Carmine Gallo, Communications Skills Coach, Keynote Speaker, Author of Fire Them Up!
The majority of presentations are dull, boring and confusing. But they do not have to be. Your presentations can stand apart, inspiring your audiences and persuading them to take a desired action. You can acquire the ability to inspire, influence and electrify your listeners, if you master the language of motivation.
As a communication skills coach for the world’s most admired brands, I have found that anyone can improve the quality of their presentations (both live and online) by identifying those skills shared by inspiring presenters—techniques consistent throughout the ages but adapted to fit the needs of our multi-media society.
For two years, researchers at Gallo Communications Group spent countless hours interviewing and analyzing men and women who are considered the most inspiring presenters in the corporate world today. The result is Fire Them Up! 7 Simple Secrets to Inspire Your Colleagues, Customers and Clients. Business leaders who participated in the content run top companies, including Apple, Google, Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton and many others.
Based on that research, this white paper identifies the specific techniques common to all inspiring communicators and provides tools and tips to help you craft presentations that will wow any audience.
Here are the 7 keys to inspiring your listeners, each of which will be discussed in the following pages:
I Ignite Your Enthusiasm
N Navigate the Way
S Sell the Benefit
P Paint a Picture
I Invite Participation
R Reinforce Optimism
E Encourage Potential
Why Study Motivation?
Any event in which communication takes place for the purpose of persuasion is a presentation and an opportunity to inspire your audience. Among them:
PowerPoint (or Keynote) Presentations. More than 40 million PowerPoint® presentations are conducted every day. When used incorrectly, PowerPoint muddles the message and hinders learning. When used effectively, however, PowerPoint is a compelling multi-media tool to complement the 21st-century presenter.
Webinars. The growth of Webinars is staggering. More companies are using the interactive Web to engage their employees and customers. Webinars require the same skills as face-to-face group presentations, but because of the nature of the medium, successful online presenters adopt the skills of outstanding television personalities.
Podcasts. Audio podcasts are similar to Webinars but without the visual component. This requires another layer of skill to grab and maintain the attention of your listeners.
Staff Meetings. Few people look forward to staff meetings. However, effective leaders can turn meetings into powerful motivational tools.
Sales Pitches. A sales pitch (or any customer/client interaction) requires inspiration in order to be successful. Customers need to make an emotional investment in the person before they buy their product.
Inspiration can take place at any of these events. You have the ability to create and deliver astonishing presentations by mastering the language of the world’s most persuasive leaders, entrepreneurs and educators. The following seven techniques hold the key to selling yourself, your vision and your values to everyone within your sphere of influence. Now get ready to INSPIRE!
Ignite Your Enthusiasm
“When you’re surrounded by people who share a collective passion around a common purpose, there is no telling what you can accomplish.” – Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
You cannot inspire unless you are inspired yourself. The world’s most electrifying presenters are abundantly passionate about their message.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, uses the word “passion” in most of his presentations. But what do you think he’s passionate about? Coffee? He loves coffee, but he’s passionate about creating a workplace that treats people with dignity and respect—that’s the message he repeats consistently in presentations, Webinars, staff meetings and television interviews. The lesson—dig deep to identify your true passion. You will soon realize that it is not your product that excites you, but how that product improves the lives of your customers.
Demonstrate your passion through the words you use. Apple CEO Steve Jobs was considered one of the most electrifying communicators today. In every presentation, he demonstrated his excitement by saying things like:
• “We’re going to show you some amazing stuff…”
• “This is an awesome computer.”
• “This is one of the coolest things we’ve done.”
• “We’re so excited to show you this. It’s incredible.”
Of course, you must be careful about engaging in hyperbole. Contemporary audiences know when they are being misled. Doing so will lose their respect and they will tune out. But your listeners will give you permission to have fun and demonstrate the passion you have for your product, service or company. If you’re not passionate about it, nobody else will be!
Passion and energy are closely related. Without passion you have no energy and you will fail to connect to your listeners. But how do you know when you’ve tapped into your passion? In Make the Impossible Possible, Bill Stickland writes, “If you’re paying attention, the things you are passionate about won’t leave you alone. They are the hopes, ideas and possibilities that consume your mind.” Share the ideas that consume your mind. Passion is everything.
Navigate the Way
“A leader succeeds only when they find a way to make people excited and confident in what comes next.” – Marcus Buckingham
Inspiring leaders navigate the way by outlining a clear, concise and compelling vision that is no longer than ten words. Why ten words? Listen to the story one top investor offered in Fire Them Up:
“Imagine sitting in our offices when two young college grads walked in and asked for money. Sergey Brin and Larry Page had no business experience and no track record of success in starting companies; but they had offered something even more powerful: a one-line vision. Brin and Page told us, ‘Google delivers the world’s information in one click.’ That was it. We got it immediately and put our money behind a company called Google.”
Today, if you pitch your company to Sequoia Capital, they will ask for a “one liner.” As one investor put it, “If you can’t describe what you do in ten words or less, I’m not buying, I’m not investing, I’m not interested. Period.”
Articulating a one-line vision is important to set the stage for your presentations. When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone at Macworld in January 2007, he began by saying, “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” This eight-word vision offered a roadmap for listeners and foreshadowed the big announcement. At Macworld 2008, Jobs opened the presentation by saying, “There is something in the air today.” That “something” would turn out to be the ultra-thin notebook computer called MacBook Air.
Do not confuse a vision with a mission statement. A mission statement is a long, convoluted paragraph, typically created by committee and destined to be largely forgotten by everyone in the organization. A vision is a brief description of a better future made possible by your product or service. Present your vision, not your mission.
Sell the Benefit
“Nothing is so complex that it cannot be explained simply.” – Albert Einstein
It’s not about you. It’s about them. During your presentation, your listeners are asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” Inspiring communicators answer that question. They don’t leave the audience guessing.
Sell the benefit of your product or service by flipping the conversation around. Instead of starting with a description of a product’s features, begin the discussion by addressing the needs (or pain points) of the customer. Here is an example: Imagine walking into an electronics store and asking about notebook computers. The first scenario is all too typical.
Scenario 1: Uninspiring and Ineffective
Customer: Hi, I’m looking for a salesperson to assist me in buying a notebook computer.
Salesperson: Okay (clearly disinterested).
Customer: Well, I’m looking for a small, lightweight notebook that still packs a lot of features and a CD/DVD drive.
Salesperson: You should buy a system with Intel® Dual-Core.
Salesperson: Because it has two performance engines that simultaneously process data at a faster rate.
Customer: Um, okay. Maybe I should look somewhere else.
Now let’s shift the conversation by selling the benefit right out of the gate.
Scenario 2: Inspiring and Engaging
Salesperson: Hi, how can I help you?
Customer: I’m looking for a notebook computer.
Salesperson: We have a huge selection of systems that are blazingly fast. Is this for home or business?
Customer: Primarily business, so it needs to be lightweight. But I also watch movies on the plane so I’d like to make sure it has an internal CD/DVD player.
Salesperson: Based on your need, I would recommend a system with an Intel dual-core chip inside. Here’s why. A dual-core processor is like having two brains in one computer. That means you can do a lot of fun and productive stuff at the same time. For example, you can download music while your computer is running a virus scan in the background and it won’t slow down. Your movies will play better and your business applications will load in a flash.
Customer: Sounds great. Please show me some models.
What’s the difference? The salesman in the first scenario is disengaged, uses jargon and is highly technical. The second salesman succeeds because he applies the product to the customer’s life. He sells the benefit. In pitches, presentations or Webinars, ask yourself “Why should my audience care?” Don’t leave them guessing.
Paint a Picture
“The key to garnering a following is the effective communication of a story.” – Howard Gardner Storytelling is underappreciated as a tool to create inspiring presentations. Your listeners may not remember all the facts you deliver, but they will retain 100% of what they feel. Tell stories—personal anecdotes or customer case studies—to make that emotional connection.
Recently I worked with one of the largest producers of organic food in the United States. I cannot recall the data they used to argue that organic is better than conventionally grown food. However, I do remember a story. A farmer turned to me and said,
“Carmine, when I used to work for a conventional farm I would go home and of course my kids would want me to pick them up. I couldn’t because I had to take a shower and my clothes had to be cleaned and disinfected. Today, I can walk right off field and into the waiting arms of my kids because there is nothing on my body that will harm them.”
This story takes about thirty seconds to tell but replaces mountains of data. Facts and figures must be used as supporting points for a persuasive presentation. But your listeners will remember the stories you tell. A short, personal story about yourself or how your product helped a client overcome a problem will leave a profound impact on your listeners. Tell stories to make your presentation more memorable.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
Good leaders are great listeners. But inspiring communicators take it one step further. They actively solicit feedback, incorporate what they hear into their presentations and recognize individuals for their contribution.
Marissa Mayer is the Vice President of Search Products for Google. Every day at 4:00 PM, she holds “office hours.” Employees can sign their name on a sheet outside her office and openly speak their mind for fifteen minutes, either to express opinions about current projects or to pitch a new idea. According to Mayer, young people want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work has meaning and that their opinions are being heard.
One way of inviting participation is by inviting partners or employees to “share the stage” with you, in person or virtually. Steve Jobs rarely gave a product presentation without inviting partners to say a few words. Cisco CEO John Chambers makes it a point of acknowledging employees in the audience to discuss their role in product development.
In presentations discuss the role your colleagues, employees or partners played in creating the product or service. Whenever possible, invite them to join you on stage or to speak during the Webinar. Your customers want to feel as though you are listening to their concerns and acting on their input. They also want to know that you and your colleagues work effectively together as a team. Inviting participation will prove it.
“Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation.” – Robert Noyce, Intel Co-founder
Extraordinary leaders are more optimistic than the average person. They exude hope and confidence in the most challenging circumstances. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind President Ronald Reagan’s charisma. That’s the point. Optimistic individuals are considered charismatic. Charisma is a key ingredient fueling your power to influence your audience.
During the darkest days of World War II, Winston Churchill rallied the British people despite formidable odds. His optimism was legendary. Churchill proved that with the right leadership, men and women can be inspired to greatness in difficult times. Members of Churchill’s wartime Cabinet said his words and attitude made people feel braver in his presence. Use your words to make people feel ready to tackle the toughest challenges. Be a beacon of hope. Here are several ways to radiate hope and confidence in your presentations:
Don’t hide the facts. Inspiring communicators do not hide behind fuzzy, ambiguous language. Your employees and customers can take the truth if you give it to them. But if you sugarcoat the facts, they won’t believe another word.
Radiate confidence. Moods are contagious. Sigal Barsade, a Wharton management professor who has done extensive work in the field of organizational behavior, explains that emotions travel from person to person like a virus. According to a study she co-authored titled, “Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations?” people are not emotional islands, and their moods rub off on everyone else. A negative mood can contaminate the entire workplace, but a smile and cheerful disposition can raise everyone’s energy.
Use an active voice. In the active voice, the subject performs the action expressed in the verb. It adds trust and gives the audience confidence in the speaker.
Passive expression: These rumors may have been started by competitors and will be laid to rest by us.
Active: Competitors started the rumors. We will put them to rest.
Anything is possible when you fill the hearts and minds of your listeners with encouragement. The future is too bright to communicate anything less than relentless optimism.
“Lavish praise on people and they will flourish; criticize and they shrivel up.” – Richard Branson
Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Effective praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they’ll walk through walls for you.
According to a Martiz Research poll, only 10% of employees look forward to their jobs. The other 90% cite a lack of leadership as the reason for their discouragement. Encouragement is critically important for presentations to internal audiences. Your employees are hungry for recognition. Praise fills their emotional tanks. According to Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell one of the most powerful motivators is local fame. People want to be recognized for their accomplishments…publicly!
Inspiring leaders publicly celebrate the accomplishments of their team. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he asked each member of the team to stand. He thanked them for spending two years on the project, and even thanked the spouses and significant others for supporting them in that time. How do you think his employees would have felt if he had taken all the credit? It would have been demoralizing.
Be the voice that guides others. Believe in people, encourage their potential, and inspire them to live the best life possible.
Your New Title: Chief Inspiration Officer
You will never be recognized as a true leader unless you inspire the people around you. Use presentations to tell an inspiring story behind your brand. Once you do, your influence will be magnified enormously. Imagine what your life will be like when customers want to buy from you, investors want to back you, employees want to work for you, and everyone is energized by your presence. Be astonishing. Be electrifying. Use your presentations to inspire your audience and to change the world!
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