Presenters Are Not Performers

Bravo to Seth Godin for his post, “Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories,” in which he complains about public speeches—and by extension, presentations—that are “based on sentences. At the end of each sentence, the voice goes up a bit, the speaker pauses, as if waiting for an applause line…It’s my least favorite part of the Techstars pitch training.”

Seth is wisely counseling against “choreographing” the voice and words. Other forms of “pitch training” choreograph gestures to go with the words. Choreography is in the realm of performance, and business men and women are not performers. I don’t know many business persons who had to audition for their job. If the presenter gets too many detailed instructions, it becomes an overload, just like a bad golf lesson: “Head down, straighten the legs, bend the elbows…” Worse still, it forces the presenter into unnatural behavior.

Seth recommends that the presenter speaks in stories. “The storyteller naturally engages our attention, and she matches her emphasis and cadence to the rhythm of the story.”

To which I add the Power Presentations approach: be conversational when you tell your story. Consider every presentation as a series of one-to-one conversations.

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The Suasive corporate coaching methodology was developed by Jerry Weissman, the world’s number one corporate presentations coach. One of his earliest efforts was the Cisco Systems IPO road show. Following its successful launch, Don Valentine, of Sequoia Capital, and then chairman of Cisco’s Board of Directors, attributed “at least two to three dollars” of the offering price to Mr. Weissman’s coaching. That endorsement led to nearly 600 other IPO road show presentations that have raised hundreds of billions of dollars in the stock market. Mr. Weissman’s focus widened from coaching IPOs to include public and privately held companies. His techniques have helped thousands of other firms develop and deliver their mission-critical business presentations.

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