August 24, 2010
Never have a meeting or make a presentation without doing your homework.
What is your homework? Context. This is a habit I developed at Yahoo!, and recommend to everyone I know. When you are going to make a sales call or take a meeting with a new company/person - do some background research so you know the context of the situation.
For example, at Yahoo!, every time we'd engage with a new prospect, we'd fully research their history (via Hoovers, stock ticker, their website), news coverage of the company, bios of individuals in the meeting and the competitive landscape. I'd budget about three hours for a thirty minute meeting. I'd combine all the research into a 'parse' - short for a parsed up brief of the company and participants in the meeting.
The point wasn't being a know-it-all, it was about knowing the context so I could tailor my remarks or presentation to the situation. After a while, I started to send the parse to my contact at the prospect company to see if I got it right. You'd be surprised that in many situations, my contact didn't know half of that I'd dug up! In every case, my confidence was higher because I had the power of knowledge.
Same goes with any presentation. Always research your audience: Their emotions, the context they are working in, their competitive situation and trends in the industry that impact them. Show up the night before and talk to your future audience to verify your understanding. The most important piece of intel to gather is the business model they're operating under, and where their upside and leakage occurs. This information allows you to point remarks to action items that make a difference. This will dramatically improve the effectiveness of any presentation you make.
August 17, 2010
If you want to perform at the highest level, do just one thing at a time.
Today I had a very successful speech at a financial services conference. For the last 48 hours, it was all I thought about. I didn't blog yesterday, my few tweets were actually part of today's talk (making it connected) and I didn't work on any other projects.
As you know, I'm writing a new book and have a training business too - It's easy to fall into the multi-tasker's trap, seducing myself into believing I can excel at all - at the same time. To be effective, I need to focus on the thing on deck, and wall out any other opportunities (distractions with upside). I didn't check my email this AM, and poured all my focus in final rehearsal steps ... then execution took care of itself.
Now that I'm done, I'll focus the rest of today on one thing - editing a piece of my new book. That's it. For authors, I cringe when they tell me they are carving out an hour or two every day to write. It's not a winning strategy for ultra-high performance. David Lynch once said that "it takes at least four hours to get one creative hour of work done." True. When I write, I block out a unit (1/2 a day) and wall out any other distractions. Eventually, my subconscious rewards me with insight, which helps the final product sing.
Try this starting with your next important performance (speech, sales pitch, what ever). Don't try and balance it between other tasks. Really, you aren't that good, I know I'm not. You might say, "well, my kid can email, text, watch TV, listen to music, talk to his friends and still finish his homework." To that I say, he's been doing it his whole life (unlike you) and he's not performing as well as he would if he applied single tasking focus to his studies.
August 03, 2010
Last week I had an inspiring lunch with comic Kyle Cease.
He's recently come into my life via a Lovecat introduction by radio personality BJ Shea. Immediately, Kyle and I hit it off, exchanging stories and tips. There's just something about how breaking bread brings out rich dialogue and useful information.
Kyle's had great success, producing one of the top Comedy Central TV specials in the last five years and continuing to 'kill it' for audiences throughout North America. One of his success secrets really resonated with me.
"I don't tell jokes to a group of people," he said. "I tell them to individual people in the audience."
"I can see how that works in a comedy club, but how do you do that on TV?" I asked.
"It's about the person you have in your mind. Your perfect audience member. On TV, I look through the camera and into the mind of the person I'm trying to connect with."
Makes total sense to me. It's more than eye contact, it's intentional contact on an individual basis. A great speaker, comedian or performer gives his/her audience the individual feeling of receiving a gift. This helps the performance touch people on a personal basis. It drives Kyle to remain conversational, just like he's talking to friend or lunch companion.
Talk to an audience like a group, and they'll act like a group: Collectively groaning or clapping at certain points. Treat them like individuals and they'll act like people. They'll recall your jokes, how they made them feel and they'll tell all their friends about you. A standing ovation comes from an intense connection with a few people, hopefully close to the front, that leap to their feet - inspiring the rest of the 'group' to follow.
TAKEAWAY: Next time you give any type of performance, first lock into the person you imagine you are giving it to. Find some anchors in the room if it's small (a few faces that fit that profile) and speak to them like you'd talk to someone over dinner. As Nick Morgan would say, "you don't make a presentation. you give a speech!"
May 24, 2010
Here's a tip from Nick Morgan: Rehearse your speech the day you give it.
That's right, no matter what time you are going to speak, budget time for a full run through. In many cases, you don't have access to the room or the talk kicks off the day at 8:00. That is no excuse, just a challenge.
For the last few years, I've taken this advice to heart, and whenever I do this I am always more prepared. In many cases, this means that I get up at 5:30am, get ready and give the run through right up to the 7am sound check. It's not easy, and requires going to bed early the night before, but it is worth it. PS - Always give the speech into the mirror, making eye contact with yourself. This technique will also help you make quick adjustments to the talk as your subconscious mind will play audience or critic.
This is especially true if this is a new talk, contains one of a kind content or is being tailored to a unique audience. No amount of mental run throughs will ever replace a real talk through when it comes to getting these word right. If you have already given your talk once, then during your second run through (the actual presentation), your reptilian brain will be available to observe the audience reaction - instead of trying to think about what you'll say next.
Visit the new TimSanders.com to see my latest video clips!
May 10, 2010
A well rehearsed person is a prepared person.
This mantra applies to any type of human performance: Conversation, presentation, task completion, ideation session, customer meeting or demonstration. The trick, though, is to actually rehearse under real-world conditions. Sure, you may conjure up a crowd of insiders to pose as the audience or environment and sometimes they pepper you with distractions to see if you can weather them. Mostly, though, the real distractions on game-day leave you ill prepared, knocking you out of your groove.
You shrug your shoulders and say to yourself, "there's not way to create the real distractions I'll likely face, so I'll deal with them as they come up the best way I can." Hmmm, doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me! Instead, let me offer an obvious but helpful solution -- Practice dealing with distractions in your regular life.
For example, you are on a crowded plane, trying to answer your emails (or write a blog post for later). A baby across the aisle is screeching and a grammar school brat behind you is kicking your chair. Breathe deeply, and continue you work. Don't cheat and put on headphones, you don't get to do that in your 'performance life.' Tune out the noise and the back of your seat and defiantly tune into your task at hand - creative typing.
At first, you'll find it a bit unnerving, trying to do two things at once. Soon, your 2nd brain (the reptilian brain) will take over the task of filtering out stimuli, while your 1st brain resumes your task of tapping out ideas on your keyboard. Try this exercise every time you are faced with a highly distracting environment and it will become 2nd nature to you. Then, when you are actually giving that presentation at work and someone is checking his blackberry, another person's phone is going off and there's a fire engine siren blaring on the street -- you'll tune it all out and make a stellar presentation.
In his fabulous book, The Power Of Now, uber-guide Eckhart Tolle says that distracting noises irritate us because we have a wall that catches them (our attention). Instead, he offers, "let the baby's cries pass right through you, no wall to catch them." Much like you learn to deal with pain at the dentist's office, you can over time deal with distractions in your life.
As a professional speaker, my life is filled with distractions that can either take away from my focus (as well as my audience's) or just pass through us unnoticed. I've had gun shot sounds in Bogota, a fire alarm go off at a hotel in Las Vegas and multiple phones ring during the key moment of my signature story. I was blissfully unfocused on all of them. But it required some exercise!
The added benefit to this strategy is an improved quality of life. Up until now, daily distractions (crying babies, ringing cell phones, loud noises, rude people) are a source of anxiety and irritation in your life. Being interrupted in a task creates what psychotherapists call "decision shift," a stressor that can lead to depression and anger. By looking at distraction as an opportunity to rehearse, instead of an annoyance, you are transmuting it from a problem into a solution. Now, as I travel and attempt to write, the same annoyances that make every one around me c-r-a-z-y just make me smile, bear down, and take in a very necessary distraction-rehearsal session.
For more on this topic, read: The Value Of Rehearsing
April 19, 2010
Many of you give presentations, be they for work or in the community.
Regardless of what kind of presentation you give, you need to focus on:
1. People (Your audience, and why you care deeply about them) - How can you 'give' a presentation if you are not connected with your audience?
2. Purpose (Why are you there? What is the desired outcome of your talk?)
3. Punchline (Can you summarize your talk in less than 30 seconds?)
Here's a video I shot in Bogota last week about this subject. You'll note, at the end, the meeting manager gives a testimony about the talk's effectiveness. You'll see how important those 3 P's were to him. Bring me in to talk with your group too!
March 09, 2010
Every great speech that changes the world makes one point and makes it very well.
When you add a second, third or fourth major point to a talk, you make it hard to follow and cut down the results. When I say "one point" what I mean is that your talk can be summed up in a sentence which reflects the premise of your talk.
Both of my talks this week sold this point: Your network is your net worth, so make relationship development a top priority. If I add, and be emotionally talented or green to it, the whole thing begins to lose its clarity. As Nick Morgan taught me, "write your speech along the spine of a single archetypal story that people understand - and they'll be moved to action."
When you have an hour or two to talk, it is SO tempting to cover two or three major subjects, linking them together like a standup comedian links bits together. But the difference is that speeches change the world and standups make you laugh. One is about audience action the other is audience entertainment.
You may have a few points (2 to 4) that are sub-points that build up to your conclusion, but they are part of the major point. For example, my relationship talk followed this path:
1. Relationships are rocket fuel for success
2. They are built based on your emotional value proposition, your relevance and the situation you are in.
3. To develop relationships, be helpful and generous. This can overcome even the worst relationship situations.
(Premise - Insight - Advice)
Read Nick Morgan's Give Your Speech, Change the World
March 04, 2010
If you live in greater Seattle, I'll be giving a talk at a public conference titled "New Economy Winners Summit" - Thanks to John Chen for putting this together. I love to visit Seattle, and I'm excited to get a chance to connect via a live event next Tuesday night.
My subject: Power To The People - I'll share my point of view that people are the most important element in business, and deserves our total focus and dedication. It's easy to objectify people, treating them like statistics or stuff. This will not work in the highly networked world we live in. I'll share tips on People Skills That Build Relationships, The People Centered Business Model and Harnessing The Power Of One person.
I hope to see you there and if you know anyone in Seattle, please pass this on via social media, email or word-of-mouth.
December 08, 2009
If you live in the greater Chicago area, I'll be giving a rare public talk next Tuesday morning in Oak Brook at the Hyatt Lodge in Chicago. It's an early event: 6:45-8:45am.The event is hosted as part of the Executives Breakfast Club series. Visit the Executive Breakfast Club program page for more information on future speakers and events.
If you'd like to attend, send me a note OR visit the Executive Breakfast Club site (call the phone number). The cost to attend is $50.00, which also includes breakfast. The regular price is $70.00, but if you indicate you are my guest you'll get the special rate!
December 03, 2009
A few years ago, I read Benjamin & Roz Zander's book The Art Of Possibility.
Today, that book is still in my all-time Top 20 list. It's point of view was powerful: Find passion in the possibilities. Be bold in your abundance. In 2004, I met Ben Zander while speaking at a leadership conference in the United Kingdom. I was the opening keynote, he was the closer.
As the conductor of the world famous Boston Philharmonic, Zander has applicable leadership expertise that would help all of us. In his talk, though, he goes beyond the conducting-metaphor. He doesn't connect your leadership life to a metaphor (music, war, sports, etc.) -- he transforms you with his unique point of view. He's famous for getting audiences of all sizes and types in on the action. By the end of his closing keynote, he had three thousand people on their feet -- conducting with him.
Thanks to reader C.A. Hurst, here's a clip of Zander at the 2009 Ted Conference: Benajmin Zander on Music and Passion