I have known many outstanding investors who have not survived as financial advisors. Perhaps in a subsequent business life, they will be reincarnated as quants somewhere, possibly even enjoying great success. But as financial advisors, they were failures.
Why did these often brilliant investors fail as advisors? The missing ingredient was presentation skills. They had the knowledge but could not convey it in a persuasive manner.
Some people are born with great powers of persuasion. Others will never have even mediocre presentation skills. For most, presentation skills can be learned.
Let me give you an example from an earlier incarnation of my business in which I had a team of seminar presenters crisscrossing the country, training mostly rookie FAs. I had a team of five people giving seminars on telephone prospecting to rookie brokers in wirehouses. I maintained then — as I do now — that I could take a person with decent personal communication skills and teach him or her to be a masterful presenter.
My training process was fairly simple. Once I had hired someone as a seminar presenter, I gave them a set of cassette tapes of my seminar. Step one: Transcribe it by hand. Step two: Read it aloud, over and over, until it’s smooth. At this point, they still sounded like me, not them.
To make it their seminar, while preserving my own tried-and-true structure, I then had them condense their notes. If their first transcript was 200 pages, I had them condense it to 100. And then they would rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it.
The 100 pages would now get rewritten to 50 pages. And there was more rehearsal. Finally, for each half hour of seminar, they could have all the notes they could fit on one side of a 3 x 5 card. Naturally, they had to rehearse even more.
Guess what? By this time, they had a message. The foundation for great presentation, whether it is to be delivered to one person or 1,000, is absolute mastery of material.
With this as background, let me introduce you to a wonderful book. As I meandered through a bookstore in O’Hare Airport, it practically jumped off the table at me. The book is The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up And Own the Room by Timothy J. Koegel (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2007).
The Five ComponentsMr. Koegel believes there are five components to any exceptional presentation. He says they should be used in a 60-second opening, and expanded to develop the body of a message.
I decided to test the author’s thesis against some of the greatest presentations ever. I did a Google search for “greatest speeches of all time.” I scored. Check out www.americanrhetoric.com, where you will find a list of “Top 100 Speeches.” So, I took the author’s “five components” and looked to see if these elements were in some great speeches. Judge for yourself.
1. Begin with a “Purpose”"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” — Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” Speech
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans.” — Ronald Reagan, Space Shuttle Challenger Tragedy Address
“I address you with neither rancor nor bitterness in the fading twilight of life, with but one purpose in mind: to serve my country.” — General Douglas MacArthur, Farewell Address to Congress
2. Objective/Purpose/Mission/GoalMr. Keogel clarifies: “Give the audience a 30,000 foot view of your agenda.”
“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” –King
“Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.” –Reagan
“Beyond pointing out these general truisms, I shall confine my discussion to the general areas of Asia.” –MacArthur
3. Position/Situation/IssuesMr. Koegel clarifies: “How are things positioned? What is the situation? What are the issues?”
“This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.” –King
“Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight. We’ve never had a tragedy like this.” –Reagan
“Mustering half of the earth’s population, and 60 percent of its natural resources, these peoples are rapidly consolidating a new force, both moral and material, with which to raise the living standard and erect adaptations of the design of modern progress to their own distinct cultural environments.” –MacArthur
4. Results/Benefits/ConsequencesAs the author asks, “What are the benefits, ramifications, consequences and implications of taking or not taking action?”
“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” –King
“Whether one adheres to the concept of colonization or not, this is the direction of Asian progress and it may not be stopped.” –MacArthur
5. Step/Action Plan/Time LineAccording to Koegel, “Use the next step as your call to action. It will help prepare your audience for what you expect of them and what they can expect of you.”
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” –King
“We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.” — Reagan
“In this situation, it becomes vital that our own country orient its policies in consonance with this basic evolutionary condition rather than pursue a course blind to the reality that the colonial era is now past and the Asian peoples covet the right to shape their own free destiny.” –MacArthur
The Power of PassionOf course your presentation to Harvey and Velda Oldebucks will not and should not sound like the magnificent “I Have a Dream.” But it can contain the same basic elements. And it should be delivered with an appropriate amount of passion.
If the first step to developing exceptional presentation skills is literally having something to say, then the second is to believe passionately. If you don’t believe it, your audience will not either.
Even if you are already an outstanding presenter, you can get better. You might even become exceptional.
Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.