You Have Much To Learn Grasshopper: What The Great Communicators Can Teach Us

What would Jack Welch tell you to do in your next presentation?
What would Jack Welch tell you to do in your next presentation?
Image Credit: Jay Cross

So you’ve been picked to give a presentation at the next team/department/company gathering. You sit down with a blank computer screen, bring up PowerPoint and as you stare at that blank slide you can almost see your career going into a tailspin and hurtling towards a flaming crash. Great, now what do you do?

Why would you even think that you know how to give a great presentation? Who taught you how to do this stuff? Jack Welsh? Steve Jobs? John Chambers? Nope, you’ve probably never talked with them. But you know what, they all do a great job of presenting material. What if they could take you aside for even just a few minutes and have a chat with you. What do you think that they’d tell you to do? Good news – I know and I’m going to share it with you…

Carmine Gallo wrote a book called Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators. In this book are the communications tricks that the top business executives use to get their message across. Now you may not yet be the CEO of a major company; however, getting some guidance from folks who are sure couldn’t hurt, now could it? Let’s take a look at what suggestions we can find in Carmine’s book.

  • What would Jack Welch tell you to do?:
    Jack was the chairman of GE and he did a great job of transforming the company into a world power. Oh, and he cheated on his wife and put some skunky stuff in his retirement package like a fancy apartment paid for by GE, But despite all that, the reason that he was so successful was that he insisted on simple, straightforward communication. Get rid of the jargon (ROI? CRM? SaaS?) and focus on the basics. Here’s a Jack quote for you “Insecure managers create complexity.” Jack would tell you to keep it simple, stupid. Got it?
  • What would Steve Jobs tell you to do?
    Steve is the CEO of Apple and was CEO of Pixar which is now owned by Disney. Dang, what makes this guy such a great communicator? At the end of the day, I believe that its the simple fact that he really, really, really believes in what he’s talking about. He’s out to change the world and it just seems to pour out of him. When you watch him talk, you can’t help but become intoxicated by his message. So here’s the question for you: do you believe in what you are going to be talking about? Do you really, really believe in it? Have you figured out how this is going to change the world? You’d better if you really want to captivate your audience. Steve would tell you to make sure that you believe in what you will be talking about.
  • What would Meg Whitman tell you to do?
    Meg was the CEO of Ebay for ten years. She’s worth something like $1.7B – clearly she was quite good at what she did! Ebay was/is all about keeping their customers happy. Meg’s gift was that she heavily promoted collecting customer feedback and then taking action on it. Note that she took action – just listening is not enough. Have you listened to the audience that you’ll be presenting to? What are they telling you? Have you done this before? What did they tell you that time around? Great business presenters listen before they say a single word. Meg would tell you to get feedback from your audience before you present anything to them.
  • What would John Chambers tell you to do?
    John is the CEO of Cisco Systems. I seem to recall reading somewhere that John has dealt with the learning disability of Dyslexia for his entire life. In order to prevent it from interfering with his presentations, John rehearses over and over and over again for every presentation that he’s going to give. His rehearsals are so detailed that he even practices his walks into the audience and placing a hand on someone’s shoulder. This means that he’s able to reel off facts and stats about Cisco products without having to even glance at his notes. John’s presentations are truly a sight to be seen. John would tell you to rehearse everything over and over again.

Not too bad – now you’ve had four of the most effective presenters of our time whisper in your ear what you should do to deliver a powerful presentation. There’s more, but right now you’ve got to get to work creating that presentation. Get to it!

Have you ever worked with someone that you though was an exceptionally powerful presenter? What was the secret to their presentation success? Have you ever given a presentation that you felt went far better than you had expected? What made this one presentation work so well? Leave a comment and let me know…