When You’re Presenting Strategy – Elegance Matters

The difference between Apple and PC is, in my opinion, design. The calligraphy class that Steve Jobs attended at Reed College added the degree of elegance to Apple’s products that have enabled it to position the PC as, well, so pc. Design does matter, as much in the world of intangible strategy as in the concrete world of the desktop computer.

The outcome (or deliverable) of a strategy is usually an implementation plan, so the content of a strategy is geared to the future. The success of the strategy depends very much on the outcomes achieved after it is implemented. For that reason, a strategy can never be proven to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ during its useful life. As a case study it can prove of immense value, but then it’s an historical case study and not a strategy. Until someone invents a time machine, a strategy provides the ways and means to achieve a future objective – proof only comes with time. Mathematicians refer to Pythagoras’ Theorem as a ‘beautiful’ proof. In this case it possesses not only beauty, but also truth. As we cannot know the future, strategy cannot possess truth – it has only the beauty component that allows it to resonate with its audience. It’s elegance.

How can strategy be elegant? That’s probably a matter of opinion, but once again the field of mathematics has formalized what elegance means for them (and they don’t have the advantage of using full colour imagery, even music, in their proofs – they are restricted to numbers and letters and squiggly things that only they know the meaning of). However, luckily for us, mathematics has defined what it means by describing a proof as beautiful:

  • It uses a minimum of previous results (i.e. data)
  • It is short
  • It derives a result in a surprising way
  • It is based on new and original insights
  • It can be easily generalized to solve a family of similar problems.

I feel that the following strategy is an elegant one, although many may not agree:

My good friend Max Blumberg and I decided (sometime during the 1980′s) to visit Sun City. We were both somewhat unusual, in that we would do unusual things. Such as sitting at a street cafe calling out ‘Michelle’ to every girl who walked by. Approximately 1 in 20 girls responded with great excitement that they had been recognized. Max was gifted at playing the piano. I was tone deaf. We were a formidable team.

There was a giant parking lot outside Sun City where day visitors were instructed to park. Max confidently drove up to the gate, and informed the guard that we had come to collect our instruments from the Lucas Mangope Room. The guard stated that we were not ‘on the list’. Max refused to back down. “But how are we supposed to get our equipment?” he exclaimed with so much urgency that the problem was clear to see. The guard then stated that we could drive in, but if he did not receive our registration details from the hotel, we would be in trouble. We agreed.

I did not understand what Max was doing, but it was to become abundantly clear when he parked outside the hotel, strode to the reception desk with a confident gait, and proclaimed to the pretty girl behind the counter: “Hi, I’m in room 5142 – I’m expecting some friends to join us for lunch, would you please be a darling and phone the gate to let this registration number in?”

We had a whale of a time in the casino. And we got to stay over when we were offered a room by a young lady whose friends had not arrived. So, we weren’t day visitors after all.

What an elegant strategy.

An effective strategy uses the minimum of data, is brief, has a fresh approach, has current insights and could be understood by a ten year old. That’s elegance.

When pitching for new business, the prospective client does not want to see that you have done your homework. They want to feel it. It’s so beautiful when the presenter proceeds straight to the heart of the matter with insight and sensitivity, so that the process can move forward, as opposed to wallowing in a sea of supposition further clouded by data which is as appealing as a soggy sand-filled bathing costume.

OSRAM – The Five Components of an Effective Presentation – Part 2 of 5 the Speaker

How do you give an Effective Presentation? What makes the difference between an average presentation and an effective presentation? This is Part 2 of 5 focusing on The Speaker.

There are five main components of an effective business presentation. The acronym OSRAM should help you to remember them and help you to light up your audience. The five components are:

  • The Objective
  • The Speaker
  • The Room
  • The Audience
  • The Message

You should consider each of these components in turn to maximise the effectiveness of your presentation. Neglecting any individual component can ruin an otherwise successful presentation. Put them together correctly and you will turn on a light in people’s heads; brighten up their lives; get your audience to see and understand things, about which they were previously in the dark.

This series of articles looks at each of these components in turn and discover what needs to be done to ensure the success of that component.

The Speaker

That’s you! Like it or not if you are giving a presentation you will be judged. Knowing that you are being judged is often a major factor in why people are nervous about giving a presentation. It is a perfectly normal reaction. My advice is to recognize that you are nervous, tell yourself that it is okay to be nervous and that it is perfectly normal to be nervous before a presentation and then try to put it to one side and get on with the presentation.

The biggest factor in your success as a speaker is your confidence. If you are confident you will come across far better than if you are timid and nervous. One technique to improve your self-confidence before a presentation, is to say aloud the following statements, preferably before anyone else arrives in the room:

‘I am poised, prepared, persuasive, positive and powerful.’

‘I feel composed, confident convincing, commanding and compelling.’

Write these two phrases on your first Cue Card. Say them aloud to convince yourself that they are true and you are more likely to give a confident, effective presentation.

Confidence is all a matter of self-belief. You need to believe in yourself and you will be more confident, and come across as confident. Do not over do it though. Do not talk down to your audience they will never forgive you!

Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior unless you agree with it’.

As perception is far more important than reality, looking confident can mask an awful lot of nerves that are bubbling up under the surface. The aim is to look like a swan gracefully gliding across the top of the water, keeping the feet, which are paddling like mad, hidden from view. Like the majestic swan, how you look and how you dress are very important in instilling that confidence in yourself and in your audience.

Look out of place because of the way you are dressed and it will affect how well your message is taken. Although many businesses have a dress down policy these days, if you are presenting to a business audience it is usually advisably for a man to wear a suit and tie and a lady to wear a suit or similar business attire. Shoes should also be polished, as it is surprising what assumptions are still made about a person in business, based on the state of their footwear.

When you are addressing a group of factory workers who are all dressed in overalls and you want to influence their behavior, then a more casual appearance may be beneficial. You may want to appear less like one of the managers and more like one of the team. Every situation is different but there is never an excuse for not worrying about it.

By wearing clothes that make you feel good, it will help to boost your confidence. Looking good is just part of it you also need to sound good. This means three things:

  1. Speaking loudly enough so that people can hear what you are saying.
  2. Speaking clearly enough so people can understand the words that you are saying
  3. Omitting unnecessary words, grunts and groans.

When you are projecting your voice, you use your diaphragm. This is completely different from shouting, which is achieved through muscles in your neck. It should not hurt to project your voice unlike it does if you shout too much.

Finally, the most comforting thought to have before a presentation is that your audience want you to succeed. From the very outset, they are on your side. It is very rare to have an audience who does not want you to succeed, after all why would they be there. Why would they want you to waste their time listening to someone who is a poor presenter or who does not have anything worth listening to. So go give it, with enthusiasm, emotion and energy.

Hate Can Lead To The Death of a Negotiation – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Hate Can Lead To The Death of a Negotiation”

Have you ever been so engulfed by hate when negotiating that you couldn’t think straight? Later, in a more calmer state of mind, you thought about responses you could have given that would have made the negotiation more palatable, more pleasant, more amenable per the outcome you sought. You’re wise enough to know, hate can lead to the death of a negotiation. You can prevent hate from hijacking your mind when negotiating by doing the following.


  • Hate is a very strong emotion.

Hate clouds the mind and thus the judgment of your decisions. That being a truism, you should know what triggers a shift in your emotional state of mind; that shift should be known from a good and bad perspective. Having such insights and being able to control them will give you greater control during the negotiation.

  • Be mindful not to view the other negotiator through a tainted lens.

Have you ever viewed someone through the lens of expectation? You may have thought, she’s just like ‘x’; I know what she’s like. The residue of your expectations will color your perspective of that person. Meanwhile, the person may not be anything like what you expected.

When you view the other negotiator through a tainted lens, you lose your ability to be subjective. Doing that can lead to misperceptions of intent, which in turn can turn the negotiation into a dark dead-end alley that eventually leads to the death of the negotiation.

  • Know your mind and that of the other negotiator.

Everyone is an individual. While many people may have similar thoughts that cause them to be viewed similarly, if you note the nuances that differentiate that person from his identified group, you can see the differences that person possesses from the group. To do so, you must know his mind and how he thinks. The same must also be true about you; you should understand what motivates you to adopt a particular action over another, and who you’re with when doing so. Such insights will give you a greater understanding of the psychological forces that motivate you and the other negotiator. Once identified, you’ll also have greater insights into the mental levers of psychological power you can use to manipulate yourself and him during the negotiation.

Be empathic:

  • Be willing to discuss emotions, while keeping an open mind.

Knowing you’re different from others is to know that they have their differences. If you keep an open mind, you’ll be capable of understanding the other negotiator. Thus, you can state at the beginning of the negotiation that you know he and you may see things differently, but you’re willing to enter into the negotiation with an open mind; be sure that you get his buy-in to do the same.

  • Know when it’s time to walk away.

Let’s be realistic. Due to the mindset of some people, you may not be able to reach an amicable outcome in a negotiation. Although you may empathize with someone’s perspective, know when to walk away; don’t be belligerent as you do. Always attempt to be respectful, understanding that a negotiation may reconvene at another time. As such, don’t poison the future with incendiary words today.

Sometimes a slammed door is the opening sound of opportunity. When you slam the door on hate in your negotiations you’ll be opening a door through which understanding can enter… and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating.