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One common question I receive about web seminars is, "How can I grab my audience's attention?"  The same question can be applied to live, in-person presentations. The unstated part of the question, and really, what each person is really asking is, "How do I keep my audience's attention throughout the presentation?"

You can't. Accept it. With both types of delivery, people are always multi-tasking (e.g., answering email, looking at his/her smart phone, and completing other work activities). The real question becomes, "How do I keep my audience's attention for most of the time?" And this is where speakers, trainers, instructors, keynotes, etc. show their true skill and worth. This is where one must balance inspiration, education, and entertainment appropriate to the audience, its goals, and your goals.

It's easy to grab attention in the beginning and the end with an interesting personal story, business story, humorous anecdote, powerful photograph, cartoon, or compelling summary. During the middle part, say the middle 50 minutes, is what defines the skill and success of the speaker.

Here are a couple of tips for keeping attention for both web seminars and live, in-person presentations:

Web Seminars
- Ensure your slides are professional looking. How your slides display text, color, layout, branding, etc. matter a lot to viewers.
- Change slides at least every two minutes. Change is key to maintaining attention. "What's coming next?" thinking keeps people focused on your presentation and you.
- Include an interaction about every 15 minutes. I define interactions as any type of written or verbal exercise. Examples include audience poll, answer questions via the Q&A field, and asking for direct comment and feedback with smaller groups.

Live, In-Person Presentation
- Tell interesting personal stories with specific business messages. Here, your story should be a little longer and richer with descriptions and background than web seminars. In a typical 60-minute presentation, generally keep your story under three minutes.
- Leverage body language. Use eye contact, your hands and arms, and your body to accentuate and complement your messages. Try a variety of gestures and body movements, perhaps even exaggerate some to make your point. Remember, part of your responsibility is to entertain.
- Include an interaction about every 12 minutes. Examples include by-a-show-of-hands request, written exercise from a workbook, or partner exercise (e.g., share your elevator speech).

Next time you are in the audience, pay a little more attention to how the speaker grabs and maintains attention.

What tips and suggestions do you have?

Here I am in a 60 minute workshop session. We are 45 minutes into the program when the instructor says to the group,

"Rob, how much time is left? I need to make sure of the time. Likely, I have a lot more material than time to cover. I want to make sure I can get as much in as possible."

If you were in the audience, two thoughts would likely pop up:

a) Speaker was unprepared.

b) Speaker is going to cram so much content I'll never be able to process or remember it.

While I appreciate the instructor's goal of offering high education value, he MUST always be aware of the time versus content challenge. Audiences simply can not process too much information as well as remember it. That's why good instructors and trainers provide a mix of learning materials to help with in-class and after class retention. (e.g., verbal, written, individual, partner, seated, and out-of-your seat exercises)

Professional trainers and speakers have to constantly balance the goals of educate, influence, and entertain.  And the one consistent attribute of the best presenters/trainers, he/she ends on time.

The New York Times recently published an interesting article on participating and leading virtual meetings. I thought the most telling part was in the beginning:

Participants in virtual meetings often feel a lowered sense of accountability, Mr. O’Brien says. “In face-to-face meetings people really show up, not just physically but also mentally. They come to the meeting prepared and actively participate,” he says. In virtual meetings — including the telepresence variety, where images are highly realistic — that’s often not the case.

For someone who has been doing virtual meetings for years...here are a few humorous anecodtes that are unfortunately true (on multiple occasions I've experienced all three and could add several more).

Generally, though, it’s better not to do other things while you’re in a virtual meeting, because you could miss important information. “If you keep asking to have questions repeated or for clarification of what’s being said, you are essentially announcing to everyone: ‘I’m not really paying attention’ and risk looking very unprofessional,” Ms. Stack says.

And use the mute button to block background noise. Mr. Preston recalled a teleconference in which someone was eating a bag of potato chips. “You could hear it rustling during the meeting, and finally someone said: ‘Whoever is eating the potato chips, could you please mute?’ That’s embarrassing.”

The mute button is also important if you use a headset. “I’ve had meetings where someone went into the bathroom and forgot their headset was on,” Mr. O’Brien says.

I attended a conference today. And the executive introducing the main stage speaker repeated his name and title, not 30 seconds after he was just introduced. Here's what occurred:

a) Mary, the conference host, is at the podium. She introduces an executive from the major event sponsor, Company ABC. She says to the audience,

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce to you our event sponsor, William Businessman, Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Channel Programs  (audience applauses). He will be introducing our keynote presenter, Sally Speaker.

b) William comes up to the podum and begins his introduction with the following,

Good morming. Thank you for the honor of addressing you today. As Mary said, I am William Businessman, Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Channel Programs. I'd like to introduce...(introduction continues)

 

I wish I knew why the "Williams" of the world repeat the information. What I do know is...listen to the audience immediately following the repeated information and hear them make unfavorable comments about the presenter.

This is the perfect time for you to give a shortened version of your elevator speech. Focus on the benefits your organization can bring to the audience and less on your name or title. People care about WIIFM (What's In It For Me) more than your name.

What makes you different? How does your corporation, association, or government agency stand out?

How well you differentiate yourself is often the key to success. The most successful organizations are those who offer a unique quality or attribute that resonates with their target audience. Differentiation, in other words, is in the eye of the beholder.

Suppose, for example, I owned a car wash. I use only the finest soap and wax. I might be tempted to promote my business by saying I use only the highest quality products for cleaning your car.

What does that mean to you? Do you really care about the kind of cleaning products I use? If I asked car owners why they chose one car wash over another, most would tell me it’s because of how nice their car looks when they leave. Or, how fast and easy it is to get through the car wash.

Now, imagine the impact I would have on you by promoting these unique attributes: “The only car wash in town where you can restore your car to showroom clean in the time it takes to order drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant.”

Last week I gave a workshop on pitching to investors and venture capitalists with The Entrepreneur Center @ the Northern Virginia Technology Council. I emphasized that since you only have a few minutes to grab your audience's attention, start with a story that evokes just the right of emotion and empathy. The story characteristics include:

1. Synchronized to your elevator speech (short, less than ten sentences)
2. Takes less than two minutes to share
3. Able to stand on its own without any props, video, PowerPoint, etc.
4. Something that make it personal to you or a loved one
5. Has a clear beginning, middle, and end
6. Includes proper names (they can be substituted if you are protecting someone's identity)
7. Clearly sets up the problem and solution situation that you are about to explain
8. Connects to your audience's emotional state. Just enough to make them care and not too much that they feel sorry. The emotional appeal should never create an imbalance of business versus emotional.
9. Quickly conveys "feel the same frustration" experience so that they nod their head in agreement
10. Ends strong

Your story must ensure that your audience, irrespective of their background, gender, age, etc. will be "right there" with you. They must be able to quickly and readily comprehend, appreciate, and feel empathy for the situation you product/service solves.

Several years ago, I used to work for a large organization that held annual conferences in convention cities like Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada.  The conferences would begin with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm, along with a standing-room only general session on the morning of the first day.

Like clockwork, a pattern of decreasing attendance would begin on the afternoon of the first day and continue up until the time we departed two to three days later.   Initially, I assumed everyone was taking care of business matters that had arisen since the conference had started.  In fact, I started to feel like I was doing something wrong because my workload seemed so much lighter than everyone else.  It wasn’t until I walked by the pool during one of the breaks that it hit me – while I was in the ballroom, a lot of my associates were at the pool.

Many of those who spent time by the pool did so because they felt the content of the conference sessions was not relevant to them.  This sentiment is one of the biggest challenges event planners for associations and large corporations face when planning a conference.

How, then, do you provide content that is meaningful enough so that your attendees will choose the ballroom over the pool?

To know what your audience will find meaningful, do your homework.  Go on a listening tour and spend time meeting with representative members from your prospective audience.

Here are 10 questions to ask of prospective attendees, so you will better understand what’s important to them and why.

1. Why are you planning on attending the conference?  Ask for three reasons.
2. What topics would be most beneficial to your professional development?
3. What topics would be most beneficial to your personal development?
4. What are the top three goals for your organization this year?
5. What are the top three goals for your organization two years and beyond?
6. What are the top three challenges preventing you from achieving your goals?
7. What types of keynote or general session topics are you interested in?
8. What types of session or workshop topics are you interested in?
9. What is the preferred length of time for a session or workshop?  
10. For you to consider your time well spent at this conference, what are the top three takeaways you will need to leave with?

After learning all about your attendee’s goals and preferences, customize your conference communication materials with compelling messages that will resonate.

With skillful planning, your program will be inspiring, engaging, educational, and entertaining enough to keep your audience members glued to their seats…in the ballroom.

If you are a fan of improvisational ("improv") comedy, then join me in congratulating Second City Television (SCTV) on its 50th birthday. In my teenage years, I watched SCTV and Saturday Night Live regularly. You can find the show DVDs on any of the major retail websites. If you are not yet a fan, learn more about improv (see links below) to improve dramatically your communication skills.

On April 1, 1994 I started my professional improv career with the Washington, DC group. In 2000, I moved to San Francisco and started with the San Jose group (see picture below of me performing). Some 1,000 plus shows later, improv has taught me so much about human behavior and communication. If you ever thought about presentation or public speaking training, seriously think about attending improv classes.

Here are some interesting links to a variety of sites on SCTV and improv:
- SCTV home page
- Photos and videos from the celebration on Facebook
- Comedy Studies at The Second City (full college credit from Collumbia College Chicago) 
- The Second City and Beyond: Joe Flaherty (short clip) 
- John Candy & Joe Flaherty on David Letterman, 1982, Part 1
- John Candy & Joe Flaherty on David Letterman, 1982, Part 2
- SCTV Alumni on Long-Form Improvisation 
- ComedySportz San Jose Promotional Video
Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker: How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell (article I wrote) 
- The Improvising Organization: Where Planning Meets Opportunity (PDF of article)
Wikipedia entry 
- Improv Games Book (look for the download button)

I've been helping several clients with presentations these past few weeks. These are initial, generate interest presentations. And the common theme is "assume too much."

The challenge is all too often, presenters assume the audience…

- Has the same level of passion
- Cares about the subject as much as you
- Understands the complexities and connections of the information
- Will be able to retain ALL of the information presented

With rare exception, none of the assumptions are accurate.

To ensure maximum comprehension and information retention, think of your audience as a room full of 10th graders. Envision yourself as a 15-year old. How is your attention span? Ability to remember what was presented? And so on.

Leave the details, jargon, facts, and complex information for subsequent meetings…AFTER you have generated interest with a compelling presentation.

In one of my LinkedIn groups, a person posted a question, "Consult: Speaking with an Interpreter…I have a keynote in Peru next week and learned all my Spanish on Dora the Explorer. Any tips regarding successful partnership with an interpreter?"

Several people gave advice of never use humor. I VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE.

People worldwide want to laugh, to be entertained, to smile, to feel good. A keynote presenter has the responsibility to inspire, entertain, then educate. And I would emphasize, so do any presenters. For educational sessions, the priorities are reversed.

The key is doing your homework. And if you think that you are not funny, use other people's humor. How about quotes and cartoons (The New Yorker licenses them for as little as $20 through CartoonBank)? And the best source of humor is you–your personal stories about family, work, and friends.  Just be sure that your humor is relevant to the topic. Whenever possible, test your use of humor on friends, colleagues, and in rehearsal sessions.

Here's what I suggested to the the keynote presenter who is presenting in Peru:

I disagree with anyone and everyone that says do not use humor. The advice comes from well-intended people. And the advice is given because most people do not know how to incorporate humor.

I performed over 1,000 improvisational humor shows live on stage and have been publicly speaking for nearly 30 years. The key to successful humor is do your homework. Like all of your messages, stories, supporting points, etc. ensure that your humor translates. For example, use a quote that says something funny in its learning message–particularly one that is Peruvian. Or a personal story that has appropriate humor in it. Be sure to wait for the audience to "get it" — that's the pausing part.

You are not looking for a gigantic belly laugh. You are looking to entertain (that’s what keynoters do – smile)

Larry sent me a link to a recent article on The Telegraph in the UK, "Four in ten people laugh at bad jokes, scientists find."

Dr. Nancy Bell, study author is specialist in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), linguistics, and academic literacy for students who use English as a second language. She shared during her radio interview (below) that she was intrigued by the use of humor by people for whom English is the second language.

Overall, bad humor has the potential to be dangerous socially, professionally, and physically. During her research she avoided offensive jokes and instead used bad jokes. An example is "What did the big chimney say to the little chimney? Answer: Nothing. Chimneys can’t talk." Responses ranged from polite laughter to mild to rude to really rude/angry.

The most common responses to a bad joke included: a) "That's so stupid," b) "You're an idiot," and c) "That's so stupid and you're an idiot."

The reasons for such a negative response according to Bell, "Canned humor often disrupts the natural flow of conversation. And jokes that fail to deliver humor are a violation of a social contract, so punishing the teller can discourage similar behavior in the future. A stupid joke insults the listener by suggesting that he or she might actually find it funny."

Bell shares that "the younger you are and the closer you are in age to your failed humorist, the more likely you are to attack." Another interesting finding is that children were especially mean to parents when parents used bad jokes.

As someone who performed live improvisational humor for many years (see ComedySportz), bad jokes are inevitable. What I would like is to understand more of the study. What was the context, audience, expectation, delivery, and other variables. I do agree that in general, bad jokes receive immediate groans and other responses that leave the comedian with absolutely no question that the joke was bad.

The other important thing to note about office humor: one person's belly laugh could be another person's trip to human resources. Use extreme caution with potentially offensive humor.

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Additional Resources:

- "Offering Up Bad Jokes a Good Way to Draw ‘Friendly Fire,' WSU Researcher Shows" (Washington State University where Dr. Bell works)
- "Four in ten people laugh at bad jokes, scientists find,"  UK Telegraph
- "No Kidding! Bad Jokes Result in Real Social Harm," MSNBC
- Nancy Bell Biography
- Listen to a recorded radio interview on the Bob Rivers Radio Show
- ComedySportz National website
- ComedySportz San Jose, California (tell Jeff that I sent you–I used to perform with this group)

Article Summary:  Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword." With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships. And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions. Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Great Leaders Know How to Put their Words to Work

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 12, 2008

Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword."

With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships.

And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions.

Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

They stand out because of how each treated me. They were great listeners, gently offered advice, supported me, appreciated what I did and showed it. They were leaders, mentors and coaches.

Why did they make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us, and the stories we share about these experiences help shape the world around us.

We live through each other’s stories. Told right, business stories can have the same impact as personal stories.

Business stories are memorable, powerful packages that simplify messages. They are the engine of relationships, and relationships are the engine of business growth.

As a leader, it is crucial to tell the right stories and ensure the right ones are being told about you. Great leaders share their vision, knowledge and wisdom through stories.

The best stories have several key characteristics: They are simple, are easily understood, have immediate resonance, are delivered passionately and have a positive outcome or learning experience. Great leaders are great storytellers.

Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting or before thousands at a shareholders’ meeting, use stories to be a better leader.

First, know your audience as well as yourself. Your mantra should be, “It’s all about them.”

The story that plays well with longtime colleagues may not resonate with a potential client. The stories that impressed the group of visiting Asian chief executive officers may fall flat in Chicago. Understanding the audience makes the difference in building the relationship and closing that deal.

During some of my keynote speeches and workshops, I use an exercise called, “What is the Half-Life of Your Story?” It prompts participants to realize the power of words.

Here is an example of the exercise, which can be tailored to suit your group. First, read each of these phrases slowly: recent personal performance review, last big project, most difficult boss and best boss. Then, reread each phrase. What do you immediately think of? A person, a place, event, experience or emotion? Do the experiences that these words conjure up make you grimace or smile?

Great leaders reveal personal experiences relevant to their audience, and the goal of this exercise is to tap into your passion. Sharing stories with passion grabs and keep your audience’s attention.

Nowhere is it truer than in business that "we don’t pay attention to boring things," says John Medina, author of "Brain Rules."

Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. The words you choose and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective.

Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood — or misunderstood — in a number of ways. For example, the expression "You are crazy," can be playful, argumentative or even condescending.

People constantly look to leaders for guidance and advice. Remember it is all about them — your audience.

So, as a leader, what stories are you telling? Does your audience find them inspiring and positive? Are you evaluating their strong points and addressing their weak points? Are your stories generating the results you want?

If not, revise and practice the delivery, impact, timing, opening and closing.

Years ago, contracts were made by a smile and a handshake. The simple phrase "you have my word" meant something. Doing business is not so simple today, especially in light of a global economy with diverse cultures, backgrounds and languages.

Whether you own a two-person small business or are CEO of a Fortune 500 company, your words and stories matter to those around you. I believe words and stories have a very long half-life, perhaps hundreds of years depending upon what you say and where you say it (such as books, articles and blogs).

As you build your teams and your business, be deliberate with the stories you tell. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: "I have no use for engines. Give me the right word … and I will move the world."

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When to Work for Nothing

Earlier in November Michelle Goodman wrote a nice blog for The New York Times: “When to Work for Nothing.” Ms. Goodman is a veteran freelancer, the author of the newly released book “My So-Called Freelance Life.”

Here is an excerpt…
Despite the fact that I’ve gone from greenhorn to grizzled veteran in my 16 years as a freelancer, I receive calls and e-mails like the following at least once a month:

“We really love your work. And we have a great opportunity for you at our exciting new media venture.”

Translation: “We’re launching a new Web site/magazine/start-up and we’d love to have you do some consulting work for us. For free.”

My hopeful would-be client will then explain that his or her company is poised to be the next Google or that some former “Apprentice” contestant who’s long since faded into oblivion is on the advisory board. All this is meant to butter me up for the next line, which happens to be the sentence in the self-employment lexicon that I hate the most:

“It will be great exposure for you.”

——————

Further in the article she shares some of her suggestions for considering reduced fees or true work for exposure opportunities.

When I first started my business, I carefully initiated "exposure" opportunities to build my brand, receive testimonials and referrals, and get my name out there.

Now I receive these types of requests fairly often. Just like anything else, if you are going to ask for free work, spend extra time on crafting your message request and ensure that it is extraordinarily compelling.

Copyblogger's Sonia Simone earlier this month posted "9 Little Known Traits of Successful Bloggers." I agree with eight of the nine, and disagree with 7, Be Negative. See below.

Here are the nine. To read about each of these, visit Copyblogger.

1. Don’t over-explain
2. Don’t know everything
3. Get mad once in awhile
4. Don’t be overly consistent
5. Break unbreakable rules
6. Repeat yourself
7. Be negative
8. Get a little stupid
9. Don’t pay too much attention to “how to blog” articles

Here is the text from #7.

————–
7. Be negative

Positive, “do this” posts are great for spurring readers to take action. But what not to do posts are terrific for attracting attention and interest.

Frank Kern talks about the rubberneck effect. We’re wired to be fascinated by problems, mistakes and embarrassing disasters. The occasional “train wreck” post will help your blog break through attention clutter.
————–

My three cents: Those that know me well, know that I'm Mr. Positive. I can turn any frown upside down. I'm quite resolute that communication should be delivered in positive manner. Our world is full of negative messaging, hurtful language, and purposeful people who perpetuate these crimes of marketing.

Instead of "Be Negative," I suggest that we tell stories that share lessons learned, what we call the "Inspire with Your Vision" story (it's one of our recommended business story types). The "occasional 'train wreck'" post would certainly fall into this category.

Being negative is much easier than being positive. There is an old human resources/management/leadership phrase that I learned very early in my career–Three warm fuzzies to every cold prickly.

Today was the second session of a two-part workshop series on messaging for the Entrepreneur Center @NVTC (Northern Virginia Technology Council).

I co-presented with I.J. Hudson sharing insights into developing compelling messages. Examples included: How to answer the ubiquitous "what do you do?", delivering the five-minute investor pitch, the always-ready message points for media, and message points for getting the word out.

Several of the participants were video-taped delivering their elevator speech, investor presentation, and message points. One participant was put under the lights and interviewed by I.J., giving the group a good perspective of how interviewers listen for sound bites and how they pose subsequent questions. It was especially helpful (and fun) for the participants to see before and after footage.

One gentleman, Sal (name changed) shared that he was a little bit frustrated with me during the first session (I knew why). We were reviewing his elevator speech, the answer to what do you do?  While he was obviously passionate and intelligent, he could not deliver a simple and easy-to-understand answer. I suggested that he try imagining that I was a 10th grader–that worked a little bit. Over the next week he continued to work and make progress including a few email exchanges where I made additional suggestions. After today’s session, he thanked me for "pushing" him to simplify his message. He realized that what is important in communication is to tell one’s business story through the prospect’s eyes. One of my favorite mantras is "it’s all about them."

I.J. has a rich career in broadcast media spanning more than 30 years (click for a short bio). He offered some really practical advice on working with print and broadcast media. One of his suggestions really resonated with me…he shared his Dad’s words of wisdom: "If You Always Tell the Truth, You Will Never Have to Remember What You Said." It resonated with me because I am a huge advocate of speaking from your heart. It’s all about packaging your passion into a compelling business message.

Thank You Kristin
About a year ago I met Kristin Seitz D’Amore, Director at The Entrepreneur Center @ NVTC. We met at one of my "How to Pitch to Investors" events with TiE-DC (The Indus Entrepreneur). Over time we became friendly and chatted about creating a program on messaging. If you are an entrepreneur in the Washington, DC area, I encourage you to attend and join the NVTC.

Article Summary:  [Part 2 of 2]  By a show of hands, who likes public speaking? A few hands go up. OK, who likes attending PowerPoint presentations? Again, a few of you. Both responses are what you would expect, right? In this column and the next one, I will show you the steps to change both answers to a loud and resounding "yes!" It is time to tell your great story — a story that melds passion with compelling business messages. Compelling presentations inspire others with your belief in your business and enable you to confidently give your presentation anywhere and anytime. Compelling presentations drive business results: increased membership, reduced client turnover, higher staff retention and enduring profits. 

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 5, 2008

As shared in my previous column, designing and delivering a winning presentation takes planning and practice. We developed an eight-step process that offers a proven framework for creating inspiring content, engaging visuals and messages that win more business.

To recap, the eight steps are:

1. Know your goals. 2. Know your target audience. 3. Develop a compelling message. 4. Identify your call-to-action. 5. Anticipate key questions. 6. Develop compelling talking points. 7. Add supporting content and visuals. 8. Deliver your great business story.

We previously covered steps 1 through 3, so let us explore 4 through 8.

Great presenters are like great orchestra conductors — each piece must fit together and be synchronized.

A specific call-to-action synchronizes the presentation. The call-to-action is what you want your audience to do during and after the presentation. Below are some examples.

* For a sales presentation: Purchase our product.
* For human resources training: Practice the new skills weekly.
* For management: Choose an alternative.
* For government: Select one system for beta test.
* For marketing: Gather more information to validate our assumptions.

It is now time to anticipate the questions your audience will ask. Knowing you are prepared goes a long way to reducing stress and impressing your audience. Pre-empt the tough questions by incorporating as many answers as possible into your presentation.

Be a master at questions and answers by testing your presentation in front of a practice audience. Count on them for frank and constructive suggestions.

Next, develop a compelling message with strong talking points. Each of these points should have their own compelling mini headline and offer clear benefits.

How much time you should devote to each part of a presentation? A rule of thumb is: opening 5 percent, support points 75 percent, closing 5 percent and Q-and-A 15 percent.

The first part of Step 7 is to develop the details and benefits for the talking points.

The best way to design a presentation is on paper. Use blank paper without lines or use large stickies. PowerPoint forces you to think linearly while the best storytellers think creatively and sometimes randomly.

After developing the supporting information, ensure that slide headlines are short and engaging.

When you design the visuals, synchronize the colors in your presentation to your organization’s style guide or to the colors on your Web site. Balance the use of text, pictures, graphics and charts.

To make your presentation more impressive, replace text, tables and graphs with professionally looking images. The images should tell your story through the visuals.

For example, replace a typical Microsoft Excel line chart with a large arrow pointing upward and the annual values to the right of the arrow in a column. There are hundreds of options for shape, size, text, font, colors, images, headlines, messages and metaphors.

Use photography and images that your audience can easily relate to and diagrams and charts that they can easily understand. Drop me a note and I will e-mail our Chart Your Success tip guide.

For professional photography, there are three options. One is free pictures from Microsoft. In PowerPoint, access the menu and select then separately select . The other options are fee-based photo CDs from a site like www.GettyImages.com and subscription services like www.photos.com.

With your title, talking points and imagery, create an inspiring and attention-getting opening with options like a personal story, an anecdote, a quote from a relevant industry expert, high-impact facts and statistics, and a well-told joke that readily supports your main message.

After developing your opening, create a powerful and memorable closing.

Last, practice, practice, practice. Experience shows that you should practice the complete presentation five times. The first two are for timing and identifying the gaps. The third is for smoothing out the transitions, the fourth for overall polish, and the fifth is for the ultimate in confidence. The fifth rehearsal ensures that you are ready — timing is perfect, Q-and-A is a slam-dunk, transitions are smooth, etc.

It is your responsibility to educate, entertain and inspire. If you want to be compelling and deliver a presentation that generates real business results, follow these proven steps.

Your audience will feel your passion, readily understand your messages, be informed about key concepts and make business decisions that favor your organization.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watch Your Language

Something strange happened…In the course of just a few days, two people returned an email and said that you must have sent it to the wrong person. No. I sent it to the right person.

Here’s how the email went:

Jefe,

Body of the email.

Ira

See what’s wrong? Me either I thought. In hindsight, I wrote "jefe" thinking to be informal. In Spanish, it means boss. Neither person understood the reference. I then started thinking about how many other people did not understand the salutation either and did not let me know and instead ignored it. Luckily, I reserve "jefe" for those that I know well and as such, no harm done.

To communicate, we use three main parts (a) body language, (b) tone and cadence of voice, and (c) words you say. With jefe, I relied on (c) words only with no context given to the email recipient.

Going forward, I shall be a lot more careful of word choice when trying to be so informal.

* If you have any interesting or funny stories of similar good intentions gone awry, please share.

I recently attended an event where super big-brained people presented their ideas in the hopes of obtaining funding to bring their products or services to market. In the venture capital world, it is often called a beauty contest, analogous to beauty pageants where the contents are vying for the judges favor in the hopes of winning.
200_words_and_counting_2

Each of the presenters was allotted 8 minutes to tell a convincing, why-fund-my-company presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint(R). One gentleman showed a slide that was essentially dots on the screen. As soon as this slide flashed, he stated, "I know that this slide is busy, but…" He then proceeded to review virtually all the words on the screen.

I was amazed and it takes a lot to amaze me. I have never seen this much text on a slide before. Most of his slides exceeded 100 words and the irony was that he thought this to be a good way to present.

Then it came to me…count. I counted about 210 words when he switched to the next slide.

I recreated the amount of text and basic layout in the picture here with as much likelihood that you can read it as the audience could the other night. I used to create the picture to get a feel for the sheer mass of words.

Please send any of your "favorite not-to-do" slides. Would be great to create a library and share it with everyone.

I see about one zillion PowerPoint(R) presentations a year. Today, one of my clients sent me a rough draft to review. On three consecutive slides were diagrams with text size between 5 and 6 points. I had to squint to see the words. Unless you are presenting in a stadium with a 100 foot screen the diagram is unreadable.

So why do people continue to do this over and over? Human behavior is the answer, as it is with most things related to communication. Each of us is intensely proud of our job efforts (as we should be). Because of this, presenters feel that they must show lots and lots of details to the audience. This is what gets you into trouble when designing presentations.

At The Chief Storyteller, we have an unwavering mantra of "It's all about them™."  For example, no small text, no confusing diagrams, colors are synchronized, and professional pictures are relevant, not stretched, and in focus.

When it comes to watching presentations, your instinct is to read everything in front of you. As such, people will be squinting and trying to read charts all the while complaining to themselves about how unreadable the chart is. My strong suggestions are: delete the chart or simplify it so that the text is easily readable.

Next time you are at a presentation, watch the audience watch the presentation. Watch how they watch and respond to the speaker and watch how they read the slides. Business voyeurism, as I jokingly refer to it, offers a lot of lessons and insights into human behavior. Most importantly, it shows you things to do and things to avoid.

I was doing some research and up popped an interesting link in the search. Thought I would share some slang words and phrases for baseball.

Reminds me of the jargon unique to each of us both personally with friends and loved ones and professionally. So think about your words and language used with new friends and business associates.

- Bazooka: Strong throwing arm. "He’s got a bazooka."
- Catch Napping: To surprise a less than alert runner with the result that he is picked off or suddenly caught between bases.
- Ducks on the Pond: runners on base
- Fireman: a team’s closer.
- Five O’clock Hitter: refers to a hitter who hits well in batting practice (which is held around 5:00 p.m. for night games) but not well in games.
- Hot Corner: Third Base.
- Lollipop: A soft pitch or weak throw.
- Mustard: Refers to a lot of velocity on a fastball.
- Pickle: When a base runner is caught in a rundown
- Rally Caps: A term for a superstitious practice among players and fans alike that turn their caps inside out and/or backwards in a close game in the hopes of getting their team hitting.
- Rhubarb: A ruckus with the umpires; confusion; a fight between players.
- Whiff: For a pitcher to strike out a batter.
- Worm Burner: Batted ball that moves across the ground hard and fast.

I am going to assume that you heard or read about The International Astronomical Union (IAU) declaring Pluto a non-planet. Personally, I shrugged off the whole thing and without hesitation, will always say that I live in a solar system with nine planets (photo Nasa).

Well, Space.com recently shared an article that shows that IAU is still ready to take on the world with more controversy. The IAU added more fire to the flames by coining a new term, "plutoid," as a name for dwarf planets like Pluto. Personal note…dwarf planet is a planet right? What’s the difference you may ask?

Well, the official definition of a plutoid is:
"Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared the neighborhood around their orbit."

I’m willing to bet several million dollars worth of Monopoly money that even astronomers with three PhD’s are baffled by this definition. You know what it is…a compromise. A compromise by the participants to cover ever single contingency.

And ya know what else…according to Microsoft Word’s analysis of reading level, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score (I wrote about this score a few years ago. click here) shows 23. That means students in the 23rd grade level can understand these 48 highly confusing words. For comparison, you graduate high school at the 12th grade, college at the 16th grade, masters at the 18th grade, and PhD anywhere after 20th grade.

Author Robert Roy Britt from Space.com makes it very easy to understand: "small round things beyond Neptune that orbit the sun and have lots of rocky neighbors."

I am sure that you can figure out the communication and business storytelling lessons here!

Resources:

- Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test from Wikipedia

- Talk at the 10th Grade level, Blog Entry

As a partner of TiE-DC, The Chief Storyteller conducts training workshops for entrepreneurs seeking venture capital funding. A year ago I wrote about the 2007 “Venture Capital Entrepreneur Challenge.”

One thing in particular that I am especially proud of is that both the winner and runner-up attended our workshop. Both teams shared their passion, clear business message, and well-thought out strategy.

The recap of 2008 is below courtesy of TiE-DC and The Entrepreneur Center at NVTC.

Attracting over 100 Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, and Emerging Entrepreneurs, the event featured 10 presenters competing for the first place prize of $10,000 for seed funding.

The event started off with a special presentation – Aaron Sacks, NFTE‘s Young Entrepreneur broke the ice by giving a presentation on his company You’re On Deck. Presenters included Joe Ordia of Ordia Solutions, Dede Haskins of InTouch Systems, Greg Alexander of e210, Ranjan Pant of BPL Products, Jay Amirmokri of Ultracomm, Chris Hopkinson of TaxScan, David Sherbow of MPTrax, Daniel Odio of Maptimizer, Abid Chaudhry of Mobile Spectrum, and Mary Foltz of AirArts.

Phil Brown of Conflicts Authority ended up taking home top prize of $10,000. Manoj Ramnani of DubMeNow was the runner-up, and received free admission and airfare to TiECon 2008 in Silicon Valley, an annual conference of over 4,000 entrepreneurs, VCs, and angel investors.

Here is what some of our presenters thought:

Daniel Odio of Maptimizer.com – The TiE-DC Entrepreneur Challenge was an outstanding opportunity to showcase our Maptimizer.com technology to an experienced group of angel investors, venture capitalists and fellow entrepreneurs. We really enjoyed the thoughtful feedback from the panel of judges and look forward to continuing our relationship with TIE. Getting involved with TIE is one of the smartest moves an entrepreneur can make, and we’ve already benefitted greatly.

Chris Hopkinson of TaxScan – We received great feedback, were able to showcase TaxScan to a room of experienced entrepreneurs and found a potential investor. You can’t ask for much more than that from a pitch competition.

Joe Ordia of Ordia Solutions – The VC Entrepreneur Challenge was a great venue to meet some of the up-and-coming players in the DC-area entrepreneur community. Also, the exercise of condensing one’s pitch into a 5 minute presentation is a valuable exercise for any entrepreneur or sales professional.

Dede Haskins of InTouch Systems -  I thought it was an extremely well run event. We were particularly pleased with the number of angel investors and VCs who approached us with the desire to learn more about InTouch Systems.

Selected Questions & Answers with Conflicts Authority.

Q: How did you come up with the concept behind Conflicts Authority?
I was approached by a top legal librarian from one of the largest law firms in the country who stated that she spent over $2 million a year on conflicts checking with the dominant industry player. She was extremely dissatisfied with their accuracy, scope, service and “outrageous” price. She asked me to deliver a product that focused on the niche of conflicts checking and would meet the unmet needs in the marketplace. We subsequently hired an industry focus group of over 20 legal librarians to analyze the current marketplace and to make recommendations for a conflicts checking product and service.

Q: Could you tell us more about the various features of Conflicts Authority?
I spent close to 20 years developing trust within the legal and financial community by listening to and implementing customer feedback. We are following the feedback of the industry focus group in developing our online product “Affiliations One”. We will deliver unique data sets, accurate information, timely updates, easy to use intuitive search screens all coupled with top notch customer support.

Q: You participated in the largest event in the VC Elevator Pitch Series — the VC Entrepreneur Challenge. Do you feel that the process helped you to concentrate your business plan, concept, and pitch?
Yes. Most people can deliver a passionate description of their business idea and a long-winded summary of their product. I too know how to be verbose. The key is to deliver a concise clear statement (elevator message) without losing your audience. I have presented Conflicts Authority in different forums: 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 8 minutes…etc. The VC Elevator Pitch forced me to give a concise clear overview of the company in just 5 minutes. In that time, I covered the business overview, the management team, the industry challenge, our product and service, the market and competition, the customers, the financial projections, the future valuation for investors and the key take away parts. This exercise forced me to provide clear concise answers to all the basic questions we encounter.

Q: While there were many great concepts presented in the room March 6th, you were able to combine the necessary business plan facts and present them in an engaging and polished fashion. How were you able to give such an impeccable presentation?
A key in any presentation is to know your audience and deliver more than just an overview of your business idea. The judging panel consisted of key decision makers within the WDC Venture Capital community and there were additional Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors in the room. With this audience, we set out to deliver more than just an overview of our business. A goal was to present compelling and believable financial projections with a future valuation and exit strategy that would peak the financial interest of potential investors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mr. Right But

Here’s one for the record books. During a client meeting with ABC Organization, someone said the dreaded b-word, "but." A few colleagues made light fun of him…no big deal. (see blog entry Leave Your But’s Behind.)

Then, someone said, do you remember Jack (name changed)? Seeing the look of confusion on my face, it was explained that Jack started virtually every sentence with "right, but." Let me repeat, "right, but" was uttered before anything else!

Over time, Jack got the behind-your-back name of Mr. Right But.

I know that but is a difficult word to remove from our vocabularies. I had never met anyone so prolific in the use of what I term, the absolute worst word in the English language, for human interaction.

But is such an easy word to identify, both by tone of voice and actual usage. Similar words include on the other hand, however, and although.

Watch how your relationships improve, both personally and professionally, by replacing "but" or its equivalent with a "." (period) or "and."

Recently I was conducting a hands-on workshop for a wonderful group of sales professionals. One of the participants makes a lot of telephone calls as part of her responsibilities. We talked about how to combat the occasional, "I am in a funk and probably should not be making any calls mood."

Here are some suggestions I shared with her:

- Smile, even if you force yourself. Then work to make it a natural smile. This is sort of like stretching a muscle. With practice, it becomes easier.
- Put a small mirror by your desk or computer monitor. Look in the mirror before making or receiving a call. People can truly “hear” you smile
- Use pump up music to help you get into a super terrific fantastic awesome mood. Listen only to uplifting music that makes you feel good.
- Visit a web site that offers humorous articles, stories, or cartoons. Be sure that the web site follows your corporate website access policies.
- Visualize yourself at your favorite vacation spot. Close your eyes and imagine eating, drinking, relaxing, reading, etc. in a favorite spot. Be specific as you imagine.
- Take a walk to clear your head
- Exercise to relieve some stress at the gym or at your desk
- Eat at a favorite restaurant
- Meditate at your desk
- Do some yoga 
- Eat a favorite fruit snack, candy, or dessert
- Talk to a good friend whom you can count on to help put a smile on your face

"Humor has a significant impact in organizations. Humor isn’t incompatible with goals of the workplace. It’s not incompatible with the organization’s desire to be competitive. In fact, we argue that humor is pretty important. It’s not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded."

This is the finding by University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, Christopher Robert, assistant professor of management and presented by Science Daily.

"The conclusion was made by examining theories on humor and integrating literature from a wide variety of disciplines that touch on the subject. Several hundred sources were analyzed by Robert and collaborator Wan Yan, a business doctoral student, who have attempted to bring together literature from numerous disciplines to make the case that humor is serious business."

The study summary does not include the appropriate types of humor. My suggestion is to avoid political, sexual, most gender-biased, and religious humor.

Additional Resources

No Joke! The Workplace Needs a Good Laugh

Have a Funnier Day

I was visiting Guy Kawasaki’s blog the other day and came across Bert Decker’s "Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2007."

From Bert’s site, "This year’s List of Top Communicators highlights the best (and worst) from business, politics, entertainment and sports. Take a look to see how communications skills helped make or break these notable individuals."

He has a list of his top 10 best and top 10 worst, each with a little bit of commentary. And he ends the article, "So what do you think?" A good ending!

Here are the last three lists.
2005 List
2006 List
2007 List

Over the past few days I have been helping a CEO with an upcoming investment presentation. Carol expressed to me that she has some anxiety issues as she does not have full confidence in her abilities to wow the audience.

I shared with her several exercises to work on over the coming weeks. One of my favorite exercises to help her think faster on her feet, to be more creative, to build confidence, and to hone her presentation and communication skills is "1-2-5-10."

The idea is for you to, on-the-fly, create and deliver a one minute presentation. Then, using the same presentation information, expand it to two minutes, then five, then 10.

Here are the steps:
1. Wherever you are, look around, and take note of the first thing that grabs your attention. It could be a person, a gesture, a mark on the ground, a car, a color, a sound…you get the idea.
2. Think of the key thought that you want to communicate.
3. Make up a presentation on-the-fly about your key thought.
4. Talk for one minute. Fill the entire one minute!
5. Do the same presentation and expand it to two minutes.
6. Do the same presentation and expand it to five minutes.
7. Do the same presentation and expand it to 10 minutes.

If you do the 1-2-5-10 exercise regularly, you will feel the difference and realize the benefits. Practice presenting just as you would practice a musical instrument, a hobby, and a sport.

Here is a new one to add to the "congratulations, I have tons of money to give you, no obligation" scams. I literally just received the email a few minutes ago. It was so fresh in its approach, I was excited to read it from top to bottom

I looked for how they positioned the message, embedded the call-to-action, teased my curiosity, and of course, the word prose itself.

My grade: 
- 3 out of 4 stars for creativity
- They used Microsoft as the source–something new and fresh
- The language seemed technical enough, which improved the believability factor
- Address on the bottom is Microsoft’s
- Call-to-action was specific and did not require too much personal information. Just enough to show that you are interested…this is the hook!
- Prose was sound, with no obvious "I-am-from-a-foreign-country" bad grammar and spelling mistakes

Could be Improved:
- Microsoft would never use Bonanza. They always create clever and well-thought out campaigns
- Magnitude of the prize. 500,000 pounds sterling–never in a million years. 
- There are many more suggestions that could be shared and will not be for obvious reasons

*** Way to go spammers! Please continue to be more creative and clever so as to dupe more unsuspecting people into sharing their financial information.

Here is the highly offending email…

We are pleased to inform you of the results of the just concluded Microsoft® quarterly Promotions which drew your email address as one of the lucky winners of this quarter’s Platinum Vacation Trip Card.

Being one of the lucky winners of the Microsoft® Bonanza, you are therefore a recipient of the Platinum Vacation Trip Card which affords you the opportunity to tour round five major cities in Europe, America and Asia as a special vacation plan, arranged by Microsoft® Inc., your accommodation and feeding cost are all inclusive in your winning Platinum Vacation Trip Card.

The Vacation Platinum Card has an instant cash value of £525,000.00 GBP (Five Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand Pounds Sterling), which is redeemable in cash.

Winners can either redeem the Platinum Vacation Trip Card, to engage in the Microsoft® Inc. Round the world vacation trip, or its equivalent Cash amount of £525,000.00GBP.

All Email Addresses where collated from our world wide data base and other database like aol.com, yahoo etc, and electronically extrapolated, and after a random computerized ballot selection by our secure MICROSOFT® ORACLE DATA BASE raffle system, five MSN® Hotmail® email addresses emerged as the 2nd category lucky winners of this quarter MSN® Hotmail® Promo and 2 lucky winners from non MSN® Hotmail® email addresses in which your email address was randomly selected as one of the lucky winners.

To redeem your claims please contact any of the following Microsoft® Claims Redemption officer.

DIANE WHITMORE
PAUL ANDERSON
MSN CLAIMS REDEMPTION OFFICE.
Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way , Redmond , WA 98052-6399 .
Email: [omitted by us]
Personal Email: [omitted by us]

When you contact him/her, please provide him/her with your secret pin code
x7pwyz2007 & Ref: No: MSN/17336ITTL/GRCC/07. You are also advised to provide him/her with the under-listed information as soon as possible:

1. Name in full:
2. Address:
3. Nationality:
4. Age:
5. Occupation:
6. Phone/Fax:

Please endeavour to quote your Secret Pin Code & Reference number in all correspondence with the claims redemption officer and you are also strictly advised to keep your winning particulars from the public, until you have redeemed your claims.

Note: Do not write to this email account respond to the above mentioned officer.

On behalf of members and staff of Microsoft® Round Trip Promo.

Please accept my hearty congratulations.

Best Regards,

Ronda Shultz
Microsoft® Inc. Promo
© 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

About a month ago, TiE-DC and The Entrepreneur Center @ NVTC, brought together 10 early stage entrepreneurs for the “Venture Capital Entrepreneur Challenge.”

I had the pleasure and fortune to help eight of the companies hone and deliver their five-minute presentation pitches. As a TiE-DC partner, The Chief Storyteller holds quarterly “Get Funded: Design And Deliver The Perfect Investor Pitch” workshops for the approved companies a month in advance of the event.

I am proud of each presenter as they poured their hearts and minds into each pitch. They were fantastic! I look forward to hearing all about their successes in the coming months.

Find below a summary of the event with many of the notes coming from the TiE-DC summary.

 

The Challenge was “the first event of its kind in our area” and “it turned out some fierce competition among some of the Mid Atlantic’s top early-stage entrepreneurs before an audience of nearly 100 entrepreneurs and investors.”

“Brian Hayhurst from the Carlyle Group, Shan Nair from Nair & Co., and Jay Markey from Columbia Capital gave their frank analysis of the 5-minute pitches from each contestant over a 2-hour show before a rapt audience.”

“In the end, the $10,000 seed prize, sponsored by Carlyle Group and Nair & Co., was awarded to Chinedu Ekechukwu of Mwendo. His pitch and concept drew applause from the crowd and a running head-start for his budding company.” [some  notes from his interview below]

Comments From the "Venture Capital Entrepreneur Challenge" Presenting Companies


Preeti Gupta Shah of CopperPages
“This was a tremendous opportunity to receive feedback on my elevator pitch and to learn how other entrepreneurs structure their presentations. I flew in from California just for this event, then drove 8 hours from Jersey to attend, but I always make it a point to attend the
TIE-DC VC Pitch events because I find they give me a public presentation platform that I don’t get at other chapters.”

Cliff Krieg of Eye Q Development
“It was a good event! I look forward to the next one. There was good push back from the audience and the VC’s. TiE-DC did a great job organizing the event!”

Chris Hopkinson of TaxScan

“The VC Entrepreneur Challenge was a tremendous learning experience and invaluable opportunity for us to make our pitch and watch others present to a room of seasoned investors and entrepreneurs. The contacts made and momentum gained around our product will help propel us to thenext level.”

David Sherbow of MPTrax

“It wasa great opportunity for me. This was my third VC pitch event, and this is the one I took the most seriously. I appreciate the support of the TiE-DC staff in guiding me through the process. Both NVTC and TiE-DC were instrumental in putting me in the right state of mind
to present in front of an audience. My relationship with the organizations has encouraged me greatly, and I look forward to the TiECon in Boston."

Trevor Goss of Project Varsity

“The event last night was great, and our company had an excellent opportunity to get the word out on what we are doing. It was a good opportunity for our public debut. Getting the chance to talk to people in the venture capital area was a great experience as well.”

Tamer Ali of NewsPixx

“While I didn’t win in the pitch event, I met multiple VC’s from the audience who invited me to pitch their firms. This, like every one of my TiE-DC, experiences underlines my opinion that TiE-DC has been the most effective and rewarding affiliation I’ve made in the area. I welcome anyone to contact me if they seek my enthusiastic personal endorsement of TiE.”

Shazia Sami of ClickClang

“ClickClang was able to make strategic contacts through the TiE-DC VC pitch event and learned several key points to incorporate in future VC pitches. It was a great learning and marketing opportunity for us!”

————— Interview With The Winner, Chinedu Ekechukwu

Winner: Chinedu Ekechukwu of Mwendo. The three judges were unanimous in their decision to award Chinedu the top prize. A couple of things that Chinedu shared about passion, storytelling, and communication:

 

[TiE-DC] Q: How did you come up with the concept behind Mwendo?
[Chinedu Ekechukwu] A: It actually came about when a number of business school classmates and I attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah during the middle of winter and we stayed in this very pleasant log cabin. It turned out that an alumnus offered it to current students to rent. However, I wondered to myself how I could have discovered such lodgings on my own. So the concept blossomed from vacation home rentals to a full service “living arrangement marketing platform.”

[TiE-DC] Q: Has the "Perfecting the Pitch" workshop with Ira Koretsky improved the way you tell your business story?
[Chinedu Ekechukwu] A: Ira is incredible! He provided insight into how to keep the audience’s attention while presenting the facts in a succinct manner. He teaches a framework of storyboarding your
presentation, not unlike how an animator would do for a feature film. Very useful concepts.

[TiE-DC] Q: While there were many great concepts presented in the room yesterday, you were able to combine the necessary business plan facts and present them in an engaging and polished fashion. How
were you able to give such an impeccable presentation?
[Chinedu Ekechukwu] A: Well, I’ve worked in management consulting, so we regularly presented recommendations to clients. In business school, offering presentations are the norm. And I worked in marketing/strategy at Disney, so
everything including internal documents attempted to craft a story to convince superiors. Also, Ira’s tips were instrumental.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Are Your Phobias Today?

"This is very uncomfortable for me. Can you just ask me questions?" This is what a national book author (call her Rita) told me on our first telephone call today when I asked her to answer, "what do you do?" I am helping her package her passion into a compelling business story before she embarks on a book tour and the speaking circuit.

She is like thousands of people that I have met and observed over the years. Smart, insightful, witty, and personable. That’s Rita and that’s a good description of the average business professional.

Years ago I would have been surprised to learn that a 52 year old sales professional was nervous at networking events or a many-times published PhD stomach knotted up when giving a presentation. Today, I can say without any hesitation that age, experience, education, skills, and background have little or no influence on the average person’s level of confidence. (The why’s and how’s are not included in this blog entry).

Personal evidence shows clearly that CONFIDENCE is the #1 obstacle to being the best communicator one can be. Confidence in one’s story, confidence in one’s ability to deliver the story, and confidence in one’s skills to be compelling and engaging are top of mind for many professionals.

When Rita and I were talking further about confidence and how to overcome her concerns, somehow the topic of phobias popped up. I thought to share with her that there are hundreds of phobias. The largest grouping of related phobias focus on communication-related topics. My message to Rita was that a positive frame of mind, an incremental approach to change, a sound story, and ample practice will absolutely allow her to overcome her lack of confidence.

Out of curiosity, Rita asked what were the phobias. So, I thought to share with you my non-scientific grouping of phobias from several Internet sources. From more than 400 listed, here are the communication-related phobias and their brief definitions.

Agoraphobia – Fear of inability or expected difficulty to escape a situation

Allodoxaphobia/Alliumphobia – Fear of opinions

Cenophobia – Fear of new things or ideas

Criticophobia – Fear critics or criticism

Decidophobia – Fear of making decisions

Demophobia / Ochlophobia – Fear of crowds

Euphobia – Fear of hearing good news

Geliophobia – Fear of laughter

Glossophobia – Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak

Gnosiophobia – Fear of knowledge

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – Fear of long words

Hypengyophobia – Fear of responsibility

Kainolophobia – Fear of anything new, novelty

Kakorraphiaphobia – Fear of failure or defeat

Katagelophobia – Fear of ridicule/embarrassment

Laliophobia/Lalophobia – Fear of public speaking

Ligyrophobia – Fear of loud noises

Logophobia – Fear of words

Mythophobia – Fear of myths or stories or false statements

Ophthalmophobia – Fear of being stared at

Topophobia – Fear of certain places or situations, such as stage fright

Tropophobia – Fear of change

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