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Informality - Johnson

The rise and rise of informality

Informality is taking over the world or at least that is my perception. If I Google this I find very few articles which makes me a little nervous about my own judgement but I have been mulling this for several months. Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and other successful political figures (love them or hate them), connect with their audience in part because they are seen as ‘one of us’.

Speakers connect to audiences by appearing to be ‘one of us’

All speakers want to connect with their audience and there are many ways to do this. But increasingly younger generations – and voters – are disrespectful of anyone who seems to set themselves apart. And they connect with people who are informal.

What do I mean by informal? Well here is a very short clip from Boris Johnson this week (3rd September). He is standing on the steps of Number 10 and looking fairly prime ministerial. But in this 40 seconds we get the phrases – ‘pointless delay’, ‘no if’s, no but’s and ‘we will not accept any attempt to…scrub that referendum’. Shortly before this clip starts he also said ‘I promised we would not hang about’.

In this case, it is the words that are informal but in other cases, it is the style of delivery.

It’s not just the words that can be informal

In this recent clip, we have a ‘fireside chat’ with our PM in the middle of a party!


Despite the fact that Boris occasionally includes obtuse references to the Classics (as mentioned in this blog) – he doesn’t behave as Theresa May, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or other Prime Ministers have done. And I think there are lessons to be learnt from this.

What is the place for informality business leadership?

In both presentation and media training, I am often urging people to be less formal. Some are formal in their choice of language – many of you will have heard me urge people to ‘come down the language ladder’. By this I mean use everyday language, not business language. But there is good reason to do more than strip out the jargon.

Part of the current distrust and disrespect of power translates into distrust of people who sound like they have power. So my advice to clients is to err on the side of informality. Generally to be a little more informal than they think they should be. That’s if you want to connect to your audience, and if you want to lead your audience. The younger the audience the more informal the approach we recommend.

But a quick warning: this is not the same thing as trying to be hip! Authenticity is important and suddenly quoting a rapper (unless you are a genuine fan) or sporting a T-shirt with an anarchic saying, is not likely to win many plaudits.

If you would like help planning for a media interview or a presentation call us to discuss what we can offer, tel: +44 (0)20 7099 2212.

what not to do when making a presentation

5 Things Not to Do When Making a Presentation

This is a quick mini-post: revision notes for those that have already worked with us.

Doing a really good presentation is an art and usually requires a fair amount of work. But I am aware lots of people would be happy to just give an okay presentation, without feeling it might have damaged their reputation with colleagues or clients.

But here is my choice of the top five mistakes I see most often and are most easily fixed.

What Not to Do When Making a Presentation

what not to do when making a presentation

 

1. Don’t Read Your Slides

Look at the audience instead! You are the main event, the slides are there to support you and make the talk more interesting. It’s fine to glance at the screen, even better if it is on a laptop in front of you, but 90% of the time you should be connecting with the people who are listening.

2. Don’t Dance or Pace

Some careful movement to support your narrative can be effective, especially on a stage. But pacing up and down or dancing from side to side is distracting.

3. Don’t Rush

You may not want to be there, you may not want to draw attention to yourself but rushing through your presentation means the whole experience is poor for the audience and for you. It will not do your reputation any good. Speak slowly and clearly and pause sometimes. This helps you to collect your thoughts. You’ll probably say fewer words but land more meaning. You can speak too slowly but this is rare compared to the number of people who speak too fast.

4. Don’t Crowd Your Slides

Strip your slides to the basics, keep them uncluttered and a minimum of words. That means 5-10 words, not 40.

5. Don’t Make the Audience Work Out What the Point Is!

You should know what your message is and you should summarise it for the audience in a clear and concise way. This can happen at the beginning and at the end, or just at the end. But it must happen.

We love helping people with particular presentations or pitches, or to improve their presentation skills in a more general way. If you or your team need to up their game when it comes to presentations, give us a call on: 44 (0)20 7099 2212.

presentation

5 ways to improve that presentation

As a team, we at The Media Coach both give and watch a lot of presentations. I find watching someone else give an unprepared and hesitant or confusing presentation deeply physically uncomfortable. I am also horribly aware when occasionally I fall short on some of these very simple rules. So for all of us at the coal face of business communication here are a few simple reminders.

presentation

1. What is the message?

I know, I know, I am obsessed with messaging but for a very good reason. My suggestion is, once a presentation is done ask yourself  ‘do I have a clear takeaway message’ closely followed by ‘will that message be as clear to my audience as it is to me’.  Sometimes I think this big message should appear at the beginning and at the end of the presentation. But my colleague, Eric Dixon, often sets up a problem or a question at the start and answers it at the end. Either way, if you don’t know what your message is – in a short simple sentence – then it is unlikely your audience will be clear either.

2. Add chapter headings

There is a real danger that your presentation will lose people in the detail. If you have simple ‘chapter’ slides that can be flashed up quickly between different sections of your talk, your audience will find it easier to follow the argument. Any sort of sign-posting, verbal or visual, helps a presentation.

3. Reduce or eliminate bullet points

Bullet points encourage you to read your own slides. This is never going to be a good way to give a talk. Occasional simple bullet slides are alright as a summary but limit the number of bullets and limit the words in each bullet. Leave out the jargon. Pictures, animations and diagrams are much better than bullet points.

4. Ask ‘is this relevant to my audience?’

Assuming the presentation is broadly relevant to the audience (hopefully you wouldn’t have got this far if it is not) ask can you make it more relevant? Can you refer to something that everyone in the audience is aware of? That might be President Trump’s latest tweet or the food in the canteen. But look for points of common experience to make the audience feel the presentation is built just for them.

5. Treat it as a performance

A presentation is not just a chat. Rehearse it and deliver it with energy and animation. Try not to apologise, hesitate or waste the time of the people listening to you. If you don’t know why a slide is there, take it out. In particular start and finish with clean, rehearsed narrative.

We have previously written about this topic here. The Media Coach has a number of experienced presentation trainers. If you would like general training on presentations or help with a specific presentation or pitch, please do give us a call +44 (0)20 7099 2212.

dull presentations

Dull presentations are endemic but can be avoided

Dull presentations that bore the audience and damage people’s careers are to be found, it seems, in every industry and sector. At The Media Coach, we have seen a lot of prize specimens.

Established practice is often bad practice, riddled with overly long bullet points, statements of the blindingly obvious mixed in with obtuse arguments barely understood and rarely remembered. And there are the branding departments who insist on colour schemes, headers, footers etc.

So how can you lift your presentation above the crowd? Below are some of the basics of best practice and some common mistakes made by dull presenters.

Dull presentations

Aim to lift your presentation above the crowd. Remember established practice is often bad practice.

Dull presentations can be avoided

The basics:

• Plan on paper. It will make your structure clearer.

• Have a clear take away message.

• Write for your specific audience – typically, the more tailored the presentation, the better.

Be picture or data led, keep text to a minimum

• Be picture or data led – limit text and bullet points. No one can read and listen at the same time and if you have lots of words on the screen you will be tempted to turn your back on the audience to read them. For a guide watch how little text appears on television graphics. It can be a revelation.

• If it is a long presentation divide it into clear chapters, and tell the audience when you move from one chapter to the other. If you know how to use the message house (anyone trained by us will know what this means) this is a very good basis for a presentation, although clearly not the only template possible.

• Don’t be scared to introduce or summarise an argument in a few words on an otherwise empty slide. It can really help to signpost your presentation in this way. Just don’t leave it up too long.

• Rehearse aloud.

• Face the audience and not the screen for at least 80% of the time.

• Speak slowly with energy.

Dull presentations

Boring your audience should not be acceptable. If you think your presentation is destined to be dull, send an email instead.

Dull presentations. Consider just sending an email

We think presentations should not be just about informing an audience. It should be entertaining and inspiring. As my fellow trainer Eric Dixon would say, if just passing on information is your goal send an email; you will save yourself a lot of effort and both you and the audience a lot of time. Presentations should leave people with something new to think about, inspired and galvanized depending on the circumstances.

Dull presenters are often guilty of these common mistakes

• Copy and pasting an old presentation and then fiddling with it to save time. Whilst there is nothing wrong with reusing old slides it is often simpler and better to start with a clear plan and then fill in with some old and some new slides.

• Writing presentation notes on the slide. As mentioned above you want as few words as possible on the slide. There is a special place for presenters’ notes – use it. You will give a better presentation this way.

• Putting a tiny picture on the slide and a lot of words. I am a huge fan of Garr Reynolds who uses full frame photos and limited text. In this case the image becomes a prompt for each element of the argument. I highly recommend his book Presentation Zen. It will transform your presentations.

• Always using the company template. I know sometimes you are told to do this and you have to suck it up, but ask yourself does every single slide have to be branded? Isn’t there some possibility to break it up with a different style, a visual surprise? How about using the branding only on the chapter headings?

Dull presentations will be lifted by a story or example

More common mistakes:

• No stories, examples or anecdotes. We say it at every possible opportunity but here it is again: tell stories, use examples, and raid your personal life experience or someone else’s to make a point. The scientific evidence is overwhelming – people may be impressed by facts and numbers in the moment but overwhelmingly they remember stories over data. Any stories are good but learning to tell stories properly will improve all your communications.

• No media inserted. In this day and age there is little excuse for not using sound or video in your presentation. Above all remember to keep this short. Just 20-30 seconds of something relevant will lift your presentation from the pedestrian to the entertaining.

• Not rehearsing. Polish comes with rehearsal. 20 minutes rehearsal is ten times more use than 20 minutes chit-chat about what the presentation might cover. Rehearse, revise and rehearse again.

• Over-running your speaking slot. Time yourself in a run-through and then add another 20% – it always takes longer in reality than in rehearsal.

Dull presentations

Our trainers aim to inspire. We tell lots of stories and we rehearse.

Take every opportunity to practise in front of an audience, your loved one, critical children etc. It’s all valuable.

And of course, if you need help with either a particular presentation, or improving your personal style, the Media Coach team would be delighted to oblige. Just give us a call to discuss on +44 (0)20 7099 2212.

First two pictures used under cc licence from Pixaby
Third picture owned by The Media Coach

Presentation Tips Prime Minister Speaks at the CBI Conference 2016

Presentation tips: lessons from the PM

Presentation tips can be quickly garnered from watching someone else present. I was fortunate enough to hear Theresa May speak yesterday to the CBI Annual Conference and despite the fact that she must be one of the most experienced speakers in the country, and a great deal more experienced than the business people we train, she made a few mistakes.

Person

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to the CBI Annual Conference this week. Lindsay Williams was there.

 

Presentation tips: before I start

However, before I dissect the Prime Minister’s speech I should say that there are more important things in life than how you come across on stage. May became PM at one of the most difficult times in modern British history: steering the UK out of the EU in a way that doesn’t tip the whole ship over into a major recession or lead to civil strife is a heck of a project. So this blog is not really criticising someone who has bigger fish to fry. It is pulling out what us less experienced presenters can learn from it.

Presentation tips: Coaching Notes for the PM

That said here are my Coaching Notes for the PM.

  • Theresa May did not say ‘Hello, it’s nice to be here’ or in any way acknowledge her audience before beginning to read her prepared speech . This seemed very odd. A smile and a nod, and ‘hello’ seems the minimum to be polite.
  • It was a well-crafted speech and the messages were very clear. I would summarise them as ‘we support business but we all have to do things differently in the future’, and in particular, ‘we have to condemn bad practise that gives you all a bad name’. She wanted to put a ‘fairer society’ and ‘social inclusion’ on the business agenda as well as on the social agenda. On Brexit she said ‘I hear what you are saying but I cannot give you certainty ahead of the negotiations’.
  • She mentioned speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet which could have been a nice anecdote but she added no colour and made absolutely no attempt to entertain with it. In fact that was true through out the speech.

The full script of the PM’s speech can be read here

  • As you would expect if you have experts to write your speech for you, May had some good examples: a longish list of recent announcements of investment in Britain from Nissan building new models here to 500 more jobs at Facebook.
  • Similarly, she had some good numbers to hand.

Presentation tips: it is rude to rush

  • But the whole thing felt rushed. People we train often find it difficult to speak at a slow enough pace for an audience hearing information for the first time. This is not an issue that Mrs May normally has – she was rushing because she was in a hurry. There were no gaps, no dramatic pauses. I felt this was rude and disrespectful of the audience. I have no doubt she is very busy but for the short time she is with the audience – they should feel as if they are special. Bill Clinton was famously brilliant at this, one to one or with an audience. (I have heard people who met him say he made them feel extraordinarily important, even if just for a couple of minutes.)
  • I would add that May shows little ‘warmth’ in public. She may be choosing to be the ‘ice queen’ for political reasons but it is not a tactic I recommend. On the whole, it is a good idea if the audience like you. A few small changes, the odd small, the odd self-deprecating comment would do the trick.
Presentation tips: from the PM

Theresa May is particularly prone to ignoring questions. We think she should at least acknowledge before moving on.

Presentation tips: at least acknowledge the questions

  • As I have noted previously, my biggest criticism of May is that she does not even pretend to answer a question. It was very easy to ignore a question in the formality of the CBI gathering, there is no follow-up question. But that doesn’t mean that the audience doesn’t notice. As we have mentioned before, even if you cannot give a full response to a question you can at least acknowledge it.
  • Finally, please can someone tell our new Prime Minister to stand up straight. I fully understand that it is a curse of tall people and particularly of tall women (especially those with shorter husbands); you want to make yourself a little shorter so you curve your body over ever so slightly. But she would look so much more authoritative, not to mention elegant if she pushed her shoulders back and stood straight.

Presentation tips: what was reported

Here are the comments of Laura Kuenssberg at the BBC 

And here is the opinion of the Independent 

The Daily Mail picked out the theme I spotted but the fact there is so much diversity in the headlines is evidence that there was not a stand out angle from the speech.