Understanding

Paint the Vision

As I prepare for the MBA class on leadership I’ll be teaching this summer, I was thinking about all of critical components. Tom Landy, a great football coach, once said that Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”  The most important element is vision – to inspire people to do what you want them to do.

Unfortunately, many leaders assume people know and are committed to the vision, so instead of focusing on it, they give it short shift and focus on the management issues concerning activities. When the stakes are high, that’s a mistake.

One of the best descriptions of vision was offered last century by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

All too often we get lost in the management details and forget that it’s the vision that inspires people to take on the hardships that might be required to achieve the goal. Building a ship takes a lot of work, and can at time be quite draining, in terms of the workload, the doubts that might arise, etc. – as is true for many creative endeavors. Think of Noah’s very long-term commitment to build his ark!  Yet, to get people to make the commitment to prevent hunger, end cancer, or create a transformative new venture, it’s the commitment to the vision of how the world will look afterwards that provides fuel to overcome the challenges.  Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley from Pepsi  to Apple Computers by asking whether he wanted to be the best at selling soda (i.e., brown sugar water) or “make a dent in the universe”.

So, when you recruit people to your new venture, be sure to paint a powerful vision. Share with us your company’s vision statement to inspire other leaders.

What Does “Powerful” Mean?

What do we mean when we say that a presentation is powerful? It’s got great content? It was graphically engaging? The delivery was captivating to convert people to “buy” into the proposition? All of the above are true, but the most important part is whether it had IMPACT – produce the desired deal. Since the average viewer generally is not the final decision-maker, impact is determined by what happens after the presentation.

When the presentation is over, the viewer needs to be committed to taking action (based on the features mentioned), remember the key points and be able to communicate it almost as effectively as the original presenter did.

For many presenters, this is where the breakdown takes place. For instance, all necessary content is considered when preparing the presentation; but usually it’s more than the audience needs to hear and more than they can remember. WINNING means producing a presentation with What’s Important Now (WIN) only! Delete the clutter – it distracts from the core message and the ability to remember it clearly! Powerful means grabbing attention and keeping it by being succinct for quick grasping of key points in a memorable manner (e.g., “3 points”) which the listener can remember and communicate to others. Slides with too many facts and/or presenter with too many words, makes it difficult to remember the key point and easily repeat it to the final decision-makers. Further, words need to be simple and powerful for one person to communicate with others. “They had a breakthrough year, tripling sales and profits” is a memorable conclusion, you are likely to share; a whole paragraph discussing it, is not.

Similarly, charts with too many details and boring headlines (e.g., Sales History 2013-2018) that don’t telegraph the important point (“Sales are Doubling Annually, for 5 years”), don’t make it easy to tell the final decision-makers. For instance, yesterday I sat in a presentation in which a slide showed three charts side by side, with boring titles on each, so much detail that it was hard to discern the real trends, and did not use the same color line for each company when charting (e.g., IBM was blue, red and green) in the three charts. The audience spent time trying to make sense of what chart was saying, and had no ability to grasp quickly the important point to remember and communicate easily to others.

Suggestion: rehearse your presentation with someone not familiar with the information before delivering it. When finished ask them to share with you the three key takeaways. If the person gets them all, immediately, you have a Powerful Presentation. Similarly, if you do not win a deal, give take the test and see what happens. If the person can’t remember and communicate, then it’s time to master the basics of Presentation Excellence.

What’s your experience with powerful presentations? Share with us.

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