We’ve all been there: You’re at an event listening to a boring CEO and you keep checking your Blackberry, going over a mental to-do list, or just looking at your watch–anything to keep your mind occupied.
You may have been excited about the speaker, having heard about her accomplishments or knowing her personally. But you leave thinking less of that CEO than you did when you walked in.
I’ve seen bad CEO presentations more times than I can count. I’ve also booked speakers for seminars and events, and I’m often surprised to find that a CEO who is engaging one-on-one is dull when speaking to a group.
CEOs have to be effective public speakers because they are the face of their companies and embody the brand itself. At the very least, they need to represent a polished, organized and energetic brand. However, it’s a missed opportunity if they don’t also use the pulpit to inspire, motivate and create an impression of corporate strength.
Every day I work as an executive communications coach, I see that effective public speaking is a learned skill. Tricks of the trade that anyone can grasp and incorporate will significantly improve a speaker’s impact.
Yet when CEOs accept speaking engagements, they often view them as an afterthought on their busy schedules. So why do otherwise engaging, charismatic leaders bomb at public speaking? Here’s what I’ve seen:
Winging it. This is by far the biggest reason for a boring speech. The presenter chooses not to prepare because of lack of time or interest, or even because he or she doesn’t want to appear rehearsed (as if showing you care were a bad thing).
Few great speakers can just show up without developing their thoughts and practicing. Of those who can, many have already told what seems like off-the-cuff anecdotes many times before. At the very least, every speaker should know the audience’s and the organizer’s expectations for the presentation before going through with it.
Comments that you have practiced out loud should be prepared. Your introduction should also grab the audience’s attention.
Wrong comments, wrong place. Often speakers fail to tailor their remarks to the audience in the room. This goes hand-in-hand with winging it–either the speaker didn’t find out what was expected or knew and didn’t bother to adapt the content due to time constraints.
You can quickly bore an audience with generic comments that aren’t relevant. People want to feel that you are speaking directly to them. On the other hand, an overly formal presentation can be equally off-putting if the tone of the event is conversational.
Providing your speech with enough structure that you feel secure enough for a couple of informal comments, however, can help you look prepared and casual at the same time.
Can’t get off the stump. It’s common in politics to have a stump speech–a talk you give over and over again to different audiences. Unfortunately, many CEOs have their own stump speeches and don’t know when to retire them.
One CEO I’ve heard–who is actually a very engaging speaker–had this problem. The first time I saw him give the speech, it was inspiring. The second time, it was mildly entertaining. The third time I was annoyed. Business communities are small and audiences frequently overlap.
Only give a talk once unless you are positive the audience is entirely new.
Not enough narrative. Most speeches at your average conference are filled with details and pontifications. They are quickly forgotten. Humans don’t retain data points, but they love hearing stories and learning about the experiences of others.
As a speaker, your stories are the most powerful and memorable thing you can share. By weaving personal experiences into a speech and talking from the heart, you draw the audience in.
Selling too hard. There’s an unspoken contract between speakers and audiences: You are there to inform them, not to sell them. Audiences tune out quickly if they believe a speaker is using the podium to advertise his or her products or services.
Yet many CEOs feel they can’t pass up an opportunity to let so many people at once hear how great their company is. This is a huge mistake. As the CEO, you are the embodiment of the company. If you are an interesting, engaging speaker, that’s all the selling you need.
Piling on panels. Many business speeches take the form of panels, where several speakers give their perspectives on the topic at hand. These are ripe for boring speeches because, with the shared air time, participants feel less pressure to prepare.
In fact, to be an effective panelist you need to be extra interesting by compiling provocative and memorable comments ahead of time that set you apart from the other speakers. You also have to resist the urge to pile on–rewording what someone else has already said to show agreement–because it wastes your chance to make a powerful comment of your own. It’s also painfully dull for the audience.
Here’s the irony of all these boring CEO speeches: Leaders are usually interesting people who have the ability to connect with others. If they avoid common pitfalls, they can become compelling speakers and use the speaking opportunity to their advantage.
Savvy Business Sale Spells New Life
With woman’s month nearly at the end- take some inspiration from business woman, Sue Kiley. Who discusses, how selling her business paved a way for bigger and better opportunities for her to re-invent herself and how Andrew Bahlmann’s professional guidance, was pivotal in making this business transaction – a “Savvy Business Sale”.
Breaking up is hard to do – even if you have made a rational decision that the time has come to sell the business you built up, the exit process is never easy, says businesswoman Sue Kiley. But she feels that since she and business partner Gordon Slater sold Johannesburg-based boiler company Dryden Combustion, she has been freed her to reinvent herself.
Kiley had joined Industrial Plant and Machinery, Dryden’s parent, in 1981, working her way up from receptionist/secretary to running Dryden by 1988. She and Slater, who had joined Dryden in 1989, were both given minority shareholdings by owner George Roberts in 1991. In 1997, Roberts sold his remaining interest to them.
“We poured our hearts and souls into growing the business for two decades, then it slowly dawned on us that it was our turn to consider whether we were ready to go through another round of expansion or whether we would sell on,” says Kiley. “It felt daunting and frightening but we are sure that both we – and ultimately our buyers – benefited extensively from the professional guidance we received from acquisitions expert Andrew Bahlmann.
“Selling up can be like a messy divorce or a death in the family with everyone squabbling over access to assets. Instead, it was a savvy and controlled negotiation leading to a well-managed handover.”
Kiley and Slater had built Dryden into a thriving business, increasing staff from nine to more than 70, for instance. Both recognised that their business had “hit some ceilings” and certain departments needed the benefits of substantial expansion.
“We realised that we had reached our limit and did not really want to change how we worked by bringing in new partners, doubling staff and substantially increasing factory capacity, even though this was what both the company and our staff needed,” says Kiley.
They opted for Bahlmann’s professional and hands-on sales offering because they wanted to avoid the more perfunctory way in which some business brokers simply post their portfolio of businesses for sale on the internet.
“We assumed that our business would go to our opposition but Andrew pointed out we were selling future business potential to a buyer that wanted to expand into our sector,” says Kiley. “We ended up with international offers on the table from India, Belgium and Pakistan, as well as South Africa.”
Kiley and Slater chose the offer from Cape Town’s Energy Partners, part of the PSG Group, not because it was the highest but because it made such a good fit with Dryden. Recognising and working with the intense emotional aspects of selling your business was an important aspect of Bahlmann’s guidance, says Kiley.
“Your company is your life and opening up our floor and our books to strangers made us feel very exposed,” she recalls. “Andrew ensured we were well prepared and fortunately I have always been a stickler for proper governance.
“This ensured that everything had been recorded and referenced, making the company far more saleable than if its history and processes are just in the owner’s memory. In fact, we accomplished due diligence in four days instead of at least six weeks.”
Preparing to part ways with the business and staff was inevitably emotional, especially as many employees had been with the company for at least 10 years. Kiley and Slater were as transparent as possible, sharing with staff the fact that the business would be sold as soon as they had engaged with Bahlmann.
“It was pivotal to us that Energy Partners wanted to retain our staff,” says Kiley. “Becoming part of a larger company and group also gave staff opportunities for career growth that would not have happened with us.”
Dryden’s staff were not the only ones to enjoy career growth. After a handover year as semi-employees at Energy Partners, Kiley semigrated to Knysna where she is currently launching a completely different new business – collaborating with a young designer on the Roze Collection, a fashion label for plus-size women with sales run online.
“Selling Dryden was the right decision for all of us,” says Kiley. “The new owners are taking the company to exciting new levels that we would never have undertaken and our former staff are really happy and thriving on this.
“Gordon felt ready to retire and is enjoying it. I didn’t want to look for a new business partner but still wanted to have an exciting reason to wake up in the morning, something to plan and strategise about.”
Kiley believes selling Dryden enabled them both to move on completely and she is delighted with her opportunity to reinvent herself.
“I have always loved fabrics and fashion so I have a fresh start working with a lifetime passion,” she says. “Those around me comment on how the change has completely re-energised me. I am having the time of my life and selling up made this possible.”
How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape
Chanelle Segerius-Bruce of www.Segeriusbrucecoaching.com talks through how she does business with a world-wide audience of entrepreneurs from her home in a rural part of the Eastern Cape.
We’re so lucky to live in this era where the world has become a very small place.
With the right set of skills and IT infrastructure behind them, I believe anyone can set up to work from literally anywhere, including the South African beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay where I have been working with a varying international client base since the beginning of 2016.
Whether it’s a virtual assistant, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting or translation work, I have seen a mass of companies starting up that don’t require regular face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings are almost outdated with Skype and Zoom being so successful in bringing teams together.
After doing a year-long coaching programme with one of the top multi seven-figure earning coaches from the USA, I now have the confidence to charge in USD $ so that I can leverage the currency conversion which works out nicely for me in South Africa. I’ve been able to help people do the same thing too.
One of my clients is a branding and website designer based in Knysna and she’s able to work with clients globally too. When she lost her house last year in the big fires, she was able to save her laptop and backup drive and therefore save her livelihood even though her entire home burnt down! Imagine what would have happened if she lost her laptop too.
The first thing I did when I looked at our beachfront property to rent was check the Internet line speed. To run an online business, you need to have the best Internet connection available. We have a 10 Meg uncapped ADSL line and I believe they’ll be installing fibre optic soon. Don’t skimp on this technology.
The way I attract international clients is by giving value-led video training sessions using live streaming such as Facebook Live. This is the fastest way to show people you know what you’re talking about and they can decide if they want to connect with you.
Build a community
I have a thriving Facebook group, with over 2,000 members, where people feel safe to ask questions about their business and everyone’s able to get to know each other. By having your own Facebook group and being seen as a leader you automatically gain authority.
Become an influencer
Use Instagram and Facebook to show behind the scenes, share where you travel to, what you like and share your unique perspective. Create a personal brand online, be visible, show up and stand out. Although some people have an issue with becoming more visible online, my coaching skills do come into play when I’m helping people with confidence issues or impostor syndrome. They key is to give practical marketing, social media and personal branding advice.
Work on your money mindset
As South Africans, many of us grew up being told “money doesn’t grow on trees” and many of you may have a mentality that needs to be changed, especially when it comes to having the confidence to charge your worth and even charge in USD $.
Finally, outsource as much as you can as fast as you can
Ask yourself “Who else could be doing this task?” Keep in your “Zone of Genius” and get a virtual assistant, web developer, bookkeeper and a cleaner to help you with all the things that take up your time. Stick to the things that only you can do in your business, like creating content, showing up on video and planning out your bigger picture plan.
Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate
To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.
The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.
At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.
1. Prepare your mind
Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.
When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:
“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”
So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.
2. Create shared value
Thato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.
Most successful organisations would never have been launched if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.
Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.
According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.
Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.
3. Get stuff done
When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.
Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.
The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.
In her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.
Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.
The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.
Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Focus on learning new stuff
FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.
Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:
“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”
Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.
Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
- The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
- Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.