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Opening Keynote

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Communicate Like a Corporate Rock Star - Opening Keynote

Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE offers insights for communicate like a corporate rock star:

In an era of tough competition, presentations that persuade, educate, motivate, and inspire give you a competitive edge. Good presentation skills are no longer simply nice to have; they can mean career life or death.

Imagine yourself in the front row of a ballroom at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Sitting with you are 1,500 sales professionals from all over the world. This was a software company's challenging January sales meeting. That company had recently bought a competitor, and 40% of the sales professionals had nothing to do with the decision.

The VP of Human Resources challenged the president: "We need everyone to know they are working for the right company, at the right time, that our strategy is sound, and that they can have a great career with us. You are an engineer, a brilliant leader, and rather shy. You are not a bad speaker; for this meeting, however, we need for you to become our corporate Rock Star."

Here are the Rock Star elements that our shy engineer used and that you can also use to become a Rock Star communicator in the business world.
    1: R= Rehearse
    2: O = Opening
    3: C = Core Message
    4: K = Kick A$$ Closing

Rock Star Principle 1:  R= Rehearse
Great performers and rock stars value rehearsal. Even if executives work with a speech coach, with speechwriters, or a communications department, to become a Rock Star presenter, they must be actively involved in presentation preparation. Find time to rehearse.

When your message is internalized, you know your structure, could wake up in the middle of the night and deliver your opening and closing, and have informally told your stories. Get serious about rehearsal and delivery.

Rock Star Principle 2: O = Opening 

The first 30 to 60 seconds of your speech set the tone. They help build anticipation.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. What a pleasure to be here.” Sounds polite, but it is predictable, boring, and will not inspire action or commitment. It is not Rock Star quality. Rock Star performers will tell you, “We open with our second best song and close with our best.” These performers may have conversation with the audience to thank them for attending or for years of support but not at the opening!

You may be thinking, “Patricia, I have 45 minutes for my speech. That’s plenty of time to warm up and connect.” Wrong. Your audience is full of stimulation junkies with short attention spans. Come out punching and grab the audience’s attention. Make them think, “Wow! This is going to be good!”

An audience will forgive you anything except being boring. Being too predictable is boring. Start with a story, dramatic statement, question, or an inspiring thought. Our software president walked out and said, “Welcome to a brand new company!” He then described what had happened that made this the best move ever.

Rock Star Principle 3: C = Core Message
Each Rock tour has a theme. Know your central theme and core message. Your opening remarks must logically transition into the main message. The body will prove your central idea.
After his opening line, our executive answered the audience’s unspoken questions. Why was the decision made, what would it mean to them, and why was he the best leader?

Rock Star communicators need to reveal the person behind the position. He told a story.  “I was a 14-year-old boy playing chess against my best friend. We were equally matched as far as skill was concerned. That is when I first learned the importance of strategy.” Is the audience really interested in these stories? YES!

The person behind the position is the person they would fight for, work long hours for, and whose corporate strategy gives them confidence. We respect the position; we get emotionally connected to the person. It is not only what you say that communicates your message. It is also the subtext, what you aren’t saying outright. They are thinking, “Our corporate strategy must be good. Our president has been studying strategy since he was 14.”

Rock Star communicators also realize that in order to inspire action, you need to appeal to the audience’s rational self-interest. People make decisions for their reasons, not yours. They need to understand what is in it for them.

Rock Star Principle 4: K = Kick A$$ Closing
Remember, rock stars always close on their best song. Review your key ideas, and you have many options to close on a high. Close your presentation with the same words, thought, or vision from your opening. Remember, your last words linger. Leave them with a reinforcement of a key idea or an inspirational thought from your presentation. Consider the technique that our software president used.

If you are going to be a Rock Star presenter who inspires action and commitment, do not compete with yourself! Your audience can’t listen and read. A boring PowerPoint with too many words or too much information can sabotage a great presentation. Did your audience come to read or to hear you?

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Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC, Executive Director -- Breathing Space Institute  © 2014
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