Tag Archives: storytelling in business

There are no Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a fine presenter, but there were and are no Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was a good presenter, but not a great one . . . Steve had advantages unavailable to you and me

For some reason known only to the deities of publishing, Apple’s iconic CEO Steve Jobs is considered a great business presenter.

A bestselling book by Carmin Gallo even touts The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

But is Steve really a great presenter?  Does he really have secrets that you can use?  And can you learn how to be “an insanely great” presenter from this book?

No . . . no  . . . and . . .

Well . . . on that last point, you can learn to become a pretty good presenter from this book.

But not from Steve Jobs.

The Extraordinary Jobs

Steve is a visionary and an extraordinary entrepreneur many times over.  He has grown tremendously since the days when he thought that his self-absorbed bombast gave him license to insult Microsoft and Bill Gates mercilessly.

Jobs emerged as a celebrity CEO, a man who loves the limelight and whose strong and quirky personality guarantee him a maniacal following among a narrow slice of the American populace.

But presenting?

On an absolute scale, Steve is a slightly above-average presenter.  Remove Steve’s high-tech prop that the entire wonk-world is waiting to see, and remove the employee/early adopter audiences that cheer his every eye-twitch, and we are left with a shabbily dressed average sort of fellow given to aimless pacing and whose high-pitched voice grates a bit on the senses with its “ummms” and “ahhhhs.”

You and I know that there is only one reason that Steve Jobs is on that stage.  Only one reason that he has a book purporting to reveal the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs.

And it’s not for his presenting skills.

The Real Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

While Jobs himself is not someone whose presenting skills deserve emulation, he is obviously the subject of the book because of his built-in audience, and so we must deal with that.  We can dismiss it, in fact.

But the book does have a gem.

The gem of the book is the author.  The author of the Jobs book is Carmine Gallo, who is an extremely polished and superb presenter and presentation coach, and he embeds solid presenting nuggets throughout the book.

Carmine is, in fact, a much better presenter than Jobs. You can judge for yourself by watching the video here.

But even Carmine is not perfect.  He begins by gushing at Jobs’s stature as a presenter that is almost embarrassing in its lavish excess:  “Steve Jobs is the most captivating communicator on the world stage . . . He is the world’s greatest corporate storyteller!”

Really?

Really?

But . . . well, we’re selling books here, and hype is understandable.  I’d probably gush, too, if given a similar opportunity, so let’s give Carmine a pass on this one.

But at the end of the video Carmine gives advice that I believe is just flat-out wrong.

He says that you, the presenter, are the hero of the presentation.  That you, your product, or your service is the hero.

All of us would like to be the hero of our presentation, wouldn’t we?  And we are sorely tempted to put the focus on our product and ourselves.

No. Don’t do it.

Your Audience is the Hero

There is room for only one hero in the presentation, and that hero is not you.  The hero is in the audience, and you are there to help your audience become heroic.

As with all presentation instruction, you can ignore or accept what you choose, and this point is no different.  You can try to be the hero.  Or, you can focus on your audience and its needs and its desires.

In sum, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs offers a reasonable exposition of presentation methods that can benefit us all, but recognize that these methods have nothing to do with Steve Jobs and they do not help us become “insanely great” presenters.

But there is good news for you on the presentation front.  The best news in all of this is, in fact, great news.

With dedication, coachability, and the right method, virtually anyone – and I mean anyone – can become a better business presenter than Steve Jobs.

As a student in business school, you can try this book to launch your own presentation career:  The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Best Job Interview Tips for College Students

The Best of my Job Interview Tips for College StudentsOne of the most important job interview tips for college students that I give involves business presenting.

The job interview is likely the most important business presentation you will ever give.  This is because in the interview, you present for your most important client – you.

And the question I’m asked most frequently with respect to how you present your accomplishments is this:

“How do I talk about myself and my qualifications in a way that is honest and forthright and yet does not sound like braggadocio?”

The Best of My Job Interview Tips for College Students

Few people like to boast.  Instead folks go the opposite extreme of false humility.  But neither boasting nor meekness is the answer.

Instead, try this . . .

Understand that you are not in the interview to talk about your resume.  Your resume got you through the door and into the interview.

Now, the recruiter is looking for something more.  And that “something” is often indefinable.

The recruiter evaluates you for intangible qualities, such as corporate fit, personality, working intelligence, verbal acuity.  Many times, the recruiter doesn’t know what he or she is actually looking for.

But the recruiter does know what is unacceptable and is thus conscious of disqualifiers.

For the young or mid-level candidate, the atmosphere can feel akin to a minefield.  Some candidates feel that if they go tightlipped, they cannot make a mistake.  And so they weigh each word carefully, triangulating what they believe the recruiter wants to hear.  But it is not enough to simply survive without making a slip . . . or a “mistake.”

This approach comes off as stiff, artificial, weird.

Instead, go into your interview to make the presentation of your life about you, not what you think the recruiter is looking for.  The constitutes the most important of my many job interview tips for college students.

When it comes time to talk about yourself – here is exactly how to do it.

Talk about what you learned or what you discovered about yourself.

That’s it.

Digest that for a moment.

Yes, it really is that simple.  But it’s not easy, especially if you aren’t accustomed to talking about yourself this way.  It takes practice.

Talk about a difficult group project or a difficult task that required you to adapt and use your unique skill set.  In, say, a group work setting, tell of your learning about the importance of time management, of punctuality.  Translation:

     I have a great work ethic and I’m punctual.

Tell how you learned to deal with people from different cultures and backgrounds and to value difference.  Translation:

     I get along with a wide range of people.

Tell how you discovered that you gain a sense of satisfaction from helping others do their best, drawing out their best qualities and backstopping them where they are weak.  Translation:

     I’m a team-player who subordinates my ego to get the job done for the company, recognizing that others may need help on occasion, help that I freely give.

Tell how you learned about different work styles and of the different ways of tackling problems.  Translation:

     I’m flexible and adaptable to a variety of work environments and people.

For an Especially Powerful Interview

Can you see how it works?

You don’t talk about your strengths . . . you talk of what you learned about yourself during the course of a project or task.  So think of a major project you’ve tackled in the past.  Build your story around that.

For example, you could say something like this:

The very best Job Interview Tips for College Students“I worked on a major three-month project in my International Business Capstone involving a multicultural team, and in the project, I learned a great deal about myself as well as others.  I believe that I grew not only as a professional, but as a human being.  This gave me a great deal of satisfaction, especially as I saw others developing their skills as well.”

Or, if you are a young professional, you could say:

“We received a last-minute project and it was dumped on us without warning, which made us work through the weekend.  That was pivotal.  It was then that I learned that this is the nature of business – chaotic, demanding, unforgiving, unpredictable – and how I respond to the challenge makes the difference between a win and a loss.  That experience forged me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.”

With that statement, you have conveyed a wealth of positive information to the recruiter.

Of course, it all must be true, so you must adapt your story particulars to your own work life.  And all of us have these moments and experiences, so mine your recent past for them.

Your resume itself has at least a dozen stories, and it’s up to you to find them.  When you do find them, craft them, practice them, and use them.  Do this, and you achieve an important personal competitive advantage.

So always remember these key words . . .

Let me share with you what I learned about myself.

For more on job interview tips for college students, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Presentation Story . . . Your Secret Weapon

Presentation StoryWe all believe that we should weave a business presentation story.

Sort of.

But most of us rarely do, and this might be a result of simply not knowing how.

Admit it . . . most of us think we’re pretty sharp – we all think we know what a story is, don’t we?  But do we really?

What is a Presentation Story?

A story is a narrative of events, either true or untrue, that appeals to the emotions more-so than the intellect.

Let me emphasize – the appeal is primarily to the emotions.  Here’s an example.

The 1995 legal thriller A Time to Kill is a superb storytelling film that exemplifies how a deep appeal to emotion and to the heart can overcome an appeal to logic and reason.

A Time to Kill is the story of the rape of a little girl and the subsequent killing of her rapists by a heartsick father and his trial for murder.  The story takes place in racially divided Mississippi and the interracial struggle for justice and understanding is the centerpiece of the narrative.

It is really several stories.  A young lawyer’s struggle, Jake (Matt McCanaughy).  A father’s struggle, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson).  And a town’s struggle for its soul.

At the end of the film, Jake tells Carl that he’s going to lose the case.  That he should bargain with the prosecutor for a lesser charge to gain life in prison rather than the death penalty.

Carl rebukes his lawyer, Jake.  He urges him to “think like the jury.”

Know the Audience for Your Presentation Story

This is actually one of the keenest lessons on “know your audience” that I have ever witnessed.

“You’re one of the bad guys, Jake,” Carl says.  “That’s why I picked you.  You’re one of them white folk.  You think like them.  That’s why you can set me free.  Throw out all your ‘points of law’ and talk to them like one of them.”

How does Jake respond?

He responds with the Power of Presentation Story.

Literally.

Jake prepares a closing argument without his “points of law.”  He appeals to the emotions of the jury instead of their logic or sense of duty to the laws of man.  He appeals to their humanity, and to do this, he must tell a presentation story.

It must be the most compelling story of his young legal career.

Jake first apologizes to the jury for his ineptitude due to his inexperience.  He waves away any appeal to “points of law.”  He pauses.  Jake then places his hand in his pocket, and he gestures with his other hand . . . gently, firmly.

He approaches the jury box.  Simultaneously, he utters the magical words, almost like an incantation.

“Now I’m gonna tell you a story.”

His Words Transform the Courtroom

Everyone in the film leans forward.  The prosecutor.  The defendant.  The members of the jury.

All of them.  You feel yourself lean forward.  Perhaps you shift in your seat with expectation.

Why?

Because everyone loves a story.  A story that touches emotions.  A story that makes them laugh.

In this case, a sad and heinous story that makes them weep.

Why does Jake do this?  Because stories touch the emotions in ways that straight exposition cannot.  Jake wants the jury to feel, not just to think, and this scene of Jake pleading for his client’s life is a masterful demonstration of story’s power.

The armor we wear against fact and logic is porous and vulnerable to the gentle probing of a story.  As Jake weaves his spellbinding and horrible story of rape and trauma, the stolid men and women of the jury begin to crumble.  Eyes glisten.  Hard swallowing.

Even the most callous and racist man on the jury is affected by Jake’s tale.

Perhaps even you are moved by the heart-rending summation.

“Let me tell you a story.”

For more on how to tell a compelling corporate presentation story, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

The Six Most Powerful Words . . .

The six most powerful words are key to your presentation success
We in business are awash in great stories . . . use them in your presentations for especially powerful effect

Your business presentation begins to founder.

Despite your best efforts to energize the audience, to convey yourself in authentic and enthusiastic terms, to laser your talk with über focus . . . in spite of all of that, you can’t gain traction.

Here is when you reach into your quiver and pull out your Golden Arrow.

An arrow guaranteed to hit your target every time.

The Golden Arrow

When you find yourself adrift, pause thoughtfully, eye your audience with sincerity, and say this . . .

“Let me tell you a story.”

You immediately rivet attention on yourself.  Why?  Presentation Master J. K. Horner shares the reason with us from 1929:

Probably everyone has experienced the universal interest and attention which results in a dull and abstract lecture when the speaker says, ‘That reminds me of a story.’ Like a dog at the back door waiting for a bone, an audience will prick up its ears at the approach of the speaker with a story or illustration that arouses mental imagery.

Why?

Because such stories are concrete, the opposite of abstract, and tend to arouse pictures which vivify an idea, setting it out in relief with bold colors against a background of drab and hazy abstractions.

Six Most Powerful Words for Business Presentations

“Let me tell you a story” are the six most powerful words you can utter in a business presentation.  If your goal is to grip your audience, entertain them, persuade them, and move them to action, you always generate interest with these six most powerful words:  Let me tell you a story.

“Let me tell you a secret” is just as compelling, but when you think about it, it’s really the same storytelling device worded in slightly different fashion.

The story is a powerful communicative tool.  Let me say it again:  It puts incredible power in your hands, on your lips.

This power of story has been known for ages.  Stories are “windows that let the light in.”

And the story is an incredibly versatile tool.

Presentation Master Katherine Cather observed that its emotive effect is akin to what one finds in high art: “Because the story has power to awaken the emotions and to enlarge the range of experience, it is a tool of universal adaptability.  Its appeal is like that of music, sculpture, or painting.”

We live in the 21st Century age of dazzling kaleidoscopic multimedia.  Right now, a kindergartener has at his disposal more computing power in a laptop than did Neil Armstrong in his lunar module when he landed on the moon in 1969.

In such an age, why speak of an anachronism like “storytelling?”

Just this . . .

A Timeless and Powerful Tool for the 21st Century

Stories still serve as our main form of entertainment – we see and hear stories every day from many sources.

Newspapers are filled with “stories.”  Films, television shows, novels, even technical manuals regale us with stories.  You tell stories all the time.

Stories are as old as man and still hold fascination for us.

In an age of pyrotechnic special effects that boggle the mind, film producers have found that without a strong story populated with sharply drawn and sympathetic characters, the film flounders.  And fails.

Some stories are more interesting than others, of course.  But even the most pedestrian of tales keep our attention far better than dry exposition of facts delivered in a monotone.  Unlike straight exposition, stories appeal to the emotions.  This is the secret of their power.

And it is incredible power.

The Six Most Powerful Words

If you search for a verity in the human condition, a key that unlocks the power of persuasion, then this is it – the appeal to emotion.

Katherine Cather was a master storyteller of her generation, and her masterpiece written in 1925 captures the universal appeal of this mode of communication.  We seem to have left it behind in favor of cynicism and wry gimcrackery at one end of the scale and a barren “newspeak” at the other end.  Said Ms. Cather:

Human emotions are fundamentally the same in every country and in every period of history, regardless of the degree of culture or the color of the skin. Love and hate lie dormant in the human heart; likewise gratitude, and all the other feelings that move mortals to action. They manifest themselves according to the state of civilization or enlightenment of those in whose souls they surge, but the elemental urge, the motive that actuates men to right or wrong doing, is the same now as it was at the beginning of time.

The story has power to nurture any one of the emotions . . . . What is the secret of the power of either the spoken or written tale to shape ideals and fix standards? Because it touches the heart. It arouses the emotions and makes people feel with the characters whose acts make the plot. Mirth, anger, pity, desire, disdain, approval, and dislike are aroused, because the characters who move through the tale experience these emotions.

So use the story device to leaven your presentation with color and spice.  Hook your audience and enthrall them with the Six Most Powerful Words in the English language.

Remember that this secret is powerful because it hearkens back to an almost primal urge we have as humans to share experiences with each other, and this is the ultimate source of its appeal.

When you tap the power of story, you tap into a wellspring of history and practice as old as mankind itself.  So pull the Six Most Powerful Words from your quiver when you desperately need to hit your target.

Learn even more about the Six Most Powerful Words in The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.

Put Business Drama in your Business Presentations

Class had ended, and I was giving final feedback for a group that had just presented their business case . . . and which incorporated not nearly enough business drama.Business Drama and Expression

Not a bad business presentation by any means.

But individual students needed work.  I like to give advice that young people can carry with them beyond the classroom and on into the workaday world.  And so I held forth on their presentations with advice.

Not just advice, mind you, but nuggets that can confer personal competitive advantage for a lifetime.

Business Drama?

As I briefed the presenters, a professor came into the classroom and stood by, listening in.  He’s a colleague of mine.  Smart man.  He has my respect for his knowledge of finance.

A curious fellow, too.

He took in my feedback as I advised students to eliminate a verbal gaffe called the “rising line.”  I was demonstrating this awful turn of voice.

The Verbal Up-tic or “uptalk” as it is sometimes called, is a verbal pathology that afflicts at least 50 percent of young presenters.  This tic transforms simple statements of fact into questions.  The Brits call this the “Moronic Interrogative.”

You can probably guess that it is not a compliment.  By eliminating this awful verbal tic, you take a giant step toward presenting excellence.

My students packed up and left, and my colleague stepped up beside me.

“Well!  All this drama!  It looks and sounds like drama class.”

By now, I’m accustomed to the raised eyebrow of colleagues who look askance at some of the techniques I advocate.  It goes with the territory.

There is, after all, a kind of lock-step saBusiness Drama for power and impactmeness in the faculty view of business presentations.  Deviations from the barebones structure are not appreciated.  Nor are they recognized for the value they add.

“Hmmm.  I guess you could say that, Roger . . . there’s a big helping of business drama here. It’s much like putting on a show.  It’s why I call my presentations ‘shows’ and my students my ‘show-people.’”

Because this, in essence, is what visual and verbal communication is all about and how it differs drastically from written work.

“Showing”

It’s no accident that I use the word “show.”  This is what we do when we give a business presentation . . . when we present.  We don’t deliver a presentation.  We present. The presentation is not something behind you on a screen.  The presentation is not on a whiteboard or butcher paper.

It’s not on a flip chart.

The presentation is you.

And a large part of you is how you express yourself – your presence, your expression.  We are best when we incorporate business drama into our presentations, and this is the catalyst that provides the grist for our expression and enthusiasm.

By drama, I do not mean the phony excitement and angst of “relationships” gone wrong, the anxiety of the “drama queen” or the pomposity of “King Drama.”

I mean the “dramatic situation.”

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.

You have drama inherent in any situation where there is conflict or the potential for conflict.  And we in business, engaged as we are in competing to provide goods and services to our customers, are blessed with dramatic situations.  Corporate stories are some of the most dramatic.

Business cases are chock full of business drama – conflict, suspense, turning points, great decisions, stories that rivet our attention.  You simply must learn to recognize business drama and bring it out.

It does not mean exaggerated behavior during your presentation, as noted by one of my favorite Speaking Masters of all time, Grenville Kleiser:

This is not a recommendation of paroxysms of feeling, wild gesticulation, tearing and combing of the hair with the fingers, violent pacing up and down the platform, and other manifestations of old-style oratory, happily now obsolete, but rather to suggest a power which, when properly used, will give life, variety, intensity, and color to the spoken message.

Life.  Variety.  Intensity.  Color.  Conflict.  Action.  You strive for these.

This theatrical aspect of presenting can surely be overdone.  But given the staid status of business presenting, the danger of this in today’s business presentations is nil.

You can harness dramatic techniques to your business presenting style, and a number of books delve into this.  One of the finest books available on the subject is Ken Howard’s Act Natural.  I strongly urge its purchase if you are serious about taking your presenting power to a whole new level.

The speaking secret of expression is an advantage that should be yours and not just restricted as a privilege for those toiling in the theater or in film.

Remember that you have incredible power at your disposal in the form of expression that makes use of business drama.

A curl of the lip.

A raise of one eyebrow.

Sincere furrows in the forehead.

A smile.

Speaking Master Joseph Mosher gave us one key secret to expression in 1928, and we would be wise to recognize his observation of the importance of the mouth and eyes.

[T]here is no one element of gesture which furnishes as unmistakable  and effective an indication of the speaker’s thought and feeling as does the expression of the mouth and eyes. The firm-set mouth and flashing eye speak more clearly than a torrent of words; the smile is as good as, or better than, a sentence in indicating good humor; the sneering lip, the upraised brow, or the scowl need no verbal commentary.

The secret power of expression and business drama is yours for the taking.  You need only seize it.

To help you incorporate business drama into your business presentations, consult The Complete Guide to Business Presentations.