Presentations and Communication

What’s Your Purpose Statement?

One of the initial tasks of every company is to articulate the corporate identify so management, employees and investors are all on the same page, and then articulate the band that the company wants to project to its customers. Over time, things may change, and it’s important to revisit the corporate identify.  When was the last time your team revisited the accuracy and engagement-value of your company’s corporate identity?

Over the past few years, corporate leaders who previously may have declared that their company’s purpose was to “increase shareholder value” have expanded their purpose to include other stakeholders, including employees, communities and society in general. Concerns about climate change, sustainability, diversity and inclusion are all fueling this change.

Today, as a result of the pandemic, between 20 and 33% of adults, especially emerging and early stage adults, are beginning to rethink their lifestyle and career steps. Why continue to spent a lot of time commuting to work and away from raising a family and forging a wholesome lifestyle, when remote and hybrid work options let you integrate work and family into a lifestyle? “The great resignation”, as this trend has been called, reflects the re-evaluation of people’s values and prior life decisions. Many are taking GROWTHH sabbaticals to reflect and decide what they want to do and then seek out news skills, jobs, cities, etc.

Against this backdrop, an article by PwC, Why Corporate Purpose Statements Often Miss Their Mark, caught my attention. Are your company’s Corporate Identity components, which may have been developed years ago, still appropriate and accurate (1) for the current and future business and (2) for your stakeholders now and in the immediate future? 

The article focuses on the fact that many purpose statements lack and meaningful sense of purpose – which may explain why so many people no longer feel drawn to their former employers and the new ones desperate to find new employees.  For instance, when an environmental organization says its purpose is to “create daylight, fresh air and a better environment for people’s every day lives”, it tells you the reason the company exists, identifies the beneficiary and inspires people concerned with our climate challenges. Contrast that to another company’s  purpose to “produce goods of as high a quality as possible with as low as possible production costs”; practical, but not inspiring.

So it may be time for you to review your set of corporate identity statements:

  • Purpose: Why does the company exist? It should describe what the company does, who they do it for and how they do it.  The PwC study found that the overwhelming majority neglected to mention the core problem they intend to solve or refer to its history illustrate its actual purpose.
  • Vision:  What will you ultimate product as a result? Think of the headline you’d like to see in a major newspaper about the achievements accomplished in the distant future. (e.g., “ WHO announces that XYZ disease is now eliminated worldwide.”)
  • Mission: How are you contributing daily to the service that will solve the beneficiary’s problems?
  • Strategy. What resources will you mobilize and tradeoffs will you make to achieve the solution?
  • Culture: What values and behaviors should your team practice in order to actualize the purpose?

Once you’ve identified your corporate identify statements, then you can develop just descriptions for individuals and teams which incorporate them and build accountability systems and improvement systems to help people grow professionally and personally. (See Accountable4Success.com)

Most important, your statement of Corporate Identity is a living document. Over times, people and circumstances will change. What worked yesterday may not be appropriate for tomorrow. On an annual basis, at the least, your executive team should review and edit as needed. And the best time to evaluate your purpose and other statements is NOW!

Decisions, Decisions: It’s the Presentation that Counts

A leader is responsible for making the best possible decisions for her/his team/company. Ideally, we have plenty of time to get the facts, weigh the options and then objectively make the best possible decision. That’s not today’s world, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous).  As Greg Satell relates in 4 Things Every Leader Should Know About Making Decisions (But Most Don’t), we make decisions based on limited data and time, and because we’re human, lots of psychological processes related to which facts we analyze, how we weigh the “data”, and how we present it, allow subjectivity to enter. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book, Decisive, make similar points about unconscious biases and tendencies.

After doing the best we can to overcome the biases, collect the data and analyze, what can we do? Satell raises some good points that you should consider:

  • Your team’s willingness to follow your lead depends on how well you confidently you present your decision. He relates a story in which one of his people noted that “Well, you always seemed confident and that made us confident.” Even though he wasn’t always confident that he was making the right decision, he was confident that a decision had to be made at that time.  Over time, you learn to make the best decision under constraining circumstances, and so your confidence relates to the process:  the best possible decision you could make is offered as needed.
  • Learn how to use time to help you make the best decision.  If a decision is needed the next day and someone asks you for it at the end of a day, when you’re not able to necessarily make the best decision and review it, agree to provide the decision – tomorrow when it’s needed. That buys you the time to reflect on the tentative decision and all the factors that might affect it.
  • Buying time often buys you the ability to receive additional facts and perspectives that the “selective attention of your prepared mind” may identify. (Think about buying a “red car” and suddenly you “see” more of them around than ever.)
  • Use the time to reflect on many of the unconscious biases, such as availability bias,  priming, and framing, to see if they are affecting the decision. If time permits, consider using pre-mortems and red teams, to identify opposing perspectives and weigh them. Finally, keepin mind, as Kahneman notes in Noise,  that experts (e.g.,  radiologists and auditors)

In sum, work toward making the best possible decision by checking your premises, and then feel confident that you’ve done the best job. It’s often said that “sales is the transfer of enthusiasm”; when you’re presenting the decision to motivate and engage the team, your confidence in the decision will close the sale.

Why Do We Shout Sometimes

The majority of people who come to Presentation Excellence to help improve their “presentation effectiveness” tend to focus on two issues:

  • The extent to which their presentation is compelling – which means understanding its content, flow, design and ability to address any audience reactance and situational constraints which would impact significantly on how a message is absorbed.
  • Their own ability to present powerfully, since many experience speaker anxiety. (Remember fear of public speaking is the number one fear people have, and is the reason that, as jerry Seinfeld noted, at funerals “people would rather be in the box than giving the eulogy!”).

How we present ourselves has become even more important since the pandemic started, because so many presentations are done virtually, often showing only our heads, which means we can’t manage our body language as we do in a live-presentation. Many of our colleagues focus on helping people set up their “zoom rooms” to help demonstrate their professionalism, and train themselves to look straight “into the eyes” of the other Zoom attendants.

However, more important is our speech pattern –e.g., clarity, pacing, timber, modulating volume, keeping thoughts short and using breaths to allow people to absorb key points. This is especially the case when we’re giving presentations – such as webinars and podcasts – where our body and face and not present or prominent.   This point was brought home to me this summer, by two events.

I’ve known for years that when I’m excited to share something that I think will really help my audience, I unconsciously raise my volume to “make sure they heard” the point. Whether live or virtually, I generally manage it well.  But suddenly, people were telling me I was shouting. Surprised to hear it I reflected on whether I was exceptionally excited, and then realized that there probably was a change in the speaker system I was using. I just moved my office and changed my equipment and sure enough the settings were off.  Thanks for the feedback! Now that doesn’t happen again.

Also, I read the Wall Street Journal’s article, Why Do We Shout When We Argue, which highlighted a second factor: our lack of confidence. While we all “know” that shouting doesn’t actually persuade anyone, and often has the opposite effect, Vanessa Bohns noted that researchers have found that when people lack confidence, they tend to shout, “ While we often are over-confident in our beliefs, the tendency to shout…comes from under-confidence in our ability to convince others.”

This “shouting” can take several forms, in addition to just speaking louder and faster. Thinking this will help impress the audience, presenters often “raise their vocabulary” – using larger words and more jargon. In the design of their presentation, they compensate by using more text, and detailed charts and tables than are needed – often weakening the impact of their presentation.  And, from a speech standpoint they raise volume when they think their losing the audience’s attention thinking that by shouting they will get more attention.

As we note in our training programs, less is more, and that applies to the amount of slides, text per slide, and details per chart and table. The key is to provide the key information in a way that the audience wants to receive it – and not shout it out.  Indeed, when you dropping your volume on something important, audiences will give you more attention in order to make sure they heard it. And if you want them to totally absorb an idea, taking a pause gives them the break needed to do so – and is likely to help you persuade your audience.

So the next time you present, think through both the presentation you designed and the delivery. And ask for feedback so you can avoid “shouting” in both areas!

Look Past the "Self-Presentation"

One of the many consequences of the pandemic is that people are more anxious. The sudden appearance of Covid-19 and its impact on our lifestyles -, health and life itself, has created anxiety for almost everyone. For some it’s quite severe; for others not.  However, it’s important that we recognize its impact and help people address it.

Adrian Gostick, Chester Elton and Anthony Gostick, recently released a book, Anxiety at Work.  Even before the pandemic started, the authors were hearing that anxiety at work was increasing. Harvard Medical School research reports that “on-the-job-anxiety” imperils workers; careers and company  productivity.. Anxiety leads to increased employee, errors, growing burnout, workplace rage, more sick days, and poor employee health. Workplace anxiety is estimated to cost some $40 Billion annually in lost productivity, errors and health-care costs; stress is estimated t cost more than $300 Billion.

A 2018 survey found that 34% of workers of all ages felt anxious at least once in the previous month; 18% had a diagnosed anxiety disorder.  Some of it is related to fitting into the workplace; another comfort is discomfort with doing the work. Yet very little about it was reported in their companies.


At Stanford University, they came up with a term to describe the masquerading of students at the high-pressure school. The “duck syndrome” describes students who appear as if they doing fine, but are manically pushing themselves, just like a duck calmly glides on a pond, while below the surface the ducks are paddling like mad.

During the pandemic, the stresses became more severe, as people, especially parents had to juggle health issues, living arrangements, computer resources, and significant others having all kinds of problems, while handling the work for their employers.  Since the common interface was Zoom, people could try to a present a calm self-presentation. Like the “ducks”, they make it seem that they were gliding along, when in fact they were under pressure and used extra hours in the day to meet the deadlines. How hard they paddled wasn’t obvious.

We’re now in the “fluid” stage of the pandemic – trying to figure out when, where and how we will work at home, in the office, etc. Adding to everyone’s anxiety is that like water in a bucket on a ship at sea being tossed by the waves, the water keeps shifting and just adding more stress to it for all.

We all need to look past our self-presentations of relative “calm” and attend to the indicators of additional stress and anxiety that might below the surface. We need to have open discussions with our staff of what their current situation is like and how they expect it to changes, while the waves of this pandemic keep slamming everyone.  Only in that way can we help people take control of their anxiety and make decisions as to what will work for them in the next stage and eventually the new normal.

Share with us what you’re doing to help your staff. We can all learn from experiences.

Is An Outdated LinkedIn Profile Negatively Impacting Your Career?

By Point Road Group

Before and after you give a presentation, people look you up on LinkedIn. Does your profile make a great impression and present you optimally when they do? Can people see your unique value, expertise and experience in way that’s clear, informative and interesting? What your profile says about you supports your personal brand and credibility as a speaker, and if it’s outdated, that credibility can be damaged. Consider the following reactions to outdated profile content:

  • How can this person be an expert in XX when their profile doesn’t communicate it at all?
  • The speaker claims to have deep experience in YY, but when I look at their work history, it doesn’t add up.
  • The speaker comes across as junior level on their profile. Is this person really a leader in ZZ?

What you include on your profile should reflect who you are today. Outdated information doesn’t position you well for anything – future speaking engagements, network growth, internal opportunities, business referrals, potential jobs, board seats or media inquiries. Consider the missed opportunities if your profile doesn’t show what you bring to the table now.

Resonating with your audience is critical when giving a presentation. The same holds true with viewers of your LinkedIn profile. The content on your profile is a form of presentation, so make it mistake-free and relevant and relatable to your target audiences. 

If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your profile, here are 7 updates to improve impressions you make and instantly enhance your credibility.

1. Update Your Headshot

Your headshot is the first thing people see about you on LinkedIn. Use a good quality, professional-looking image that represents what you look like today, not 10 years ago. If you’ve changed hair color, switched to wearing glasses or grown a beard since your last photo, update your headshot. Use a picture that’s centered on your face, isn’t taken from 50 feet away and doesn’t include others. When your headshot and appearance as a presenter on video (or in person) don’t match, it can confuse audiences and potentially impact communication.

2. Go Beyond Title & Company In Your Headline

Your headline introduces you on LinkedIn and influences whether someone decides to read more about you. It also impacts your discoverability in search results. When writing a headline, include key areas of expertise and industry specialties. If you’re a keynote speaker, let people know! Use this high value real estate to establish relevancy and credibility, not just state a job title and company name.

3. Write About You, Not Your Company In About

Do you include a lot of detail about your company instead of who you are and what makes you unique in the About section? Your profile, and especially the About section, is the place to tell your professional story. While it’s okay to write about your company topline for context, don’t make it all about them. Even if your role is to develop new business or drive brand awareness, people still want to know about who you are and the expertise and value you bring. Include the most critical information in the first few lines to entice people to click, “see more.”

4. Grab Attention With Logos In Experience

Are there generic gray/blue square icons in your Experience section instead of company logos? Be sure to match employer names to the correct LinkedIn company pages so clickable company logos appear. Experience looks more credible and impactful with visual representation of the brands you’ve worked for. If a former employer was sold, list the acquiring company so the logo appears (and then under your title or description, be clear that you worked for the acquired company. If the company no longer exists or if you’re self-employed and don’t have a LinkedIn company page, it’s acceptable to leave the generic icon.

5. Unpack Your Experience

Do you over-summarize positions, so it looks like you had one title for 10 years instead of the three roles you really held? Not only does showing career progression demonstrate that you performed well (and the company valued your work and supported your growth), but it can also generate up to 29X more profile views. Include detail under recent positions to enhance your credibility. While it doesn’t need to read like a resume, providing some information under your current role can result in up to 5X more connection requests, 8X more profile views and 10X more messages according to LinkedIn.

6. Include 5+ Skills

List skills that relate to who you are today and how you want to position yourself moving forward. Include skills related to speaking and presenting, specific industry and functional strengths and other competencies that highlight your unique value and problems you solve. This improves searchability. According to LinkedIn, including at least 5 skills on your profile translates to up to 17X more profile views and 31X more messages.

7. Check Details & Settings

Do you know what email is listed on your profile? Do you link to a Twitter handle but haven’t tweeted in years? Do you know who can view your information and if your profile is publicly viewable? Be sure to go through all areas of Contact Information to ensure it’s current, as well as Settings & Privacy. People should be able to find you on LinkedIn and reach you in some way off-platform.

A current and complete LinkedIn profile strengthens impressions you make when someone looks you up before/after presentations, meetings or events; when making introductions that link to your profile; or when conducting a search on or off LinkedIn. Strong personal brands are important for speakers and presenters and an optimized LinkedIn profile reflects that. Don’t let an outdated profile negatively impact your credibility or business and career opportunities.

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