Monday, October 19, 2009

The Words DON'T Know The Way -- You Have To Take Them There!

Eric Schor and Eliot Shapiro are two guys I have known since I was a boy. We all grew up at the same synagogue and camp. Today they are the principals of EMS Communications, a company that trains people to be effective speakers. The describe their mission as being "to rid the world of boring presentations, one speaker at a time." This posting is their cutting edge analysis of the presentations of the Olympic City bid teams form Chicago and Rio de Janero. I have learned a lot about my teaching from their analysis. Unfortunately, when I posted it to my Facebook page, some of my FB friends focused on the polititcs of President Obama getting involved. They miss the point of my posting it. The Next Level learning here is about how we present ourselves, and therefore the Jewish people. This is from their monthly speaker's digest which you can receive by e-mail. The original and the subscription form can be found on their web site: http://www.cooleremail.net/users/eliotshap/Oct2009_14oct2009.html

Less than two weeks ago, the attention of many Americans—and others around the world— turned to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the International Olympic Committee met to choose the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. We were initially surprised that Chicago’s bid ended faster than the Chicago Cubs last two playoff runs, but when we watched the presentation delivered by the Chicago team, we saw a presentation which failed to capture the excitement of our city. Read on while we share our perspective on this missed opportunity of Olympic proportions, and how Rio truly SOLD IT!

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Chi-town Lands with a Thud

Like many of our neighbors, we were blown away when we learned that Chicago was the first city to be eliminated in the quest to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. How could our fair city compare so poorly with the others that were competing for the honor?

Then, we watched the Chicago team’s presentation, in which a group of leaders of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Committee paraded in front of the IOC in Copenhagen to show why Chicago should be the host city, with Michelle and Barack Obama anchoring the hour-long relay.
Watch the Chicago 2016 presentation by clicking here.

We can’t explain exactly why Chicago ultimately failed in its bid to secure the nomination, but we can say that the speakers representing our team delivered a flat, stale, lifeless presentation. It was punctuated by repetitive video footage that sought to portray the human side of the city, but didn’t effectively capture Chicago’s uniqueness.

Several times during Chicago’s presentation, speakers referred to the city as a ‘fun’ place to hold the summer Olympics. But there was little evidence that anyone on the team was actually HAVING fun. They came across as intense, tight, and stiff, and not very well qualified to pull off that theme.

We were led to believe that our presenters were well rehearsed and well trained, but as a group they didn’t move, didn’t smile, and didn’t look enthusiastic:

IOC member Anita DeFrantz, batting leadoff, seemed proud, but her effort to portray Chicago as fun was less enjoyable than snow in October.

USOC president Lawrence Probst looked serious and even worried, with the same stern expression plastered on his face throughout.

Committee chair Pat Ryan, a former Fortune 500 CEO, relied on repetitive, unnatural looking gestures, appearing way too serious along the way. He almost smiled--once. He concluded his remarks by saying “Our people are warm and welcoming, and best of all, you’ll have a lot of fun.” Yet he delivered the line in a way that looked as if he had just come from a root canal.

Mayor Richard Daley, while appearing more comfortable than we usually see him, repeatedly used the phrase “your games.” (We heard it five times.) While he probably meant it to sound respectful, it came off as alienating.

By the time the Obamas came in to close the deal, there was little for them to save.

Here are some other observations:

Can you say “unnatural?” It was clear that Chicago’s presenters were coached. (Not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s one thing to BE coached, and another to LOOK coached.) They brought similar styles that emphasized short phrases, frequent pauses, practiced gestures, and volume turned on high. But because they didn’t vary that volume, and relied on those practiced gestures, they looked uncomfortable, unnatural and—unfortunately—unbelievable. It was painful to watch.

Where was Michael? Showcasing past champions, Brazil brought Pele, a worldwide soccer icon, along with other young, energetic athletes. Chicago showed the headstone at the grave of Jesse Owens, and the not-quite-household name Bob "I'd like to buy a vowel" Ctvrtlik, an IOC member who won a gold medal for Volleyball. We needed more splash.

Too much hedging. Listening to the Chicago presentation, we heard Mayor Daley use messages such as “we want to be” and “if you award us” instead of “we WILL be” and “by awarding us.” Ryan fell into the same trap when he said “Chicago would be the right partner” instead of…Anybody? Anybody? That’s right—"Chicago WILL be the right partner.”

Had we seen this presentation before learning of the decision, we wouldn’t have been very surprised about the final outcome.

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Rio Rocks It!

Compared to the Chicago 2016 team, the group of presenters from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil came out expressive and passionate, which was probably hard considering that they weren’t speaking in their native language. The high energy, facial expressions and body language of their speakers more than overcame their difficulties pronouncing English words as they showed off Brazil’s beauty, culture and plan to host the Olympic Games.

Presentations really DO make a difference. In this case, Rio delivered a better presentation across the board. Setting the stage, Carlos Nuzman, the president of Rio 2016, was charming and engaging. He opened effectively and he ended convincingly, saying “Today, Rio stands ready to serve the Olympic movement and start a new journey of celebration, discovery and transformation.” His smile and his manner showed both confidence and humility, not an easy thing to do. He really SOLD his message!

One way Rio 2016 out-presented the Chicagoans was through visual aids. One graphic in particular was tremendously effective: a world map, dotted with locations of all the previous host cities, emphasized that Europe and North America had hosted dozens of Olympic games, while South America hadn’t hosted any. It was a simple image which made a compelling point.

In addition, the video footage brought by the Rio team did a much better job of capturing the flavor of their city. They relied on great graphics to show how the Olympic venues would fit into their city. And they successfully showed off the city’s breathtaking combination of mountains and ocean.

Another thing we noticed, although it may seem small: the presenters from Rio introduced themselves to their audience, which we thought was a nice touch. It helped them establish rapport and engage their listeners.

Hosting the Olympic Games provides a big stage, and there was a lot at stake at these meetings in Copenhagen. Many Chicagoans, like us, were excited about the prospect of bringing the Games here. But while our presenters TOLD people why Chicago WOULD be a great host, Brazil’s team SHOWED people why Rio DESERVED to win the bid. They were selling it, we were telling it.

Bummer. We were looking forward to 2016.

Here are links to Rio’s presentation, broken up into five segments. Be sure to watch Part 1 and Part 5 to see a Carlos Nuzman’s memorable opening and emphatic ending.

Rio Part 1

Rio Part 2

Rio Part 3

Rio Part 4

Rio Part 5

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Presenting as a Team: Tough to do Well

It’s so hard to present effectively as a team. How does one assign tasks to the right people, handle transitions, or build on previous performers?

With awkward moments between speakers (do we hug, shake hands, kiss or what?), the Chicago presentation demonstrated the challenge of team presentations. It’s clear that they wanted to give different officials the honor of speaking on behalf of the team, and they probably needed to make sure they didn’t leave people out.

But they brought up too many speakers—and not enough effective ones. It added to the stiffness.

That’s a frequent problem with team presentations. When you choose speakers in order to honor them, instead of choosing ones who will make your presentation stronger, then you’re diluting your message. And the logistics of the transitions require more choreography than most teams plan for.

That’s why we say: less is more.

Do you and your colleagues present to clients as a team? When it’s your time to go for the gold with a team presentation, don’t go in without a strategy. For expert coaching designed to put your speakers on top of the podium, give EMS a call!

For more insights into delivering team presentations, click here to read our June 2003 Digest, which focused exclusively on that topic.

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