Political and media pundits will decide the merits of what Trump said in his speech to a joint session of Congress last night. However, from a presentation delivery point of view in terms of how he said it, I am reminded of a famous scene from the movie, “Three Men and a Baby.”
For readers who never saw the movie, Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson starred as three bachelors who must care for a baby who suddenly appears on their doorstep. At one point, Guttenberg and Danson return from an evening out to discover Selleck reading the baby to sleep. Nothing unusual in that, except that what Selleck was reading to the baby was an article on boxing!
When asked by his incredulous friends, how he could read a sports article to a baby, Selleck replied, “It is not what you say, but how you say it that counts.” And he continued to read the article in a sing song way to help the baby fall asleep.
Why “How” and “What” Must Work Together in Presenting
Selleck was right up to a point. The "how" is important, but, in business, it must also work congruently with the "what" to be really effective.
If “what” you say is suspect, but “how” you say it is engaging, then people will listen, even be entertained, but will not be persuaded to act. You will be seen as suspect, sneaky, not credible, or illogical.Conversely, if “what” you say is excellent, but “how” you say it is weak, then people will lose interest and miss the value of your content. What you say won’t resonate and be experienced as boring. In both cases, you are likely to lose.
How do you ensure the “what” and the “how” are working together?
Think first about your Objective and your Audience, which brings me back to Trump.
What’s the Objective?
His objective in campaign appearances was to fire up a particular (and real) base. His speeches were designed to be red meat talks and they played to the fears, anger, and pain of his audiences. His target audience did NOT include the media, liberals, moderates, or traditional political pundits. The “what” of these events was deliberately dark and laced with incendiary language and the “how” was bombastic, raucous, aggressive, and defiant. His audience listened. In fact, they ate it up.
And it worked. He won the election.
Fast forward to a very different audience last night: Congress and the entire country. The objective now was different. He wanted to communicate a message of unity and possibility. He was speaking to the people whose help he needs if he is to get as many of his programs enacted as possible, a group that represents interests and concerns beyond his base. After a chaotic month in office, a “red meat” approach both in content and delivery was not going to work. Instead, he needed to communicate in a more measured and disciplined manner to get people to put aside their misgivings and strong feelings and just listen to what he had to say. And he did that. Regardless of your position, I think it is fair to say, most people listened to the full speech.
And it worked. Everyone I spoke to and every post-speech commentator I saw described his manner as much more “presidential.”
Time will tell if this was a one-off performance and to what extent people will still debate the goals and specifics of his policies, but at least they heard him out.
Biz Lesson: "Engage Mind Before Mouth"
If you want to achieve your presentation/demo/sales/ goals, If, at a minimum, you want people to listen to you, It is critical to
- Know your Objective
- Analyze your Audience before you plan your presentation
- Select your "what" (content, story, and language) based on that analysis
- Deliver your "how," (the "what" in a style that will be congruent with your goals and audience)
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!
Improve the “What” and the “How” in Your Presentations & Demos
Call today for individual coaching or team workshops and learn how to turn information that tells into a story that sells. 212-876-1875 email@example.com
"Anne and I recently worked together on a speech I gave at a large conference. She helped me turn a series of somewhat interesting points into an expertly crafted, compelling and actionable story. Together, we built a storyline with attention-grabbing headlines. We worked and re-worked the language, making sure every word was important. Finally, Anne coached me on the delivery. The result was so exciting - I've never been so well received in a speech before. Thank you, Anne!" Kate Griffin, Vice President, CFED.org
Did you miss this article? Great Ideas for Strengthening the "What" in Presenting
My latest post on LinkedIn explores three levels of metaphors you can use when you need to sell, influence, persuade, or explain anything to anyone.
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