A Walking Disaster Fired Himself on National TV. Michael Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, fired himself on national television shortly after hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. Brown didn't realize it at the time, but that is exactly what he did when he went on CNN and told host Paula Zahn that he had no idea that there were thousands of hurricane refugees huddled in the New Orleans convention center.
There was only one problem with Brown's insufficient intelligence report — he was the only person in the world who didn't know that thousands were holed up in the convention center because they had been broadcast on TV continuously on all the news channels for more than 24 hours. Once Brown made this startling admission, it was only a matter of time before the Bush Administration would have to fire him. Brown instantly became a symbol for anyone and everyone who was less than satisfied with how the Federal government responded to the crisis.
OK, those were CEO presentations on national TV or massive auditoriums filled with press, customers and employees. But today, many of us speak at professional groups where we introduce program guest speakers or give announcements. And what about the much more common conference room setting that most of us frequent?
As the coach/presenter for Present-to-Win as part of Boot Camps for Business, I often see the sweaty palms, anxious voice, and shaky hands that go with presentation anxiety. Just telling what we do can send us into orbit. We can choose the wrong words, stumble, say things we often regret and just look foolish. One of the key elements we stress in our Boot Camps is that presentation opportunities can arise anywhere. And you want to be successful when they do pop up. Watch Sarah transform in her "before and after” video. Look at the differences. They are amazing and this is exactly the kind of end product we focus on in our Boot Camps.
The Ugly...Know your audience — avoid being a "killer." At a recent business gathering, we were asked to briefly introduce ourselves to the group so they would know something about our work. The first participant began to share not his bio but his entire investment business strategy. As he began, his anxiety about presenting hit and his voice shot up an octave. His hands shook. He did not pause or listen. He talked and talked about stuff most of us didn't care about. His “killer question” was unleashed to convert all of us to customers. Here it is. “How many of you are planning to die this year?”
Well, maybe that once worked at a Rotary meeting, but it fell very flat with this group. “This would be a good year to do it” was a response across the room, which brought down the house. Our broker quickly closed down his marketing materials. It hurt to be in the same room with him.
What could he have done differently to present more effectively?
- Think First. Here was a group of new people and the key is to choose exactly one message he would like to share. Upon reflection, he probably groaned a bit about going on and on. We sure did.
- Time Flies so get a watch. In an introduction held in a Board Room, using your time wisely says a lot about you. Two minutes tops. More than that and you are giving an unwanted keynote.
- Collateral Damage. Always remember, Less is More. Handing out folders of sales collateral to people you just met doesn't work. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto "Less is more” and we all learned a lot from his design restraint. Now we need to learn it in presentations as well. Very, very few of us are convinced to take a sales or business action based on a brochure.
- Re-Fresh. Avoiding any hackneyed phrases is insurance that your presentation feels current. Stale bread doesn't sell.