I was sitting across the desk from the brilliant president of a $2 billion software company…and I was about to tell him, “Sir, at this point, your speech is getting boring.” This was a problem, because as I often say, “An audience will forgive you for anything except being boring.”
Now step back, and let’s put this conversation into context. I was working with the person in charge of a national sales conference for that software company, which had just acquired one of its major competitors. They’d also nearly doubled their sales staff, to about 1,500 total. The future was bright and the strategy was strong. The president was described to me as an engineer, very intelligent, and a little shy.
My quest? To turn him into a corporate rock star in four hours. He walked in, and as I do with all my clients that I have very little time to work with, I said, “How do you do? If you had one sentence, rather than 45 minutes, what would you say?”
He said, “This is a brand-new company.”
“Great,” I said. “Write that down. Your opening line is ‘Welcome, to a brand-new company.’
Now, who decided it was going to be a new company? It wasn’t these salespeople that you’ll be presenting to.” He responded that it was the board of directors. I asked him to paint the scene, and walk me through who said what to whom. As he relayed the details, I asked him to pause for a moment. I asked, “When was the first time you realized the importance of strategy?”
He described being a 14-year-old ball boy before the French Open, and how people didn’t realize there was a tournament of the ball boys to qualify. “One of the competitors was my best friend’s sister, and not only are girls enough of a distraction at that age, the way she was throwing the balls was sabotaging my game,” he said. “That was when I learned the importance of strategy.”
And then he asked, as every executive does, “Do they really want to hear these stories?”
I answered, “Yes,” because it revealed something about him and made an emotional, personal connection beyond the respect they have for the position.
We continued creating his presentation in the order that he would be delivering it, finally reaching the discussion of corporate citizenship. The salespeople had donated $360,000 to the victims of a tsunami, and the company had matched it. This was obviously a subject he cared about deeply… and, let’s just say, his speech wasn’t doing it justice. He was doing amazingly well, coming to the crescendo, a call for action, and a close…and suddenly it was just plain boring.
So, I again went for the personal touch, asking him how he would describe corporate citizenship to his children.
“It was the day after Christmas and I sat my two children down and told them how lucky they were to have generous parents and even more generous grandparents,” he said. “And then I suggested that perhaps they would like to give us back one of their gift certificates or presents, and we’d donate them to children who don’t have homes. I was so proud of my boy, who was 14. The next day, he said, ‘Papa, how much should I give? Because I could give you all of my savings and all of my pocket money and all of my Christmas presents and it still wouldn’t be enough.‘ And I told him, ‘Oh, you don’t give it all, but you give enough that it hurts a little.’”
Those two simple, well-placed questions helped him take his presentation from boring to soaring. His brilliance was there; I just helped him find the stories and emotions to reveal it.
Making an emotional connection is absolutely essential to powerful and persuasive presentations.
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“I use your Fripp outline prep format for every speech, sales presentation, internal training, even conference calls I deliver. It has really made my preparation faster and more effective! The ‘character and dialogue’ concept makes these presentations not only more fun for my listeners but a heck of a lot more fun for me! Before your coaching, I wasted hours of time trying to prepare.”
– Libby Easton, Director of Business Development, ADP
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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp is hired by individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.