The art and science of persuasive presentations

First comes research and gathering the numbers, according to John Borghetti, CEO of Virgin Australia. When you really know your stuff, you have the ability to be flexible and responsive to your audience, not one-eyed about what you’re going to say. And you can’t do that without thorough preparation.

Next comes rehearsing; and rehearsing; and rehearsing, according to Bob Campbell, managing director of the television and movie production company Screentime. A successful presentation doesn’t leave anything to chance. Being ‘brilliantly prepared’ means you can be absolutely confident.

John Borghetti also stresses the need to sell yourself in your presentations. People won’t believe your words until they believe you and believe in you.

Discussion questions

In Bob’s field, a successful presentation is one where no one has any questions: ‘No questions means you’ve done your job. The people you’re presenting to have ‘got it’. What makes for a successful presentation at your workplace and in your industry?

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Productivity tips

A recent article in Inc featured the top ‘productivity hacks’ of 13 CEOs and Founders. Here are the tips that I liked best:

Block out one day or two half days when you work on your high-priority items and disable your email, phone and computer network connections.

Follow David Allen’s ‘two-minute rule’: When a new task comes in and you can knock it off in less than two minutes, do so.

Implement ‘No Meeting Wednesdays’ throughout your team.

Make the best use of your desk time. If you’re out and about a lot, ‘out’ is when to check your emails and catch up on reading and phone calls. Switch your phone off when your at your desk and get on with other work.

Move all your Facebook friends to acquaintances. You’ll still get updates, but only the most important ones. This one action could make you 5 to 10 times more productive.

Protect your ‘golden hours’. Work out when you do your best work, treat that time as sacrosanct, and work on your most important and difficult tasks and projects then.

Start your day by doing your least favourite task on your To Do list.

Try to work 2 – 3 hours straight before checking emails if your job allows.

Work with your ultradian rhythms, your body’s natural cycles of 90 to 120 minutes. That’s when your body gives you a clue that you need to rest or change your physical or mental activity. If you don’t, you’re likely to feel tired and stressed.

Discussion questions

Which of these to you fancy trying out?

Your role in safety

In her Workplace Communicator newsletter, Marie-Claire Ross talks about your role in workplace safety in an on-line article called ‘Why Supervisors are so Important when Improving Workplace Safety. Positive communication relations between supervisors and employees is the key: encouraging positive safety attitudes and sharing important safety-related information.

She also gives a good model showing the elements of a workplace safety culture and in that same article, Three Simple Steps to Improve Safety Culture, suggest three things you can do to make your team more safety conscious.

Discussion questions

Check out these two articles and see whether you are doing all you can to create a safety culture in your workplace.

The new employment model – the open-talent economy

‘I think employers are still looking for loyalty, but there’s no reciprocity.’

Professor Michael Quinlan, University of New South Wales

The psychological contract, whereby the employer matches employee loyalty and hard work with loyalty and job security is under assault from globalisation, the global financial crisis and advances in digital technology. Business professionals and other white-collar workers and IT, sales and marketing staff have replaced blue-collar workers as the main victims of corporate restructuring.

As units of human capital, often rated highly as an organisation’s most important asset, shut their office doors behind them never to return, we are switching to an open-talent economy where organisations buy knowledge and services from a global marketplace and existing employees are disposable.

Beleaguered employees who remain after a redundancy often find it difficult to produce the same quality of work as in the past. Questions such as ‘Am I next?’ and ‘How can this happen?’ drag down morale. Often, remaining employees are expected to pick up the work of departed employees, adding to an already high job load.

As permanent full-time jobs continue to give way to an ever-changing workforce comprised of increasing numbers of temporary ‘tour of duty’ jobs, casual workers, contractors and offshore and outsourced ‘hired hands’ and ‘hired brains’, the pressure mounts for employers to find viable ways to engage the best efforts and commitment to the corporate vision and strategy of remaining employees, contractors, casuals and outsourced personnel.

How organisations and employees can best deal with unstable workplaces are questions we need to find answers to in a complex and uncertain employment landscape.

Discussion questions

People in leadership positions are often torn between simple, short-term expediency and following a long-term, morally just vision. What ideas do you have to re-engage employees who survive redundancies in your team? To engage the commitment of temporary and other categories of employees and service providers? What practical steps would you take and in what order to help employees deal with unstable workplaces? How might you ‘tweak’ the operations and procedures at your workplace to deal with a changing and often de-motivated workforce?

Well-balanced managers

I’m reading a book called Life’s a Pitch by Philip Delves Broughton. It’s about how central sales is to organisations. We seldom think of sales as a pivotal function but let’s face it — without people out there selling, those ‘back at the ranch’ would all be out of work.

One good point that I want to share with you (and the book is filled with good points and worth reading for many reasons, not just to find out what it takes to be a good salesperson) is that when it comes to working with customers, good relationships are vital — EXCEPT when you’re selling products and services as one-off transactions. Then, the hard-sell, no-relationship method is the one to go for. For all  other types of sales, working with your customers as partners and building solid, trust-based relationships is the go.

But the main reason for this blog is to give you Earl Nightingale’s checklist of seven items necessary for living a full life, reproduced in Chapter 4. (Nightingale was a mid-20th Century legendary speaker and sales maestro.) Living a full life is important for managers because just as managers with empty lives tend to be poor managers, managers with rich and full lives tend to be good managers. (A sweeping generalisation I know, but a truism nevertheless, I think.)

So to be a good manager, follow these seven rules (paraphrased first by Broughton and now by me):

  1. Have a worthwhile goal; without a goal, you end up living hour to hour, always reacting, never setting your own course.
  2. Work to keep you attitude positive for lots of reasons, not least of which because your own attitude determines other peoples’ attitude towards you.
  3. Think for yourself. Otherwise, you’re buffeted by circumstance and biddable by others.
  4. Remember the Boomerang Principle — you get back what you give.
  5. Always be truthful.
  6. Invest in your own development so you can keep growing.
  7. Remember that you become what you think about most of the time — your thoughts determine your fate.

Put this list somewhere where you’ll see it every morning. Read it over and over until it becomes part of who you are.

Discussion questions

Does your organisation deal in one-off or multiple transactions with its customers? What can you do to more fully adopt Nightingale’s seven items for living a full life?

Five risks to make sure you monitor

In an article on the top ten risk-management stories, Shawn Moynihan highlights five risks you need to stay on top of:

  1. Cyber liability. Too many employees at all levels are not aware of their responsibilities regarding cyber liability and the more senior the employee, the greater the risk. Senior people failing to discharge their duel duties of care and to promote the success of the organisation could cost it millions; Moynihan even suggests they could face litigation from investors and regulators.
  2. The strength of your organisation’s risk culture. Every employee needs to be vigilant, all the time, off duty and on, wherever they are.
  3. Risks to your organisation’s property. Even in knowledge organisations, property is a significant investment that needs to be protected.  Remember to include an engineering perspective when considering risks to property.
  4.  New business risks. Keep a watchful eye open to spot new and emerging risks that could cause the organisation to lose earnings, money or reputation.
  5. Business-interruption triggers. Identify and clarify events that could cause the organisation to lose its ability to operate efficiently.

Discussion questions

When was the last time you or your organisation’s risk management committees considered these five areas? How can you raise the awareness of risk management throughout the organisation? How can you take more initiative in identifying and managing risks and in strengthening your organisation’s risk culture? How can you better protect the organisation’s property (and therefore overall financial stability)?

What really motivates?

In an interesting 18 minute Ted Talk, Dan Pink explains why the traditional, motivators, based on extrinsic rewards and punishments (carrots and sticks) work in jobs more typical of the 20th Century but work less well, and even reduce productivity, in jobs more typical of the 21st Century.

In mechanistic, left-brain jobs, jobs of ‘narrow focus’, where there is a clear set of rules, the goal is clear and there is one best way to reach it, incentives, such as bonuses and commissions can work well. But in jobs where rules and the means of achieving goals aren’t clear cut, those same incentives don’t work.

In these typical 21st Century job, people need to think outside the box and work their way through tasks using their brains. Provided their basic pay is adequate so that money is not an issue, intrinsic motivation encourages high performance: people do the job because they like it, because it matters, because it’s interesting, because it’s part of something important. (According to Pink, this hold true even in poorer economies than Australia’s, such as India.)

If that describes the jobs in your work team, team members need to be engaged and self-directed, not incentivised. Their motivation needs to come from their intrinsic drive to do the job for its own sake. You need to build these three elements into their jobs in order for that to happen:

  1. Automony: the urge to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters
  3. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Pink mentions the Australian software company Atlassian as a company that does this.

Discussion questions

What are the jobs in your workteam like? Which set of motivators, extrinsic or intrinsic, would work best? Are you motivating your team correctly or are the incentives you offer doing more harm than good? What can you do to make the jobs in your work team more intrinsically satisfying? Are you making the most of the three elements needed to succeed in 21st Century jobs?

In the video, Pink also points out that management is an invention and just because it worked in past centuries, it doesn’t mean it will always work. It rather sounds like he thinks management, at least traditional management (which is fine when all you want is compliance), is a dying duck. How do you think managers need to change the way they operate in order to add value to their organisations (and save their jobs)?