’s move on, instead of what many are probably now thinking which is these people have been hard done by.

“I’m eating my cookie”

  I won’t subject you to a long intro, instead sit back and enjoy this great clip. Senior executive media training should be compulsory.

 “I’m eating my cookie”

 Yes, he did lose his job.

Catherine Cross on debate performances

Further to last week’s post on the increasing demand for broadcast interview skills in this rapidly-expanding age of digital magnificence, here’s Hill & Knowlton’s own Catherine Cross, Lead Counsel, Media Training, with some of her insights into the debate performance offered up by Messers Brown, Cameron and Clegg:

NB: Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, since this blog is apolitical. And make sure you check out our regular campaign updates and analysis over on H&K London’s main blog.

Brendan Hodgson on crisis management for a social media age

For those of our regular readers unable to make it to Hill & Knowlton’s Demystifying Digital (#HKD2 for all you Twitter pundits), we’re progressively uploading the Pecha Kucha presentations over on the Hill & Knowlton London blog site (sometimes called “the blog formerly known as Hank”).

This particular presentation was by Brendan Hodgson, a Senior Vice President from our Toronto office and a veteran of our global Issues & Crisis and Digital teams after more than a decade in the trenches:

It’s a little over five minutes long, but well worth a look. And if you think the idea of strictly limiting all PowerPoint presentations to a mere five minutes, from now until the end of time, then stay tuned!

Colourful quotes continued

Shortly after publishing this post yesterday on the importance spokespeople (and business leaders) communicating their personality, a friend sent me a link to a Harvard Business Review post, by Roberto Verganti, on a tenuously-related topic.

I particularly like this passage: “…visions are intrinsically ideological and biased towards a clear aspiration of how the world should be: They strongly reflect the personal culture of the thinker.”

For many spokespeople, managing the art of communicating their organisation’s key messages in the thrust and parry of a media interview is enough of a challenge to be going on with, thank you very much.

However, for those in true leadership positions, a bigger challenge is communicating Verganti’s idea of personal culture. If you’re a business leader then you were hired to manage a business (or you built it up yourself), so that’s a given. But if you want your people to follow you, you need to share your vision and show them you’re prepared to lead.

Courageous, colourful quotes get you noticed, and probably knighted

“Those with the strongest views that the price of Australian houses “must” fall typically either don’t own one, don’t really know what they are talking about, or both.” – Rory Robertson, Macquarie Bank interest rate strategist

The above quote ran in this column by Michael Pascoe today. Perhaps its because my introduction to the British economy came courtesy of Robert Peston’s book, Who Runs Britain?, but from an outsider’s perspective I’d have to say that there’s a dearth of colourful spokespeople in the market. However, when I thought for five seconds about which British individuals I could imagine using a line like this, three names came to mind:

  • Sir Richard Branson
  • Sir Phillip Green
  • Sir Stuart Rose

And aside from wealth and knighthoods, that’s something the three individuals listed above all have in spades. Personality.

For business managers, PR people and spokespeople generally, this is brilliant news, because it means that if you’re prepared to say something colourful, the chances are you’ll get noticed.

The problem is, you can’t rely on media training alone to give you the colourful quotes. These have to be a reflection of your own personality. Media training, or presentation skills training, or even night classes in interpretive dance will help you to express that personality in a way that’s right for your audience.

At the end of the day though, that expression comes down to having the courage to share a bit of yourself with the rest of the world.

Presentation skills tip: cadence

US President Obama has given public speaking a much-needed shot of adrenaline, and one of his great technical strengths is the way he takes control of his cadence. Cadence isn’t just about how fast you speak, it’s also about where you place the emphasis on your words. Speaking with real power (the power to move hearts and change minds, not the power to be heard at the back of the room) owes a lot to cadence, so here’s a very short demonstration of how you can incorporate this into your next speech or presentation.

Here’s an example of some text from the Message Development page of our website:

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview. It is now the bedrock of your organisation’s communication and should be consistent regardless of the medium, whether that’s a daily newspaper, a TV news bulletin or a cocktail napkin at your next dinner.

Opening tip: Read it out loud, properly. Don’t just make a sound and move your lips and read it in your head. Actually read it out like you want someone else to hear it. (That’s actually a bonus tip – it’s amazing how many people never read a presentation script out loud before their first rehearsal!)

Step 1: Break it up a bit. There are only two sentences here, but by breaking it into four you introduce more natural points of emphasis.

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It is now the bedrock of your organisation’s communication.

And (it) should be consistent regardless of the medium, whether that’s a daily newspaper, a TV news bulletin or a cocktail napkin at your next dinner.

Step 2: Change your words around. The start and end of sentences are natural points of emphasis. And some words have more emotional weight than others. So, if you’re going for a powerful opening statement, try opening with a powerful opening word. Let’s look at just the first sentence:

Your message is no longer the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

We can improve the opening simply by changing the order of our first five words, like this:

No longer is your message the media tagline your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It’s a simple change that on first reading makes the sentence less natural. But since you’re seeking attention, that’s kind of what you’re after!

Step 3: Give yourself some breathing space. As we noted earlier, the start and end of a sentence provide natural emphasis. So to enhance your emphasis, introduce more pauses in your speach. We did that already by breaking sentences up – now let’s look at how we can introduce better spacing within each of those. This also means that your speaker can breathe more often, so you can demand a stronger effort on some words for even more emphasis. Apologies in advance to the punctuation purists, but demonstrating this in text means we’re going to have to butcher a few things to get the point across.

NO LONGER………is your message the media TAGLINE………your spokespeople are trained to deliver in a press interview.

It is NOW………….the BEDROCK…………..of your organisation’s communication.

AND………….(it) should be CONSISTENT.

REGARDLESS of the medium………….whether that’s a daily NEWSPAPER…………..a TV NEWS bulletin……………or a cocktail napkin at your next DINNER.

Obviously doing this to your writing will make it far more difficult to read, but remember you’re doing this because it’s going to be presented. That’s why we won’t be updating this paragraph on our website. But, if you look at our Presentation Skills page, you’ll see that’s how we’ve opened.

Give this a try with the next presentation script you have to write. And let us know how you go with it – we’d love your feedback. Or if you’re struggling with a particular passage, get in touch and we’ll help you out.

And remember: read it out loud!