As leaders, virtually every time we make a presentation, to a large audience or small, we have the opportunity to reinforce critical strategic priorities. The choice is ours. Is our message clear? Are we consistent? Is our message compelling? Is it memorable?
The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills a leader can develop. But communicating well in the moment is not the same as creating presentations and messages that resonate for months or even years. When we’re successful, my friend Nancy Duarte would say we created a “STAR moment.” STAR stands for Something They’ll Always Remember. That’s a great goal for every presentation.
There are many techniques you can use to accomplish this task. Memory hooks, repetition, simple language, a key word or phrase, visuals and one of my favorites, props. Over the years, I’ve used all of these approaches in an attempt to make my messages stick.
Sometimes, these attempts will exceed your expectations by creating memories seared in the heart and mind of your audience; sometimes, they may not connect at all; and other times, they may not exactly work out as you planned but still make an indelible mark on your audience.
One example of the latter occurred a couple of years ago when I wanted to illustrate the growing challenge and complexity of our business and the tremendous demands this was placing on the men and women who operate our restaurants.
Think for just a second about an analogy to make that point… sure, a plate spinner. But rather than talk about a plate spinner, I decided to invite one to the stage! This made perfect sense to me. What could go wrong? It was the kick-off presentation intended to establish the need for a four-year strategic initiative; he was a “professional;” and only 4000 people in the audience – it would be great!
Here are a few things I learned that day:
Don’t invite a plate spinner who’s never performed for more than 100 people – he was nervous.
Don’t let him use new plates – I guess he wanted them to look nice – he had been practicing with his old plates.
Don’t hire a plate spinner who has just landed off an international flight and hasn’t slept in days – he was tired.
The good news, it still worked. However, rather than him making it LOOK hard as we’d planned, it WAS hard. He broke more plates than either of us had anticipated.
That presentation was over two years ago and people still talk about how HARD it was for that guy to spin those plates – just like it’s hard for our leaders to spin all the plates. Mission accomplished!
Let me add, rarely do my “props” involve flying someone in to spin plates. Usually, they are much more simple. I’ll share some of those examples and four tips to help you use props more effectively next week in part two of this post.
Until then, think about upcoming presentations on your calendar. Ask yourself: “Is there a way to visualize the big idea? Is there a prop that might help?”
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