The Speakeasy Story – how to get your message across

Speakeasy Groups was created because I saw a problem in the SME networking arena. So many people were struggling to introduce themselves, defaulting to a very dull, “Hi, my name’s Ian and I’m a printer. We do all sorts of printing – business cards, letterheads, banners…” Oh dear! And when the moment came for someone to present their business in the ‘showcase slot’, their 10 minute presentation was usually very factual, poorly delivered and wholly forgettable.

It was all such a shame, because these people were paying good money to get themselves in front of people, but were poorly equipped to make a positive impact when they got there. The feeling seemed to be, “If I can just tell more people what we do, we’ll do more business.”

But these days, faced with an ocean of marketing noise through social media, you need a strong story and the ability to tell it well in order to make an impact.

So in January 2010 we launched Speakeasy Groups in the MMU Business School, Manchester. I wanted to give people an opportunity to test-drive their message on an audience of their peers, to get helpful feedback and craft a better story. You might think, “Why on earth would people subject themselves to this?” Well, about 600 people have since that evening and I guess it’s because we create a very safe and encouraging environment. The kind of feedback you get at Speakeasy is so rare. You often get feedback sheets after delivering a talk, but they’re of the ‘rate-out-of-10-how-good-the-speaker-was’ variety and rarely do they provide any useful insight.

I’d love you to come along to one of the sessions (your first taster is free, dates and venues here), and I’ve summarized some reasons why this really matters and how this process can transform the way you present yourself.

Why it matters
Crafting and delivering a better story about what you do and how you help people means you’ll make a stronger impact when you present yourself. You do this more than you think – not just formally in a PPT presentation but in conversations too. Trotting off the facts of where you’re based and what you do won’t woo the audience or distinguish you from your rivals. Explaining WHY you do what you do and showing how you’ve transformed people’s lives gets you noticed.

A lot of people say they don’t mind presenting their ideas 1-to-1 but shy away from group presentations. But think of it this way – it saves time if you can win over 40 people at once!

If you craft a strong message AND get really good at telling it, you get asked to do it more and more (it becomes your main marketing tool). If you get really good at it you get paid to do it too – how cool is that!

If you’re an employee, the ability to present in a compelling way marks you out as leadership material.

You get a very rare kind of quality feedback, with professional facilitation thrown in.

Why it works
Speakeasy is about developing a skill and deals with something that many people have a problem with. This sense of ‘all being in it together’ encourages the development of stronger, deeper less pressurized relationships than the normal networking arena. It helps people connect with one another on a deeper level.

You get the chance to tell more people about what you do, at the same time as actually improving the way you put it across (a double whammy!).

It’s a lot of fun – it’s an incredibly supportive environment and encourages people to let down their guard and be themselves.

It’s affordable.

It works – all these people can’t be wrong!

  • One client won a major contract by developing a more personalised, story based approach to presenting.
  • Two others have found work after extended periods of unemployment, following forced redundancy.
  • Another, a senior manager in the civil service, transformed his relationship with his team by presenting his personal story.

There’s oodles of great tips in the Speakeasy web-site and the MojoLife site, but try to make along to one of the Speakeasy sessions. If it’s your first time, come along for FREE as our guest.

The world’s fastest presenter?

How wonderful to have Mike Newman (left) join us at Speakeasy last night. For much of the last decade, he’s been the fastest blind man on the planet, holding several land speed records! We talk about fear of public speaking, but to be honest when you can travel solo at 89mph on a motorcycle or 180mph in a car, what is there to fear – really? Here’s an interview I did with Mike yesterday.

Mike is pictured here with host Martyn Johnson from ASE plc and beside them is the very chilled-out ‘Baxter’!

Here are a few insights that came from last night’s session.

Positioning & Movement

It’s important you figure out before you start a talk where you’re going to stand. Too centred and you’re in the beam of the projector (if you’re using slides), and the audience can’t see them either! Too far off to the side and you seem a bit disconnected with the screen and the audience struggles to take both you and the slides in simultaneously. 

The important thing is to create the right layout for yourself before you start. Sometimes, things are beyond your control but often you can re-position seats, projector table, flipchart, etc. 

A bit of movement from the speaker is fine when it energises the performance. But too much can be a distraction. Make a point of recording your talks on video and play it back with the sound MUTED. This highlights elements of your body language that seem incongruent or distracting. 

Get the ‘hook’ in early on

It’s important to grab the attention of the audience early in your talk, as that’s when they’re most attentive anyway. Make it about them, something headline-grabbing. C-level business people tend to have short attention spans, so it helps to lay out your killer proposition at the start and then substantiate it. 

Are you involved?

One of the comments made recently was the danger of ‘hiding behind your material’. This means you’re kind of disconnected with what you’re presenting. It’s all a bit abstract. It’s most important the audience buys YOU and finds you credible and believable. You’ve got to establish a connection between you and what you’re presenting. We need to know why you believe in this stuff. Talk about experiences and how they shaped your belief in what you’re presenting. 

Timing

You’ve got to be connected with the audience, and partly that means knowing what they’re thinking and feeling as you speak. It’s common for speakers and audiences to become disconnected – talking too fast or changing slides too quickly means we can’t keep up. It’s irritating and prevents the message being fully absorbed. A nice phrase is ‘letting your words land’. Be aware when something’s been absorbed and gauge when it’s time to move on. 

Talking too slow or leaving a slide up too long causes problems too! 

Bullets vs Images

Audiences tend to switch off when more than 3 bullet points appear on the screen. Minimise them, and if you can dispense with them altogether so much the better. A well chosen image can work wonders. 

The audience journey – structuring your talk

You’re there for a reason, and that’s to give the audience something they didn’t know before. Even a pitch to experienced buyers should contain some value, some insight. In that respect, presentations are about change, and that implies taking the audience somewhere different. 

Consider the destination you want to take them to, somewhere better than where they are now! Remind them where they are now metaphorically speaking (Pontins-Blackpool-February) and paint the picture of the Maldives! Explain why so many people are in Pontins but that the Maldives is within their reach, if only they’d….that’s where you set out your proposition and reveal how you’d take them there. 

The meat of the presentation needs to contain evidence – your stories, case studies, testimonials, research – to give you credibility and to help the audience understand what might lie ahead. The before-and-after comparison is powerful. 

Round the argument together by summarising the journey and finish with a nice call-to-action. 

Stories are Powerful

They persuade, entertain and people remember them (mental Velcro). Gather stories, get good at telling them and weave them into conversations and presentations. 

Keep it Simple

Like copy, talks usually get better the more you strip out. The best ones are the simplest, with one over-arching theme and perhaps some easy hints to take away. Fewer slides, less content, more pauses usually means more impact – PROVIDED what you leave in is relevant and skilfully delivered.

Well done Andy and Alan for presenting and ASE plc for kindly hosting the session.

For more on Mike Newman and his Speed of Sight project, click here.

 

 

Reflections on Speakeasy and the art of presenting

Once again, some terrific insights came from the audience at Speakeasy (Manchester) last night.

Both presentations were very different – one on a financial theme, one on photography – but both worked on the fundamental level of the audience ‘buying the speaker’.

Feedback touched on the following: 

Get Connected

It’s vital that speakers connect with their audience. This covers the physical connection:

  • Can they hear you?
  • Do you make eye contact with them?
  • Do you move amongst them (or even touch them)?
  • Do you get them involved (exercises, Q&A)?

But it also means an emotional connection:

  • Are you on their wavelength?
  • Do you feel their pain?
  • Does your theme ‘speak’ to them?
  • Are you able to make them feel the right feelings (excited, surprised, enlightened, optimistic, amused)? 

Being connected also means sensing their emotional state – are they bored with an image or story or discussion thread? If so it’s time to move on.  

New Zealand presentation coach Olivia Mitchell talks about the attention re-set button. The attention graph opposite shows how in a 50 minute lecture the audience’s attention starts high (they’re intrigued before you open your mouth), dips alarmingly, bumps along the bottom) and eventually rises when they know it’s nearly over!

But you can re-set their attention when you sense the energy dipping (tell a story, ask a question, put up a provocative image, do an exercise, take a mini-break). 

Sometimes, speakers are too nervous or too wrapped up in their material to notice the audience’s mental state. But it’s all part of getting connected. 

Vocal speed

High energy is fine, but again it’s important to pace your delivery with what the audience can take in. Think about ‘letting the words land’. Let them have the impact you want, then move on. Comedians are really good at this. 

The same goes with slides. Make sure the audience has time to take it in, but equally beware leaving something up too long so they get bored. 

Enunciation/Clarity

We need to hear the words. This is often a problem when people introduce something that’s very familiar to them – their name, title, company, etc. 

What’s the point?

Every talk needs a single, over-arching theme or message. Introduce it, back it up and reinforce it continually. 

Evidence

A presenter once analyzed 3 of her favourite talks by three G’s – Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore. Somewhere between 60-75% of their content was EVIDENCE (ie case studies, personal experiences, testimonials, stats). People tend to put too much strategy/theory/abstract claims in their talks. Great evidence helps us buy it AND storytelling makes it more enjoyable and memorable. 

Storyboarding

Think like film makers do – they have to bring a written script to life and put it on the screen. They do so with a storyboard, a series of images that structures the narrative and helps take the audience on their journey.  

Call to Action

Round things off by giving us a parting thought, something to do, a final message ringing in our ears. 

Buying YOU

Both presentations succeeded last night on that most critical level – we bought YOU! That’s because you injected humour (self-deprecating), passion (there was no doubt you really believed in what you were saying) and kept things simple (lots of imagery and a good deal of fun). 

For details of the Speakeasy programme, click here.

MojoLife – its first year in pictures

In December 2010 we had an idea to run an unusual conference; our aim was to provide a platform for those who’d found success in their professional or personal lives to share their stories, inspiring others to follow their example. Our goal was to help those whose lives or businesses were at a cross-roads. 

Over the past 12 months it has grown from an idea to a project and, ultimately, to a company with an office based in Central Manchester. This is the story so far: 

December 2010: From Activate to MojoLife
Like millions of others around the world, we’d been greatly inspired by the TED concept (an extraordinary conference with the strapline ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’). We wanted to create something similar, but focused around stories rather than ideas. Those stories would be told by people who’d found purpose and direction in their lives and act as a catalyst for encouraging others to do the same.  

But we needed to call it something! We thought about the word Activate, but that didn’t quite work. Then, during an idle moment in a Wilmslow cafe, the name ‘mojo’ came up in conversation. We were admiring the energy and inner belief of people like Steve Jobs, Jamie Oliver, Prof Brian Cox and Mary Portas. Their sense of purpose pulled people towards them and created opportunities. They had oodles of mojo – hence the name MojoLife came into being. 

We had a chance meeting with Job Centre Plus about helping unemployed professionals and managers find their mojo (there’s very little relevant support available for people like this). As a result, a plan was hatched to run some work clubs in tandem with a prestigious Cheshire hotel. We were off! 

January 2011: Getting started in Cheshire & Manchester
Our original hotel partner pulled out but we decided to go ahead anyway with different venues in Cheshire and Central Manchester. We used the on-line platform Meetup to arrange and advertise gatherings to support people who had lost their mojo as a result of imminent redundancy and found hotels who happily agreed to offer us their lounges free of charge to host our sessions – many thanks to the Hallmark Hotel (Handforth), Stanneylands (Wilmslow) and Mint Hotel (Manchester) :-)  

February 2011: Meetups
Our weekly Meetups were attended by a diverse range of people – jobseekers, people facing redundancy, people undergoing career or other life change and small business owners. The gatherings grew and there was clearly a need for this form of support. 

March 2011: Programme Launch
Sponsored by the solicitors firm Cobbetts, we launched the first MojoLife learning scheme – a 12 week programme of learning and network support for people facing career and other forms of life change. 

April: The Tribe gathers and an encounter with Sir Ken
The Meetups continued and the MojoLife ‘tribe’ continued to grow. Our gatherings attracted people from across the North West and Yorkshire. Sara introduced the MojoLife concept to one of our heroes – a big inspiration for the MojoLife approach – Sir Ken Robinson, a world authority on creativity and educational reform. 

May: Wakefield and Westminster Beckon
Planning was underway for a Yorkshire launch of MojoLife in Wakefield. A new course (Mojo in a Day) was developed and we met with organisations interested in how we could provide outplacement (post-redundancy) support. Sara received a phone call from the Cabinet Office in London, asking whether we would be interested in speaking about MojoLife at Civil Service Live in Olympia in July. The aim was to introduce some innovative ideas about leadership and how to manage career and organisational change – of course we said ‘Yes’. 

The MojoLife approach appeared as a feature in the North West Business Insider magazine. 

June: Mojo in Wakefield and across the Atlantic
Our Yorkshire launch took place on a warm summer’s evening in the wonderful setting of The Orangery in Wakefield. With the incredible force of Sue Bearder (one of our greatest supporters) behind it, the event attracted 60 people and many signed up to our July Mojo in a Day course. 

The MojoLife concept was presented by Niki Glanz at the International Positive Psychology Association – you can see the presentation here. 

July: Delivering ‘Mojo in a Day’
We delivered our first Mojo-in-a-Day workshops, introducing the main MojoLife principles of self-leadership, pull marketing and personal branding. Events took place in Cheshire, Manchester and Yorkshire.  

In London, MojoLife was presented to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell and TV Dragon, Peter Jones. Andrew and Sara chaired a round table discussion for senior civil servants on change leadership, Ashley Boroda ran stand-up comedy sessions on the MojoLife stand and we discussed change issues with hundreds of civil servants on the MojoLife stand. Many thanks to Cassons Accountants and Andrew Wright for their generous sponsorship, and to our co-exhibitors Lesley Kay and Ameena Ahmed. 

August: Commercial and TV Launch
With further support from Cobbetts Solicitors, we organised our first meeting of MojoLife Associates for the commercial launch. Oli Randell joined the team as Non-Executive Director and our activities gathered pace. Sara and Andrew’s story – and the creation of MojoLife – was published in Civil Service World, distributed to senior civil servants nationally. 

MojoLife TV was launched as an on-line story-sharing platform – click here. 

September: Taking the MojoLife Message to Whitehall
Sara and Andrew travelled to Whitehall to chair a further round table discussion for 25 senior Civil Servants, representing a range of departments including the Home Office, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office. 

The first Mojo Live After 5 event took place, a Live Chat format modelled on the TV show Parkinson. Our first guests were actor/film director Darren Gordon and humourist John Hotowka. 

October: A call from the BBC
The MojoLife story was unpicked by interviewer Eddie Mair and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 – listen to it here. Our first official visit to Media City was a memorable experience (read our blog post).

November: Our new Manchester HQ: the ‘Mojo Hub’
It seems a far cry from the dining table and local cafe, but MojoLife recently moved into its new official home in the Spinningfields district of Manchester. We created a new learning ‘hub’ at 64 Bridge Street – it’s the base from which we coach private clients, run inspirational/educational events and rent out some of the superb meeting and training space on the 3rd floor. 

December 2011: Christmas with Mojo
Clients and associates gathered at the Mojo Hub for drinks, followed by dinner at Croma – great to see our space filled with colour, laughter and, of course, stories. 

So this is our story – just the first chapter. There’s so much more to come in 2012! 

We’d like to thank ALL of you who supported us in some way during the last 12 months. Whether you’re a core member of our MojoLife Tribe, or just someone who’s spread the word or attended the odd event, we appreciate your enthusiasm and involvement. 

We wish you every success in 2012. 

With special thanks to… 

Our families
Hallmark Hotel, Handforth
Stanneylands Hotel, Wilmslow
Mint Hotel, Manchester

Cobbetts Law Firm
Sue Bearder
Ashley Boroda
Jill Murray and Les Nutter at Cassons Accountants
Lesley Kay, Parallax Consulting
Ameena Ahmed, Direct Path

Oli Randell

Mark Dicker

Dave Bradburn
Niki Glanz
Helen Varey
Paul Welch in The Cabinet Office
Darren Gordon

John Hotowka

Mark Williams
Sam Flynn
Roger Longden

Ann Bach
Sam Flynn
Stephen Ward at Clerksroom

Low budget? Lessons from Sir Ridley Scott

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, I was interested to hear the views of some experts on how business should respond to the economic crisis. Each panellist conveyed the same sentiment – it’s time to get creative. Working smarter might mean thinking the unthinkable, like collaborating with competitors or otherwise combining resources that wouldn’t normally go together. 

It reminded me of a terrific tale of creative thinking from the movie world, specifically the work of famed British director Sir Ridley Scott. In the pre-digital effects days of the 70’s and 80’s, he produced two of the most remarkable science fiction films of all time – Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) – on what would now be considered a laughably small budget ($11m and $28m respectively). 

But despite the lack of money, Scott created some spectacular special effects and an unforgettable visual experience that still influences movie makers to this day. Faced with anxious financiers, all telling him to cut costs and film faster, Sir Ridley got creative… 

Alien – Long corridors

Scott wanted to create long corridors within the spacecraft The Nostromo, but budget constraints meant it was impossible to build more than a few metres of the interior. The director used one of the oldest tricks in the book, using mirrors to replicate that single section and create the illusion of depth. 

Ship’s legs

When the astronauts land on an alien planet (when will they ever learn?), Scott wanted to create the impression of scale for the landing craft. He had a sizeable model made of the ship, but in a scene where the space-suited cast walked by the legs of the craft, the director wasn’t happy about the implied scale – the ship just seemed too small. Undaunted, he had his own children don suits and play the adult characters, thus correcting the imbalance. 

Alien Egg

The eponymous aliens emerge from leathery eggs, with which actor John Hurt has an all-too close encounter. Kneeling down to examine the curious cocoon, he sees movement inside and realises it’s a form of life. In actual fact, it was the director wriggling his hands while wearing washing up gloves! 

Alien Dissection

The crew later examine part of dead alien at close quarters and Scott creates a realistic-looking autopsy scene. In actual fact, a visit to the local fishmongers provided a shell and a range of oysters, clams and other fare to create the alien look. 

Blade Runner - Night Filming

Hampered by budget, Scott had to film on a movie lot in Los Angeles rather than real locations. But he feared this would restrict his ability to create the futuristic look he wanted, with its verticality and grimey environment. So he filmed at night, and made it rain incessantly – something star Harrison Ford wasn’t too thrilled about!

Locations

Scott was particularly drawn to two structures in LA – The Bradbury Building and Union Station. Each day, he filmed in The Bradbury but agreed to start at 6pm and clean up by 6am, when the building was ‘returned’ for normal use. This daily clean-up was a huge headache, but the crew discovered that bits of cork scattered on the ground would at once look like dirt and mud while at the same time absorb the fake rain they were using. 

Union Station (pictured left) doubled as police headquarters, and a significant saving was made on the location fee by agreeing to leave the fake Police Chief’s office for permanent use.

 

A little help from Stanley Kubrick

After the initial screening, some executives felt the ending was too gloomy and Scott was persuaded to add on a more optimistic conclusion, with the male and female leads driving off into the sunset. But to film an overhead sequence in dramatic scenery proved problematic, with the inevitable time and financial constraints. But the director remembered a scene at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining. Knowing the auteur Kubrick’s obsession for perfection, Scott suspected he might have spare footage, and sure enough some outtakes from The Shining appear in this version of Blade Runner. 

Whether or not you’re a movie buff, the creative genius of Sir Ridley Scott is surely an inspiration to those of us faced with challenging times and diminishing budgets. But if the desire to produce quality work remains strong, the best thinkers will always find a way.

Turning business inside-out (the Mojo approach to marketing)

A lot of people ask us, “Why did you call your company MojoLife?” Most have heard of the term ‘mojo’ (often in relation to the Austin Powers movie!) and associate it with self-confidence and attractiveness. 

But in a business context, what MojoLife celebrates is that certainty and inner belief that individuals and companies with mojo display. I’m talking about people like Rick Stein and Mary Portas and companies like Aardman Animations and Innocent Smoothies. They have a strong sense of identity and purpose. You can’t imagine them acting out of character, simply because you know what they stand for. They epitomise what we mean by authenticity – how they behave on the outside matches who they are on the inside. 

To a large extent, this is what MojoLife is about. Its ethos is to turn business inside-out, to focus on what’s within first before looking outside.  

From a practical standpoint, this might mean examining what you have in your locker before you look elsewhere for answers – your employees, your existing clients and the outcomes you’re generating for them (related in the form of stories). Chances are you have some terrific things going on in your business – but are you recognising them…and talking about them? 

In a more humanistic sense, it’s also about looking inside ourselves and the people we’re trying to influence. What drives us and them? Are we connecting with people on a deep enough level? Are we making them feel the right things? Do we know why we’re doing what we do? 

So to make sense of this and place it right at the heart of the workplace, I’m going to highlight some examples of where this ‘mojo’ principle of inside-out applies – starting with marketing.

Marketing

Picture the scene – you’re a Business Development Manager for a medium sized law firm and the Managing Partner calls you into his office.

(MP) Suzie, we need more clients! We’ve got to really get out there and tell people what we do. Can we get the team together and plan a campaign? 

(Suzie) Well actually boss, what I think we should do first is change what we talk about. 

(MP) Huh? 

(Suzie) It’s no good networking more or running advertising campaigns if what we’re saying isn’t worth listening to. To the outside world, we don’t look any different to our competitors. We need to start promoting the things that make us unique. We need to give people a reason to choose us. 

What Suzie’s suggesting here is a quite different to what most companies are doing right now. Faced with the task of generating more sales, our inclination is to focus outwardly. Who hasn’t heard about us yet? Let’s see who we can target. Let’s get out there. 

The problem isn’t so much the reach or frequency of the campaign – it’s the strength of the message. If you simply inform people you exist, that you have 6 regional offices, 56 partners and cover all aspects of the law, that’s hardly compelling stuff.  

But if you talk about the things in your business that make you you, chances are you’ll get noticed. So what does make you you? How about your people? What about the relationships they have and the stories they’re generating? This is your personal real estate; no one can lay claim to these things because you’re in them!  

Companies like Southwest Airlines do this well; their blogging team includes pilots, baggage handlers and check-in attendants – a group of perhaps 30 people all on the lookout for stories. When Captain Joe soothes a troublesome young passenger by giving him his hat and sitting him at the controls of the aircraft, he pictures the moment and feeds the story to the blog editor.

When you recognise what constitutes a story (it’s a form of internal PR) you seem to find material everywhere, and it’s these anecdotes that create depth and variety in the company’s communications. They help to convey your uniqueness and provide an insight into what you stand for. 

These are the things that lie within, the things that make you distinctive as a company. That’s why your marketing campaign should start by looking on the INSIDE.

Are you generating business stories worth spreading?

I heard a fascinating presentation from the Bell Pottinger (North) group yesterday. They’re public relations experts and the topic was how to use social media as a powerful PR tool in business.

At the end one of the presenters told me a great story about a man who was travelling on a train to Euston for an important business meeting. He’d made an extra effort that morning to look his best (smart suit, pressed shirt) but nothing could have prepared him for the lady passenger who stumbled as she walked by, spilling coffee over him!

Interestingly, the lady from the PR agency hadn’t witnessed the incident first hand – she’d picked up a tweet from the poor man along the lines of…”OMG, woman just spilt coffee over my suit and on way to big meet. Why me???” 

As it happens, the PR lady knew someone at the train company and she tweeted/called her suggesting they rectify the situation in a novel way. It might go like this: 

Train manager is alerted to the incident. The man is comforted by staff and provided with napkins, water, etc (in first class). He’s asked to meet a train company manager when he gets off at Euston and there’s a taxi waiting to whisk him to the nearest men’s outfitters. They fit him up for a new suit, shirt and tie (photographer present), the train company foots the bill (in fact the retailers go halves) and you’ve got the PR scoop of the year! 

Did it happen? Did it heck, but wouldn’t it have been fabulous? 

A few points here: 

  • I like the way the woman from Bell Pottinger thinks – I’d want them doing my PR! 
  • It’s amazing how the immediacy and reach of twitter creates opportunities like this. 
  • If you get a chance to create a PR scoop like this, seize it!
  • Good stories get spread. 

So as a parting shot, as yourself if you’re creating/spotting opportunities like this for stories about your business? You’ve probably got some amazing incidents to draw upon, but I’ll bet they’re not being captured. Think like that PR lady and you’ll realise how much you’ve got that’s worth talking about.

How great leaders communicate – juicy bites from the Apple Founder

I know it’s hardly news now, but one particular individual can still teach us so much about business storytelling and how to connect with people. When Steve Jobs gave his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, he’d been given the all-clear by the cancer specialists, and knowing what happened to him subsequently gives added poignancy to his words.
 
I watched the speech again last night and was struck by how inspiring and touching it was. But then I wondered “why?” What was it that connected with the audience, and how did it convey his own distinct personality?
 
Keep it simple
There were some simple, profound messages in his speech which were easy to follow and spoke to us on a human level. It’s a lesson for presenters – don’t over-complicate things; people can only take in so much.
 
Rule of 3
Time and again you see this in great talks and in speech patterns. Beginning, middle and end…Holy Trinity…Education, Education, Education. Jobs related 3 key messages and human beings like things delivered in 3′s.
 
Make it Personal
When you talk about things you’ve personally experienced, it’s more authentic and (by definition) unique. This is your own personal real estate – no one can lay claim to these things or question your right to talk about them. The key is to make them relevant to the audience and outline what you learned from it – and what that might mean for others.
 
Vulnerability = Strength
We like our leaders to be strong, but we also like them to show their humanity. When Jobs talks about his adoption, dropping out of college and getting fired from the company he formed, he opens himself up. He peels away the layers and shows us the raw Jobs – that’s how leaders truly connect with people. They display their vulnerable side, admit to mistakes and show a willingness to learn from others. This makes them stronger. Handled with skill, vulnerability goes a long way to establishing a true connection with your audience.
 
Raising Eyebrows
There’s some controversy in his speech, something to make people sit up and take notice. There’s the conflict between good and evil (a feature of most Jobs presentations) – in this case a reference to Microsoft! There’s the irony that at a Stanford University Address he talks about dropping out of college to pursue something that stimulated him more. And there’s that extraordinary statement that death was perhaps the best invention for the living – that it gets rid of the old to make way for the new.
 
Getting Curious
Leaders tend to be curious people – not in the sense of being odd but being interested in things. Jobs was intrigued by calligraphy at college and signed up for that course. He didn’t know where it might lead – he just pursued something that intrigued and captivated him. It was this introduction to beautiful typefaces that led to many of the unique features of the Macintosh computer.
 
A parting thought
Like all great speeches he rounds things off with a final message for his audience – “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”. It’s something he leaves ringing in their ears as he signs off, and gives what’s preceded it more impact. It’s a kind of closure, and allows us to move on and hopefully implement some of the insights he’s delivered.
 
Public speaking and effective presenting are key tools in the armoury of any leader – few did it as well as Steve Jobs, but perhaps we can adopt at least some of those traits that made him such a great connector.

Bread time stories – pull marketing & corporate storytelling

On a recent visit to London I happened upon the wonderful Le Pain Quotidien (PQ) café/restaurant. It’s a memorable experience – something worth talking about (evidently!).

The food is superb, the service excellent and the environment simply draws you in. Wooden tables exude warmth and naturalness, cakes, pastries and bread are displayed to make the mouth water and the open kitchen shows chefs at work and having fun.

But the thing that intrigued me most was the PQ story. On each table is a fold-out card with a cartoon strip charting the origins of this international phenomenon. Like many entrepreneurial tales it was borne of an experience – in this case the founder Alain Coumont’s frustration at not being able to find decent bread for the restaurant he worked at in Brussels. Quite by chance, he found suitable premises, opened his own bakery and started supplying the most magnificent bread and pastries to his former employer (and other restaurants too). PQ now has branches around the world and, having sampled 2 of them in London, I can vouch for their quality. They are remark-able and Coumont’s story is a great piece of pull marketing.

There was one disappointment though – a salutary tale for anyone looking to develop their own corporate story. We were served by a charming young woman and when I mentioned the cartoon story she confessed she wasn’t really familiar with it. This surprised me. I assumed this would form a fundamental part of her induction, but perhaps like so many inductions it focused on the practicalities – in this case, how the till works, what’s on the menu and how to clock in and off.

Your corporate story is only as good as the people living it and delivering it. This includes your staff and your clients (I’m an example here – spreading the word about PQ). The philosophy of a strong business is the very foundation of its success, but every member of staff should be able to articulate it (and believe in it)…from the inside.

Magical line-up for Mojo Live after 5 event

Mojo Live after 5

Tues 27th September 2011 (5.30 – 8pm)

64 Bridge Street (Legal Centre), Manchester M3 3BN 

About 10 months ago, Sara Knowles and I co-founded MojoLife, a mechanism for helping individuals and businesses find their voice and attract opportunities. Mojo Live after 5 is new initiative, showcasing inspirational stories and ideas in a TV chat show format. 

In front of a live audience, special guests will be interviewed each month – a mixture of trainers, authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, influencers or just regular individuals who’ve done some extraordinary things. The aim is to discover what led the guests to do the work they love doing, and what insights they can bring to the business community. 

All our guests share one thing in common – a passion for their work and a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. MojoLife is all about helping individuals and businesses discover their authentic voice, their purpose and their inner confidence. This is what we mean by the ‘inside-out’ approach and that’s when things start to happen for them. 

This first Live after 5 event will feature two guests from the performing arts world: 

Darren R L Gordon is the Founder of the DNA Acting School in Manchester. Darren (pictured above) has directed over 60 pieces of theatre and a variety of film based productions over the last 15 years, working with over 1500 actors as a tutor and director. 

John Hotowka is a speaker, humorist and magician and is also known as the ‘Laughter Dinner Speaker ®’. He’s one of the rare breed of speakers who can either deliver a powerful message, or simply entertain. 

As well as sharing their personal journeys, both guests will deliver some fascinating insights into communication skills, business performance, career transition and self-leadership. 

Related topics:

Leadership and influencing
The psychology of success
Building rapport
Body language
Vocal delivery
Dealing with public speaking nerves
Career Transition 

How to book

The cost is just £15.00 + VAT to include finger buffet. To reserve a place, click here or email info@mojolife.org.