Content + Delivery = Impact

Way back when, people in business and society were very particular about how they presented themselves. They had impeccable manners and beautiful clothes, they dressed for dinner every day—think “Downton Abbey.” Then came the late 20th century, and suddenly “casual” was cool. Ties and high heels were out; khakis (or even jeans) were in. Formality was also out. Standing at a podium reading a scripted speech meant you were boring, out of touch and probably insecure.

Nowadays we talk about “communicating” rather than “public speaking,” because we have so many more ways to get a message across than just reading words on stage in a nice suit. There’s more reliance on video, graphics and other technology—but if you’re flashy yet have nothing to say, you haven’t succeeded in your mission.

A presentation is a sum of several moving parts, all of which require you to think about what you want to say (your content), how to say and show it (your delivery), and how your audience will react to it (the impact). Taking the time to craft how you’ll come across in terms of both style and substance shows that you respect your audience and care about what they think. This is the Preston formula for success: guiding philosophy: Content + Delivery = Impact.

 

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Authenticity is also very important. If you try to be something you’re not, your audience will see right through it. A middle-aged guy like me could go up in front of a group of millennials dressed like them, saying stuff like “chillax” and “I can’t even,” but it isn’t going to go over well. You need to communicate in a way your audience can understand, but remember: it’s your message, not theirs.

To recap, a successful presentation needs three things: substance, effort and authenticity. You need to have a compelling message, and you need to do the work to get that message across to your audience with sincerity and without over-relying on smoke and mirrors. After the show, you don’t want your audience to say, “Nice light show… what was he talking about again?” You want them to say, “Wow, I really understand what that person was trying to say. It makes a lot of sense. How can I apply this in my own work?”

Communicating is hard, and the Preston Productions team has your back. We’ll work with you not just staging, lights and video, but also on sharpening your stage presence and fine-tuning your message to match your audience. Let us help you present yourself in a way that makes you and your company look their best. Give us a call and let’s start collaborating!

It’s the 21st Century: Have You Seen Your Customer Lately?

Customer engagement is a hot topic.   As companies dive into social media and online strategies, buyers have more opportunity to research and discover information about your company – and about your competitors as well. Customers are smarter, more informed and more focused on their own needs and solutions than ever before. For salespeople this is a big change, and an opportunity as well.

So, if engagement is happening online, where do live customer events fit in a virtual world? What is changing and where are the opportunities for your salespeople to build relationships with the customer….face to face?

I spoke with Roy Sanford, a veteran CMO and Sales leader, about how things have changed and how events need to shift the approach.

 

 


 

You’ve Got Talent!

iStock_000017088878MediumClients often come to us to find specialists in disciplines that aren’t a “core competence” under the corporate roof. It takes visual designers, audio technicians, digital editors, and more to put together a great event. But within our client base, we often uncover hidden talents that add just the right touch and sensibility to resonate with the audience, and help take the show from good-to-great.

Here are some recent examples of clients who had hidden talent employees;

  • Rock my conference world: Every show we create needs its music interludes, the walk-in, transitions and stings that set the tone. This year, we were able to draw on the formidable musical knowledge of Doug Mow, Courion Corporation Chief Marketing Officer, who crafted a playlist that lifted the spirits of all who attended the annual Converge customer software conference, in New Orleans, LA.  In addition to classics from groups like Cream, Dire Straits and the Allman Brothers, Doug’s playlist introduced us to great music from Galactic, Four80East, Down to the Bone and others. The combined conference soundtrack reflected Courion’s message and mindset, helping to deliver a memorable customer experience.
  • Bring the heritage to life: Any long-lived industrial firm has gone through a lot of change, and has stories that a current generation of leaders can learn from. To bring those stories across, it really helps to have a champion of history like Ken Julian. Ken is Director of Corporate Communications at Harsco – a multinational firm whose roots go back to 1853 – and a railroad buff. At the recent Harsco Leadership Forum, we built four multimedia segments to build awareness of the extraordinary company legacy and evolution of its businesses. Ken not only guided our scripting and editing: when last-minute agenda updates forced a change of direction, he became the face and voice of history, providing live narration of each segment on stage.
  • Customers take the prize: Tradeshow raffles are a marketing staple, but Rocket Software raised the bar by several notches when they began giving away custom electric guitars (created by employee Steve Bice) at the annual IBM Information On Demand conference. Rocket sponsored a live concert by Fun this year, but what attendees didn’t know is that Rocket CEO Andy Youniss is an accomplished guitarist himself. So with a bit of urging by friends and fans (Preston included) he was persuaded to play on stage before doing the guitar giveaway and introducing the band. Even someone with Andy’s playing skills doesn’t find it easy to face an audience of thousands in a packed arena. So we helped him prepare with advice on timing, sound check and crew communication. The result? “People came up to me afterwards,” he said, “and told me, ‘I thought you were with the band!’” That, along with a very cool video clip for the next Rocket promotion, took the prize.

Every company is made up of individuals, each with a hidden talent waiting to be shared with the entire world.

Five Things a Leader Must Do To Be a Courageous Communicator

by Rick Preston

At Preston Productions, we think a lot about what it takes for a leader to be a courageous communicator on stage. Over the years we’ve worked with executives who are charismatic, bold and visionary. We have also worked with those who are scared to death to stand up on a stage and speak their truth, even when they are a force for innovation behind a desk. It is our job to help those leaders articulate their vision in a way that connects with their followers.

To some courageous communicators, the fear of being on stage becomes a deterrent to sharing brilliant concepts and ideas. It is imperative that this fear does not get in the way.  This is easier said than done, but often a dissection of the fear can help a leader realize how important his or her message really is.

Author Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

With that in mind, here are five essential things I believe a leader must do to be a courageous communicator…

1. Believe in your message.
It is impossible to deliver a message well if you don’t believe in what you are saying. It doesn’t have to be a popular idea. It doesn’t have to be an idea that is easy to grasp or understand. You just need to believe in the message and we can find a way to craft it in such a way that it makes an impact and moves your followers.

2. Invite a real conversation.
Courageous communications are designed to elicit a response. They are not simple orations. They should never be a one-way street. You are making a statement to your group, because they have a stake in the message. They will respond and you should want to engage in that conversation. The reason to stand on a stage is not to dominate the message, but rather to deliver it to many people at once, as it would often be nearly impossible to have more intimate, one-on-one conversations with each member of the audience. That doesn’t mean you don’t want the delivery to trigger a reaction. Language that engages and inspires requests a response.

3. Speak to everyone in the audience.
Assuming you have invited the right audience to the meeting, presentation, training or other venue, you should be able to speak to everyone in the audience. The reason to deliver your message is to transfer your belief, to educate your audience and to prompt an inspired response. Your job as a leader is to lead change, give credit and require accountability. In this triad of communication, there is something for everyone in your audience, so leave no participant untouched.

4. Speak simply.
Courageous communications do not need to be complicated. In fact, one of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes is, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Einstein totally gets it. One of the challenges in helping leaders craft courageous communications is to get them to break down the message. Your audience should have no reason to say they didn’t understand the intent of the communication. Simplicity leaves nothing ambiguous. The vision is clear. The mission is actionable. While the expected result may be challenging, there is no doubt what it is.

5. Transfer your belief.
When you start with believing your message, then your mission in delivering courageous communications is to transfer your belief to the audience. Belief is at the root of success as a communicator. When you let your light shine, you unconsciously give others permission to be their best as well. When you let others into your message and allow them to see themselves as part of the vision, you suspend fear together. The word “inspire” means “to breathe into, to inflame.” When you transfer your vision to another, you imbue that person with your belief in the fact that this can work.

Your courage as a leader and communicator gives safety to others. Whether your message contains news of a new product or direction, shares a challenge that is plaguing the audience individually or uncovers a truth that only you knew before you communicated it, your courage in sharing this information is key in the organization moving forward. Confronting the truth allows those following you to join the conversation. It gives them meaning in the situation and allows them to communicate as well.

Courageous leadership requires the passion to build extraordinary content and the courage to deliver it to your audience. It defines true leaders and the success of organizations large and small. We honor those who want to face their fear, find the center of their courage and inspire others to be great right along with them.

For more on Courageous Communications, visit http://www.prestonevents.com

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer
Yahoo Inc.
701 First Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Dear Ms. Mayer,

Note: Unlike the many other “open letters” that have been written to you recently, I offer no sarcasm here. I mean every word I say.

Your recent announcement of workplace policy at Yahoo ignited an exciting public debate. I know you are not alone with frustration about far-flung teams and the challenge of inspiring them. I applaud your decision to focus on collaboration and search for a solution that works. As someone who started in theatre and now assists business leaders to develop strategies to inspire their teams, create collaboration and drive sales, I know the value of “face to face” communication.

The advances in motion pictures, video and the Internet have made many wonder why the theatre still exists. And yet it does and there is still no replacement for actors using their skills in person to deliver stories to move an audience. This correlates closely with your desire to bring your team face-to-face to create excitement and forward motion.

I have seen business leaders in your position, with the same conundrum, who have successfully leveraged today’s technology to create theatre and communicate an inspiring message across the globe. It must be planned well and executed even better, but it can work…even if you cannot get all of your team under one roof or on one campus.

Truly think of it as theatre…you have your actors (the employees) who want to inspire their audience (the customers) with a message crafted by the playwrights (your marketing team, sales team, etc.). You have producers (your investors) who are keen on profits, success and ROI. And you are the director, the one who must put this all in motion in a way that rallies the troops and inspires them all to hold on while the plot unfolds and brings them together, all pulling in one direction toward one vision.

Inspiration from a good director will motivate actors to do their jobs well and the production generated will get good reviews. However, inspiration from a great director will motivate the group to inspire each other, resulting in a production that will generate great reviews. In the end, you want your message to resonate with your team in a way that drives them to work together, to inspire one another.

You can do this whether they are all at desks in the same building, or whether they are in offices around the globe. I’ve seen it done.

Before Tyco announced plans to split the company in 2011, we worked with their leadership team to create a global theatre event that took the company’s siloed teams around the world and brought them together through a video webcast resulting in a level of understanding and camaraderie never seen in their sales teams before. It wasn’t the technology that succeeded. That was just the delivery system. It was the message that we worked to craft and hone with their leadership, like a Broadway script, that attracted their audience. And it was the performance of that message that inspired thousands to reach across silos and invigorate product development and sales. The stage was the floor of one of their Chinese plants and the audience was gathered in groups in large rooms in front of screens and in front of individual computer monitors throughout the globe.

The result was rave reviews from an inspired team that was re-invigorated to work together. We’ve seen this work time and time again when the leader is courageous and willing to create a potent message and hone it until it can’t help but resonate with the audience.

If I understand your memo correctly, isn’t that the end result for which you are striving?

In Erik Brynjolfsson’s book, Working Against the Machine, he concludes that success can be achieved today only if we learn to work with the machine. Inspiring people today requires working with the new methods and delivery mechanisms, not going back to earlier models that have proven less useful over time. Your leadership in finding a balance between face-to-face communications and “online theatre” (of which Yahoo is an inseparable part) will be the answer to your quest.

You certainly have your team’s attention. Bravo. Now, you need to inspire your cast and crew to, in turn, inspire your customers. Imagine the potential.

Should you like to talk about this further, I’m here – and online. I would truly love to discuss your challenge and what success looks like for you.

Respectfully,
Rick Preston
Preston Productions Inc.