We were approached to carry out a pilot presentation coaching programme for the senior management of a multi-national retailer. A recent review had concluded that their communication skills were letting them down when they were required to present to major suppliers. There was a feeling that they were far less than compelling.
During our pre-coaching presentation audit, we realised that their use of PowerPoint had reached the level of mass addiction. The standard corporate practice was to select from a “deck” of slides and then “talk to” those slides.
During a 2-day off site intensive coaching programme, we radically altered their point of view. We introduced to them the concepts of rigorous audience analysis and Micro-Message production. This allowed them to decide what worded needed to be said to a given audience long before they reached for their laptops.
Each participant presented 7 times during the course of the 2 days, receiving challenging feedback from the coaches and their colleagues. Each of those executives has now insured that all their direct reports have attended a similar course. Suppliers attending their events now experience shorter, tailored presentations, where they actually want to listen to the speakers, instead of being bombarded by bullet-points.
The new Chief Executive of a multi-national insurance company realised that he had been put in a situation where he was doing more presentations than ever before in his long career. Although he was already an experienced performer, he knew that he needed to have a more systematic approach in order to cope with the presentation workload.
Via a sequence of one-to-one coaching sessions, we have worked with him over a period of two years. We first concentrated on the basics of preparation, so that he could effectively create a presentation no matter how little notice he was given. We then moved on to delivery, so that now he is comfortable with his material and performance whether he is addressing 10 people in his own boardroom or 1000 people at an international conference.
We are still called in to help with sharpening his content for major presentations and to provide battle-conditions dress-rehearsal.
Sharpening Content and Delivery of Pitch Presentations
A multi-national fund management organisation decided that it needed to increase the percentage of wins from pitches for new business. We were brought in to carry out a fundamental overhaul of the way that they presented their services.
The 3 month project started with an introduction to the Straight Talking methodology for the 6 core managers involved in the pitching process. This acted as a spring board for a brutal review of their written materials, the length of which we eventually reduced significantly.
Working as a part of the team, we then led the creation of a core Baseline Text which would form the basis of the majority of their pitch presentations. The team tried out several versions of this, adapted to the needs of various theoretical clients, with constructive feedback from the coaches. We then helped to design speaker support materials that were far more striking than their predecessors.
Finally, we set up a day of dress-rehearsal, so that the team were able to effectively deliver the new material in realistic conditions.
After the conclusion of the project, the pitch win rate of the team went up from 20% to 50%.
A German car company was launching a new model into the UK market. They planned a series of launch events in their dealerships all over the country. The Dealer Principals faced the challenge of two very different presentations on the day of the launch:
• A 20-minute motivational briefing for 50 staff
• An entertaining welcome speech to introduce the new car to 400 guests attending a champagne reception the same evening
The problem was compounded by the fact that very few of the Dealer Principals had ever communicated with more than about 5 people at a time.
Over a period of two weeks, the Dealer Principals all attended 2 days of intensive coaching, split into groups of 6. In addition to the core Straight Talking methodology, the participants learned how to:
• Create material that was motivational and informative
• Write and adapt humour that would make their guests feel welcome
• Deliver to a large audience using lapel-mikes, lecterns and video footage
Everyone succeeded in inspiring a group of cynical staff as well as briefly entertaining members of the public who could easily have been more interested in the champagne than they were in the new car.
1-2-1 Coaching and script writing for a single major conference speech
The Managing Partner of a law firm faced a major marketing opportunity: he had been invited to give a keynote speech at a legal conference with several hundred attendees. We were approached after he had already prepared a draft speech. As he was someone that was more used to written documents and one-to-one conversation, he had created something that would certainly not hold the attention of a large audience for 40 minutes.
We carried out an intensive re-write of the material as well as exposing the client to the techniques of getting his personality and his message across to a large audience for the first time in a 25-year career. The process involved one-to-one coaching, remote editing and liaison with internal PR staff to ensure that speaker support accurately reflected the firm’s brand.
The end result was a speech that was significantly shorter than the original version, with no repetitions, clichés or obvious truisms that the audience would have heard many times before. Of the eight main platform speakers at the event, our client was the only one to be applauded when he finished.
Coaching and writing to support internal communications
A large UK bank identified the need for a customer service programme to communicate the core values of the organisation to all their staff. They decided that it should be delivered by in-house trainers, who did not have any experience of creating this sort of material or of presenting to large audiences.
We worked with the management to identify the core concepts that had to be conveyed and then created the presentation materials for the trainers to use.
With the materials signed off, we then started to coach the trainers in how to deliver it. They were extremely competent when interacting with small groups in a training room, but they needed new skills and a shift in mindset if they were to make an impact when presenting to large groups.
This redevelopment process involved a combination of both individual and group coaching. In the initial stages group work allowed us to rapidly convey the core Straight Talking methodology and establish a baseline of presentation competence. This was then followed by individual sessions that were designed to sharpen the personal performance of each presenter to a very high level.
With each presenter fully rehearsed, the three-stage programme was successfully rolled out to 4,000 staff.
Simplifying and communicating technical brilliance
A global oil company requested our assistance in helping their senior technicians communicate more effectively to business partners. This is a common issue: people with highly specialised knowledge presenting complex material to less technically adept audiences who only require a broad understanding of headline issues.
Their problem was compounded by the fact that many of those who were required to present in English were not native speakers of English.
We addressed this need with a two day intensive programme with two consultants, one of whom was an expert in teaching English as a foreign language as well as being totally conversant with the Straight Talking methodology.
The coaching dramatically increased the confidence of the team and clarity of their presentations.
Overall we imbedded a mentoring mentality that enabled the group to continue to work together using the techniques learned long after the coaching had finished.
We were approached by the manager of a former World Class Athlete. His client already had a high TV profile, but he now wanted to enter the lucrative world of professional speaking. This required the creation of a core keynote speech that could be adapted to the needs of a wide variety of corporate audiences. The client’s presentation style also needed to be changed. He had to be able to move from the intimate atmosphere of communication on camera to making an impact to as many as 800 people in a live audience.
The three month project involved a combination of one-to-one coaching and remote writing in various stages:
• Comprehensive interviews with the client to squeeze as much material as possible from his life
• Combining the biographical content with motivational concepts created by Straight Talking
• Intensive delivery coaching
The end result is that the client now approaches his speaking engagements with the same degree of professionalism that he