Speaking to Customers

Presentation Lessons from the Mad Men Board Room

This is a guest post from Cable.tv's Roger Kethcart. Mad MenThe most difficult part of an advertiser's job isn't coming up with game-changing, original ideas. That's what they do day in and day out. The most difficult part is selling those ideas to clients—or, the pitch.

Advertisers have to be on their A-game when pitching to a client. In a short period of time they must not only captivate the client, but also make their idea better than the competition's. Hit a home run and they win the client. Miss, and they are sent home with their tails between their legs.

Though the stakes may not always be as high, anyone who is presenting an idea to an audience is essentially doing what the ad men are: selling an idea to an audience. So whether you're presenting on financial upticks over the last fiscal quarter or pitching a new product line to potential investors, here are some lessons from the board room of AMC's Mad Men that you can apply to your own presentations.

Prepare for Your Presentation

Don Draper, the principal pitcher on Mad Men, likes to shoot off the cuff, spending little time preparing and practicing for his client presentations. In fact, he often forgets when he is even meeting with clients. But he, in his Hollywood enhanced glory, is the exception.

Most of us wouldn't see the same success if we followed in Don's footsteps when it comes to prep time. Most people in the real world agree that a presentation should be rehearsed several times, just not so many that it seems rehearsed. Having run through the presentation at least a few times helps to bring your ideas to the forefront of your consciousness, allowing you to remain focused and continue if there are any surprises or distractions.

It is also recommended that when dealing with nerves you don't resort to alcohol or drugs to combat them. It goes without saying these influencers can have a dramatically negative impact on your presentation. It might have flown in the 60s, but certainly wouldn’t be seen as professional today.

Speak Eloquently

Eloquence in speech is one of those things that is hard to define, but you know it when you hear it. The right words and the right timing working in harmony contribute to powerful, eloquent speech that is capable of moving an audience to tears or firing them up for action.

A great example of eloquent speech is observed when Don presents Kodak with a name pitch for their new slide projector. His presentation literally leaves the clients speechless, but in a good way. Even after he is done speaking, his profound words linger in their consciousness.

One will observe the specific timing and words chosen during the presentation. Don's words reach deep into the soul, drawing out memories of comforting nostalgia. And his rhythmic cadence with deliberate pauses allows his audience to "feel" what he's saying, giving them time to process and marinate the words.

In addition to Don's presentations, there are many other resources out there to help you speak more eloquently. A quick internet search will yield hundreds of helpful tips.

Have Confidence in Yourself

Confidence plays a big part in establishing credibility and gaining your audience's trust. Look confident and you'll quickly look like someone who knows what they're talking about. Speak with conviction and your audience will also have confidence in what you're saying.

This is also where body language comes into play. Stand up straight and look the audience in the eye and you'll radiate confidence. Your audience will find it more difficult to listen to you if you slouch and look down at your notes the whole time.

How well prepared you are and how well you "know" your idea can also impact how confident you are. Preparing for and facing objections and sticking by your words shows passion and helps to persuade those who would normally stand unwavering. Don does just this despite second thoughts from an unsure client in this clip.

While you may not frequent any ad industry board rooms any time soon, chances are you will have to give a presentation of your own at some point in time. Take it from Don and remember to prepare for your presentation and exude eloquence and confidence while giving it, and you'll be able to sell your ideas to any audience.

Get Your Morning Mojo and Communicate with Impact

I spoke at the Morning Mojo networking group held at Citibank about Communicating with Impact. Business is not about the numbers. Business is about communication and the numbers simply reflect how well you communicate. Watch this short video segment to learn how to communicate with impact. http://youtu.be/S8HnrGcF6oY

Adrian Miller Speaks About Growing Your Business

Adrian Miller rocked the audience this morning when she gave a knockout presentation entitled 4 1/2 Ways To Grow Your Business. As a public speaker Adrian was dynamic, pragmatic, and drove home her message with humor. Her tips for increasing sales were appropriate for public speaking and giving presentations. Her 4 1/2 tips included:

1. Be Different 2. Stay on the Grid 3.Qualify 4.Probe 4 1/2. Quantify everything

So how does this relate to presentations? Speakers who are different are memorable. But being memorable isn't enough. You must stay on the grid. Speakers can stay front of mind by sharing ideas and information that add value to their customers and audience. It's important to qualify the audience by conducting a listener profile. The more you know about the audience the more effective the presentation will be. This involves the use of probing skills prior to the presentation. But masterful presenters probe the audience during the presentation by taking a quick poll to create engagement. Finally, be sure to survey the audience so you can quantify results. You may have a good feeling about your speech but don't rely on gut feelings. To measure your speaking performance it's better to compile audience comments and a numerical rating scale.That kind of process will give any public speaker real time data that can be quantified.

So why did Adrian give 4 /12 tips? To be different! Weren't you curious about the 1/2 tip? What have you done as a presenter to differentiate yourself from other public speakers?





Are You Overshadowed in Meetings?

Renee was a young associate for a marketing research company; it was her first job. She was smart but soft-spoken. Renee's manager frequently interrupted and dominated meetings, and wouldn't allow Renee to lead a meeting in her absence...

Coffee, Tea, Don't Bother Me

I'm about to hit a triple header with this blog post. Hopefully, this will be my last post about airlines. On the first leg of my journey from Newark airport to Hilton Head, South Carolina,  the pilot announced that we would be arriving late. Knowing I had a tight connection in Charlotte I was concerned that I could miss my next flight. It would board in thirty minutes and the plane  I was on was a one hour flight.

I approached the flight attendant in the back.  I showed her my ticket and made a request. "Would you announce that the connecting passengers will deplane first?"

She looked at my ticket and said, "It doesn't leave for an hour. You'll be fine."

"But the pilot said we'd be late," I countered.  I had heard other airlines make this kind of announcement in the past.

"Oh they wouldn't listen, " she volleyed back. I persisted and finally she admitted that they were not authorized to make the announcement. "That would have to come from the lead attendant. We could ask her but that doesn't mean she would do it."

To make a long story short, they didn't make the announcement. I doubt that she approached the lead attendant. The good news is once we were in the air, the pilot announced that we would be arriving early.  Even so, I now  had a negative impression of these flight attendants and the airline.  They couldn't be bothered with my needs even though I was a customer.

Whether you speak to one or one thousand, your audience is your customer. What kind of message are you sending them? When they ask a question, you don't say "I don't know." You say, "I don't know. Let me get back to you."  When your audience is physically uncomfortable, you take a moment and adjust the thermostat. If you're talking to scientists you don't give your typical sales pitch. You provide them with the data and studies they value and respect.  When you sense the audience is bored, you don't keep yammering on.  You check in, ask questions, start a discussion or take a break. If a layoff was just announced before your presentation, you don't do your happy dance. You acknowledge the elephant in the room, let them vent for a few minutes and then begin your talk.

As presenters, we are all in the business of serving customers.  We set the tone. When you come from a place of service you communicate that you care.  Take care of your audience and they will take care of you.

What Presenters Can Learn Not to Do from the Airlines

The other day I was on my way to Hilton Head South Carolina. I boarded the airline which was on time. I sat back in my seat awaiting the usual safety drill. The attendant ended the announcement with "This is a no smoking no complaining flight. If you complain you'll be the entertainment - outside gone with the wind."

There was some knee jerk laughter and then the message set in. Ouch! The real message was "Don't mess with us. We're not putting up with nonsense." Not exactly warm and welcoming.

What kind of tone do you set when you begin your presentation? Do people feel that you're glad to be there? Humor is a great ice-breaker when used appropriately. But when used to couch a threat the atmosphere can quickly turn negative.

By all means let the audience know your expectations and use humor to engage and drive home the learning points. Otherwise, your message could end up blowing in the wind.

Even Dry Cleaners Give Business Presentations

This morning I dropped by the dry cleaners to pick up my clothing. As I handed her the ticket, she gave me my dry cleaning and then asked me a question. "Do you send out your husbands shirts?" "No," I told her. "He's retired. He doesn't wear shirts." She smiled as she explained in her accented English, "Oh I was just trying to..." I supplied the word she was searching for. "Upsell?" "Yes," she said. "Well my husband only wears golf shirts. But very good marketing. If we ever have a wedding to go to I'll bring in his shirt." We both had a good laugh.

But the laugh is really on business owners who don't see an opportunity and follow up. This woman realized that a presentation doesn't end when there is an exchange of money. The presentation lives on as you continue the dialog.

Even the post office now asks if you want stamps, mailers, or other supplies. The way you approach a customer is a presentation-from the greeting and smile, to the conversational interaction, to the thank you, to the upsell. Just like any presentation there is a beginning, middle and an end.

Unfortunately, not everybody gets beyond the first presentation.

Did BP's Chairman Diss the American People?

Carl-Henric Svanberg, Swedish Chair of BP was blasted for his comment about "small people".Here is what he said:

..."He's frustrated because he cares about the small people and we care about the small people. "I hear comments sometime that large oil companies or greedy companies that don't care but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people."

Had this been said by an American it would have been condescending;however, Mr. Svanberg is Swedish. English is a second language. He was referring to President Obama's frustration about the impact on the people in the Gulf area and he was saying that he shares his frustration and concern for the people.

When it comes to communication, there is a sender and a receiver, an intention and an effect. My belief is that Mr. Svanberg's intention was to show concern for the common man and to convey that they are sorry for the oil spill and it's impact.

The effect was to trigger emotion and a feeling that he was talking down to the citizens. Two words-"small people"caused this reaction. And that is the power of language. Language and culture don't always translate. When the Chevy Nova was introduced in Mexico it didn't sell. NOVA in Spanish translated into" No Go".

It would have been more effective if the Chairman had used the terms, American people, people in the gulf region, or the workers. When listening to words we also need to listen for intention. And when somebody is speaking a foreign language, understand that there will be miscommunication.


Shame On Nike

After seeing the Nike commercial of Tiger Woods several times I started thinking about the impact on you- the audience and what that means for your presentations. The pundits loved the ad. They thought it was a piece of brilliant advertising. I did not! Am I alone in this opinion? Here's how that ad impacted me. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NTRvlrP2NU]

I thought it was manipulative, contrived,and downright creepy to hear the voice of Earl Woods from the grave. It was manipulative and contrived because Tiger became a willing actor in the ad. He stood in front of the camera and made a remorseful face. It wasn't authentic. It also seemed humiliating. Once again, we don't see the real person; just an image of what Nike thinks Tiger needs to project. Nike wants to keep his endorsement without alienating the public. So they used his father to chastise him as if to say, Nike doesn't approve of his behavior. People see through this.

What was more effective for me was the Jimmy Kimmel spoof of the ad. It made me laugh out loud and it delivered the same message- Tiger's behavior was not okay.


When speakers act instead of relating;when presenters speak from a script instead of from their hearts, they lose their authenticity. And that's when they lose their audience. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and go on. If you're not perfect, so what? When we try to "get over" on our audience we're insulting them. People see through phoniness.

Be real, Be sincere, Be you.

Presentations That Lose Business. What Was Google Thinking?

Good presenters get better jobs, receive promotions, make more sales and get more business. They also build a strong brand reputation. Consider Steve Jobs of Apple.He uses the platform to launch his new products to an audience that's engaged, excited, and eager to hear his message.

Now consider the launch of Google's new Nexus 1 phone. Here was an opportunity to create buzz for the new technology with their presentation. Instead of opportunity, the company became the target of much ridicule. Why? Because of their presentation. It takes seven seconds or less to make a first impression and the visual impact was immediately negative. The presenter used an overhead projector. Why would anyone use an outdated way of presenting when they are touting the newest technology? This was a disconnect for the audience. In addition, the presenter appeared nervous and dispassionate.

When launching a new product, companies must choose the best presenters. Speakers who are confident, dynamic, and passionate sell products. The impact of the presentation was negative. News shows mocked the presentation and this affected the brand reputation.

Whether you're launching a product, seeking funding, or pitching business your communication must be congruent. And be sure to put your very best presenter forward!