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Giving Presentations

Giving presentations can make or break a leader. Poor presentations suffocate good ideas. In business, often form is more important than substance. Consider speech expert Bert Decker's line that "You've got to be believed to be heard."

This is not fair. Get over it. It's not fair that tall guys receive more promotions and beautiful women earn higher salaries. You can't change your height but you can dratically improve your ability to make presentations. Some great speakers are born, but most of them are made. Trust me on this.

When I graduated from business school, I was a crummy speaker: rushed, nervous, shaky, sweaty palms, quavering voice. My job required me to make presentations to groups in Silicon Valley, most often fifteen to sixty people huddled together after work in an auditorium or the company cafeteria. I read Dale Carnegie and Dorothy Sarnoff. Before long I looked forward to speaking. II got good at it. My sessions led to successes at NASA, IBM, Fairchild, Memorex, Ford Aerospace, Atari, Stanford, Berkeley, Shugart, Aeroject General, McKesson, Fireman's Fund, and Bank of America.

VCs backing a start-up where I was managing marketing & sales called in Valley legend Jerry Weisman to help our chairman and president beef up their national road show presentation. Since I was preparing the descriptions of our services and the "slide package," I got to sit in Weisman's famed coaching sessions; my notes follow.

As my career progressed, I had the opportunity to take the Decker Communications two-day course on presentations with its video feedback. I enjoyed it and it stayed with me for a while.

Years later II fell off the track. Colleagues told me my presentations were confusing and rushed, even a bit strange. With two major speaking engagements directly ahead, I went back to my sources and practiced on anyone who would listen. While I hiked in the hills around Phoenix, I thought over different ways to engage my audience and get my ideas across.

Off the top, the most important advice that springs to mind is:

tell stories, not what appears on a PowerPoint slide

use pictures -- graphics and mental images -- to convey the message

put yourself in the listener's shoes first, last, and always

practice, practice, dry run, practice, revise, practice, edit, practice

never read a speech

talk with one member of the audience at a time

Techniques that are good enough that I've shamelessly ripped them off are:

present a series of "objects," not a fully structured presentation; let the listener choose the sequence

before the presentation, ask individuals in the audience what they want to/expect to hear

put the questions at the beginning, not just the end.

notes from Jerry Weisman









form more important than substance (unless substance is truly extreme).  Proof: Reagan the "great communicator."

 "Before" video: best business accomplishment



eye contact











If visual/vocal contradicts verbal, negative audience empathy results.

Consider the inner game.

George Bush before coaching as example of how not to do it.



Silence is deadly.

Groups are different from one to one.


Don't ask "How am I doing?"

Rather, ask "How are they doing?"

Turn the focus outward.

Connect with the audience.

            Create empathy.

            Get feedback.



Sighting Trajectory   Projection     "STP"



Deliver one-on-one packets of information.

Deliver a full phrase before turning.

Don't shift in mid-phrase.

Breathe between phrases.


analogy to garden hose



Cite mutual examples.

Say "you and me."

Ask questions.

video practice: personal resume


 1.   Attention-getting opener

  •    a question
  •    a quotation
  •    a statistic
  •    an anecdote

2.    Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em

3.    Tell 'em (using examples)

 4,.    Tell 'em what you told 'em with a memorable close.


Jay's Notes
Good presentation requires unlearning in order to be spontaneous, natural, authentic.
Use a karate mindset: let your opponent lead, use his strength as your strength.
Play the inner game by visualizing yourself as a true believer who is here to share a secret.  This will foster contagious enthusiasm, fervor, vigor, sincerity.
Goal: sound conversational and maintain eye contact as if spontaneous
Method: become familiar by reading over several times aloud, see words in group and then speak in phrases.  Tape and check timing, clarity, continuity, vitality

Development of a point: state, explain, give examples, prove, restate

Before uttering a word, take a very deep breath, scan the crowd, and repeat in your head the Dorothy Sarnoff mantras: 

  1. I'm glad that I'm here. 
  2. I'm glad that you're here. 
  3. I know that I know. 
  4. I care about you.

Great meeting opener: You have three minutes to explain to others in your group everything that happened to you since high school that led to your being here today.  Then each introduce one another.


Six Signals All Audiences Want to Hear:

1.  I will not waste your time.

2.  I know who you are.

3.  I am well organized.

4.  I know my subject.

5.  Here is my most important part.

6.  I am finished.

 Positive vibes that make a commanding speaker:

  • joy and ease
  • sincerity, credibility, concern
  • enthusiasm--fire in the belly
  • authority


To ask a difficult question, separate yourself from the interviewee's critics, "Some critics say that..." or "Your opponents claim that..

 "Why do you say that."

from Dorothy Sarnoff's Never Be Nervous Again

  1. editing: strike out every third word; use lots of you, your, we our...make it conversational
  2. look at the listener 90% of the time. Kennedy would shift from one eye to the other--planting his message in each.
  3. a benevolent face says I understand.
  4.  never have any empty seats.

Draw a mind map to organize and remember your presentation.

Stanford Alumni Magazine on Jerry Weisman:

Talking the Talk

Think of it as CEO charm school. Jerry Weisman takes high-tech bosses and teaches them how to gesture, how to talk -- and how to pitch their companies to potential investors. Weisman, ’52, founded Power Presentations Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., in 1989.

At the time he was broke after spending three years working on his second unpublished novel. That’s when his college buddy, Ben Rosen, ’55, chair of Compaq Computer Corp., suggested he give some presentation pointers to Compaq’s CEO. The lessons were so successful, he says, “I decided there might be a business in this.”

Since then, Weisman, who spent 10 years as a public affairs producer at WCBS-TV in New York, has coached more than 500 executives, prepping them for the all-important “road show” -- the tour that usually precedes a company’s initial public offering. His four-day course runs $20,000.

Corporate Acting 101

If your company is considering going public, here's a resource you may want to consider to help you shape your message to analysts and investors: an acting coach for your CEO.

"So many MBAs talk like Valley Girls -- they'll say, 'this is like a totally hot IPO,'" one such coach, Jerry Weisman, told The Wall Street Journal.

For about $20,000 each, Weisman offers four days of basic training to help CEOs "allay the fears and stoke the greed" of analysts and institutional investors. "I teach them Aristotelian concepts of dramatic structure -- the call to action -- plus a few tricks," Weisman told the Journal. "I don't tell them it's Aristotle. Instead of quoting Shakespeare, I quote Henry Ford."

One pupil told the Journal that Weisman's advice includes focusing on "the three most influential words in the English language: 'you,' 'money' and 'save.'"

Timothy Koogle, CEO of Yahoo!, learned to loosen up and ease up on the "podium death grip." In addition to his fee, Weisman often insists on the right to buy as many as 1,000 shares of a company's offering at the insider price. But after teaching Koogle, "I only bought 250 shares of Yahoo!," he says.

Source: The Wall Street Journal Posted: May 8, 1998

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