I’m going to see the Rolling Stones in Zürich this week. At least I thought I was. Then I believed I wasn’t. But now I am.
You see, back in June I bought two tickets for the Golden Circle at a cost of £750. Three weeks later, very intelligently, I threw them out with the trash. Cue cold sweats, gnashing of teeth and weeping. I eventually resigned myself to the loss and that was that.
Then, out of the blue, just the other day, my two eldest daughters surprised me with a gift: two brand new tickets to the Golden Circle, same performance. Wow. And they paid from their own wallets. Love them. More tears.
What has this got to do with travel. Not a lot frankly you might think; apart from the upcoming train-ride from my home in Geneva to Zürich of course.
But it does relate to the business of travel and it does have a lot to do with Mick Jagger. Not for nothing are the Stones called ‘The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World’. It‘s no real surprise that more people have seen the Rolling Stones live than have seen any other band in history. The Stones have performed well over 2,000 concerts and many were huge. In the mega-category, you can include Hyde Park in 1969, Havana in 2016, and of course the 1.5 million strong crowd at Copacabana Beach, in 2006.
Why do people want to see them live? Well of course, as rock legends go, they have a seriously great music catalogue going back over 50 years; but, more than that, they are the best showmen in the business. When Jagger struts his stuff on stage the crowd goes wild, they are enraptured, totally sucked-in and craving more. Remember Maroon Five’s song, ‘Moves Like Jagger’? This tells you everything; when completely random musicians can drum up a mega-hit based entirely on the story of another artist’s dancing technique then, as that artist, you know you’ve completely cracked the performance angle of your stage show.
It’s only rock’n’roll, but we like it.
If you think about it, Mick’s stage performance is a sales presentation. He is for the Stones what Steve Jobs was for Apple. He’s the best there is; and people have bought tickets in their millions. The truth however, is that Jagger is not by any means perfect, in fact he’s not actually a very good dancer. Some say he’s got two left feet. So how does he do it? Probably three factors:
- His passion is infectious
- He has a ridiculous amount of confidence
- It’s his style and he doesn’t give a s*** what anyone else thinks so long as it works
So what’s the lesson for us business presenters in all of this? Well, apart from trying to incorporate something of one, two and three above, like Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie, over the years I’ve picked up a few important ‘preparation and delivery techniques’, in my case for travel and product presentations, both B2B and B2C. I hope by sharing them here it will help you hone your craft as a presenter, thus avoiding obvious pratfalls.
Here is my Top 10 list of basics for product presentations, travel trade film nights or other information events:
- Find out everything about your audience and the show’s context before you rock up for the show. Find out what makes them tick. Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions of the organisers. Go online and do your research too. Exactly why has the audience come along to listen to you? Want do they want from the experience? With luck they are there because they genuinely want to learn something that will improve their lives, businesses or lifestyles. When you are standing up-front you had better be able to deeply sense the mood and psyche of the audience and identify with their needs. Check also what subjects other presenters will be covering, to minimise clash. At the event itself, mix with people before the show and learn more about them. If you are hosted for dinner with attendees the night prior then use the time to mingle and delve deeper. If there is morning coffee before you start, or at a break during your presentation, don’t disappear into the toilets for a last minute rehearsal over your scribbled notes; instead use the time to interact with guests and learn more, even pick up a few names. You can use this extra knowledge to adapt pace and occasionally tweak content or use individuals’ phrases or experiences in examples… so long as you don’t wander off track – as that’ll be a disaster.
- Get your content right. The support slides or collateral must look great, you personally must be on point and you have to resonate with the audience. It would be easy to write a whole book on the subject of presentation content, but of course I’m not going to do that here. Let’s just take a snapshot with a few key pointers…You need ‘a beginning’ to set the scene and prepare the audience so they understand your flow; you must have ‘a middle’ to present the body content; and you need ‘an end’ to summarise and provide a call to action. Make sure your content contains great stories backed with experiential imagery. No other form of communication connects with an audience better, because as humans we relate to story-telling throughout our lives. In fact, since time immemorial, folklore, stories and narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values. But, hopefully you also have some some key areas of product differentiation, so backup your emotional stories with measurable, rational benefits. Once you have nailed the logic through tangibles, then your whole proposition becomes incontrovertible and you add a whole new level of value.
- Expectations will be for slick and dynamic graphics. If the presentation is not provided as a package by your company or an agency, or if you don’t have experience with graphics or are not up to the task of creating high quality PowerPoint visuals from scratch, then get help. Don’t use more than six words per slide (any more and it should be a hand-out not a slide presentation) as you can verbalise around the headlines, so long as you don’t wander beyond your notes. Forget the over-use of whizzy animations too. The world has moved on and simple transitions are better.
- Rehearse and rehearse again. No presentation is going to be classy if you turn up and wing it. Even presentations that appear spontaneous will have been run through again and again. No-one has an excuse to fail on this point. Back in 2014, a children’s charity in the UK conducted a poll of 2,000 Britons over 60 to discover the phrases and words of wisdom that they most relied on. ‘Practise makes perfect’ was far and away the chart topper of all expressions they had picked up in childhood and still continued to use well into their older years.
- To add an extra layer of professionalism, make sure to use ‘presenter mode’ when on stage. With your screen extended you can view your speaker notes privately, while delivering a clean presentation on multiple monitors for the audience. Too many people still use duplicate screens as default and wing-it on their notes or use additional paper scribbles. If you are not familiar with extended screens and PowerPoint, then zip over to MS Office support here: View Speaker Notes
- If you are linking technology to slides then it had better work effectively Look at the recent example of a very flustered Craig Federighi as he struggled to unlock the iPhone X while demonstrating Face ID, Apple’s new facial recognition software. Have a hidden back-up ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ slide you can quickly activate should the worse come to worst (in presenter mode you can click through to slide-sorter and instantly trigger a hidden slide without interrupting the show).
Timing is vital when you are giving your presentation. Click ahead by a second or two so your personal transition between slides is seamless. A gap where the presenter has to read their own next slide before speaking is horrible; it’s embarrassing for you and uncomfortable for the audience. The fact is, your brain is pretty smart… as you finish speaking the last couple of words from your previous slide you are more than capable of simultaneously reading ahead to get ready for your next pearl of enlightenment. It’s called multi-tasking and even men can manage this one. Of course this doesn’t stop you deliberately employing ‘the dramatic pause for effect’. If you are reading the audience correctly, and that takes practice, then a pause can work as a knockout blow. Remember ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and Frankenfurter’s use of the phrase: ‘I see you shiver with antici……….pation.’
- As you finally walk on stage, use this trick: momentarily lower your chin to your chest and close your eyes (no-one will see this and a downward glance appears you are simply checking your footing or pausing for thought); then open your eyes, raise your head and immediately start speaking. It will eliminate stage-fright and get you off to a flying start. Believe me, I use this technique and it works a treat.
- Remember, be passionate. It shows you are fully invested in your subject. It’s vital and brings a show to life. It helps if you are naturally passionate about your topic but if you aren’t then you’ll need to find your mojo as humdrum is deadbeat. But don’t get too emotional or the audience will get distracted by your intensity. Think Jagger, Jobs, Branson and Ghandi; not Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa.
- One final thing. I’ve always been vocal to my teams about this one, so I’ll say it again here. When you finish your presentation, and have answered any questions (if that was part of the planning), then shut up and sit down. It sounds a little crude but it is crucial. Don’t, whatever you do, keep rabbiting on with unrehearsed drivel. The audience doesn’t want it and if you are not careful it will kill your entire show and take you over your time slot. The best entertainers do an encore, but they also know when to stop. Better to have people wanting more than angry crowds booing you off.
So here we are, with just days to go to Zurich and I’m counting down the minutes. I know the Stones will be brilliant and that Sir Mick Jagger, aged 74, will dance his way with passion, once again, into the hearts of the audience. He’s rock music’s showman of his generation and we love him to bits.
I hope my short notes will maybe go a little way to.help set you on the path to get your audience to love you too.
PS: Here is a link to an official promo video for the Rolling Stones current tour: No Filter
PPS: Thursday 21 Sept. I watched the show last night. It was so great. Very cool. They also played one of their hottest tracks of modern times: Ride ‘Em on Down
PPPS: For lovers of Rocky Horror, here’s the YouTube clip: Anticipation