Gallo is a communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. A former anchor and correspondent for CNN and CBS, he works directly with the world’s top business leaders to help them craft compelling messages, tell inspiring stories and share their innovative ideas with a global audience. Gallo has addressed executives at Intel, Cisco, Google, Medtronic, Disney, The Four Seasons, SAP, Pfizer, Linked In, Chevron, SanDisk, Univision, Edmunds.com, and many others.
Gallo encouraged us to watch the many Steve Jobs videos available on YouTube. The overriding theme of every presentation is the simplicity of the message. This is conveyed in one-word slides, supported by demos, props and the very theatrical nature of the way Jobs presents.
The Rule of Three
Gallo shared that in his own work as a communications coach he often challenges the executives he works with to use no more than 40 words on PowerPoint slides in total (not per slide). This forces people to tell stories, which makes the presentation more memorable. He is a believer in the “rule of three” and noted that no matter how complex and comprehensive the Apple products he launched, Jobs would usually tell the audience three things about the device. Indeed, this carried over into his famous 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address where he starts by saying that “Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life, that’s it, no big deal, just three stories.”
Gallo then followed his own advice and shared information from each of the three sections of his book.
Act 1: Create the Story
Back in the dark ages of 2010 when he wrote the book, Gallo recognized the importance of creating Twitter-like headlines in a speech. Of limiting the message to a single 140-character sentence. If a speaker is unable to convey their message in one sentence, speechwriters need to work with them until they can. This is what Daniel Pink did when he wrote speeches based on one sentence for Vice-President Al Gore.
Apple products often have a one-sentence, memorable headline that Jobs used in his speeches and would be repeated in Press releases and advertisements:
The MacBook Air: The world’s thinnest notebook:
Gallo asks his clients if they want to move beyond the level of simply delivering information to really inspiring audiences. Those who want to get better, to deliver the best presentation they can, give a window through which he can work aggressively with that person. The worst are those who claim to already be good presenters. Gallo finds it’s very difficult to get through to them. In this case he’ll go into the financial reasons why great presentation move the needle.
The founder of SanDisk, Dr. Eli Harari once told Gallo:
“Carmine, I know that every $1 change in our stock price is equivalent to $90m and that’s why I bring you in to help tell the best story I can to the investment community.”
Act 2: Deliver the Experience
Speechwriters should avoid making their clients into clones of Steve Jobs. People need to find their own voice. But there are techniques that Apple uses, that TED Talks use, that we should adopt for our clients’ presentations.
One key to delivering an insanely great speeches is to reveal what Gallo calls a “Holy Shit” moment. This is an emotionally charged point in the speech which is a different or surprising way of delivering the content. It takes time, creativity and effort to craft the delivery in a way that touches people emotionally. Very often this can be by telling a story. Audiences need to hear a great story. Most Silicon Valley executives don’t tell stories, they deliver information. Speechwriters should ask clients what is the one thing they want the audience to remember and then discover a way that this be packaged to create an emotionally charged event that is stamped on the brain.
The famous speech Bill Gates gave at TED on malaria is remembered for the “Holy Shit” moment when he released mosquitoes in the auditorium saying “There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience…”
Act 1: Refine and Rehearse
Gallo reinforced the well-known fact that Steve Jobs worked harder on every keynote he gave than most executives ever do. The ones who “wing it” by looking over note cards in the back of the town car on the way to the venue can never appear as “natural” onstage as Jobs did. He would spend hours preparing and rehearsing. He brought the same intensity to his public presentations as he did to the design and manufacture of the iconic technology of our age.
Gallo warned, however, that speechwriters should guard against executives obsessing over the stock photo chosen for their opening slide to the detriment of real rehearsal.
Gallo closed by recommending that, for ideas on how to design presentations planned for audiences of Millennials, speechwriters look at the archives on Slideshare of past winners of the “Best Presentation” contest he helps judge, such as this winner from 2010.
If you are interested in attending future virtual meetings of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable, open to anyone, regardless of location, please sign up on our Meetup page and you’ll be notified.
Roger Kethcart is a reality TV junkie with an amateur interest in the art of public speaking. He almost made his trade the dissemination of information by becoming a public school teacher, but the lure of writing about TV all day long was too much for him to resist. You can find his writing at Cable.tv and follow him on Twitter @RKCart
Presentation Tips from TV’s Shark Tank & Dragons Den
It’s not easy getting up in front of people to give a presentation or speech. It’s even more unnerving when the success or failure of your cherished business idea is in the hands of the audience listening.
Such is the case for entrepreneurs on the television shows Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den. They are given the opportunity to present their business ideas to a panel of investors, with the hopes of landing financial backing and achieving their dreams of grandeur. Some are successful. Some are not.
While the idea is the most important factor to getting a deal, it’s also about how that idea is presented. Here are some tips from Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den that anyone giving a presentation or speech—whether for investment or not—should consider when “selling” their ideas to an audience.
Confidence is Key
When giving a presentation or speech, confidence is one of the most difficult things to control. Even hardened, self-confident presentation vets can get a case of the butterflies when faced with a crowd. Pressure to perform, anticipation, high stakes, and other factors can draw from your confidence reserves.
The best thing to do is fake it till you make it. That means stand tall, speak slowly and authoritatively, and look people in the eye. These are all things you can control with your body from the onset. The good news is, once you start to get on a roll, confidence will take care of itself, replenishing as you speak and make your points.
Confidence also comes into play when dealing with objections. Do your homework, stick to your words, and speak with conviction, and you shouldn’t have any problem dealing with questions that would otherwise make you look uninformed and less credible.
A good example of confidence going from low to high is in this pitch from Dragons Den. You can tell the young guys start out a little shaky and nervous, but as they get into the meat and potatoes of their business, they become more confident. What’s more, despite objections regarding the longevity of their concept, they remain confident in their idea. The investors take notice.
Be confident in what you have to say or get eaten by the sharks.
Dress to Build Credibility
Looks, as they say, are everything. This can’t be more telling than when the spotlight is on you for a presentation. That’s because as soon as your audience can see you they begin assessing your credibility.
That’s not to say you have to dress up in a lab coat if you’re presenting on a newly discovered amoeba. But you should dress in a way that will make your audience comfortable and gain their trust. Often this means dressing professionally.
Jeff Stroope’s pitch from Shark Tank is a good example of how to dress appropriately to build credibility. Jeff is a fireman, who saw the need for a new type of firefighter hose-to-hydrant attachment to save time. When he came to the sharks with his idea, he was decked out in firefighter gear. This instantly established him as a credible source to discuss his product. Had he dressed in a suit, his physical presentation would not have had the same affect.
Use A Visual Aid
Sometimes what you do can have more of an impact than what you could ever say. That’s where visual aids come in. Visual aids range from the common, like PowerPoint and video, to the not so common, like riding onto the stage on a motorcycle.
What’s most important is that visual aids should be relevant to the topic of presentation. Their purpose is to help the audience better understand and receive what you’re saying, not replace it.
Shane Pannell made a great demonstration for his new and improved broom invention on Shark Tank. His broom became his visual aid, enabling him to quickly and effectively show how much better his is than the standard broom. Because of his demonstration, he was able to secure a deal with the sharks.
Shark Tank, Dragons Den, and other shows that focus on presentation skills, such as The Apprentice, all provide good case studies into what it takes to pull off a successful presentation. Check them out and follow these tips, and start improving on your own presentations today.
How many professional speakers do you know that go to work in their bathing suits? Well, that is exactly what Alicia Berberich does! Besides speaking to parents groups around the Bay Area, she teaches water aerobics at the San Francisco Presidio YMCA. She has over 10 years of experience teaching a diverse group of students the thrill of water aerobics. She has now taken that high energy and is focusing it on teaching parents success strategies for their kids.
Alicia noticed that many children were not learning basic skills that are needed in life such as conversation skills, perseverance, integrity, tenacity, and gratitude to name a few. She began speaking to small groups of mothers about the importance of these skills in adults and the idea of starting with the end in mind that she learned from the Steven Covey program.
Now Alicia, mother of three, talks to school groups, church groups, motherʼs clubs, womenʼs clubs and other groups about what parents can do to teach their children these important character building skills. Parents are excited to learn easy ways to develop these skills in their kids. Alicia has also found that parents are hungry for a place to talk about the various issues and challenges they are having in raising their kids. How to deal with difficult situations like bullying in schools, and how to deal with technology in the home, and how to instill values in kids and how to motivate them. Alicia offers workshops and on-going Success Circles, called Eagle Clubs, which provide just that place for parents to come on a regular basis to talk about their frustrations and ﬁnd mutual support and ideas.
For more information about the Eagle Clubs, or to hire Alicia Berberich to speak, call 415-596-9806. Additional information is available on her LinkedIn page.
Speaker’s Academy Archive
I caught up with Alicia at a National Speakers Association Northern California Chapter meeting in advance of the Speaker’s Academy program. To hear what she told me about the ways she uses her business and executive skills when coaching families, and a simple tip on how parents can help their children, click on the podcast icon below.
Columnist Andrew Hill, writing in today’s Financial Times, warns executives in Silicon Valley that they could become the next public enemies, facing a PR backlash similar to that suffered by bankers.
He sees warning signs in the recent attacks on Apple, Google and Amazon for their tax strategies; for questions about the growing economic and income inequality in northern California; and activist worries about ill-protected privacy, dirt-cheap labour and the energy efficiency of data centers.
He quotes a recent article by Silicon Valley native George Parker, who grew up in the area in the late 1970′s when a home in Palo Alto cost $125,000, in contrast to the scene today when:
There are fifty or so billionaires and tens of thousands of millionaires in Silicon Valley; last year’s Facebook public stock offering alone created half a dozen more of the former and more than a thousand of the latter. There are also record numbers of poor people, and the past two years have seen a twenty-per-cent rise in homelessness, largely because of the soaring cost of housing. After decades in which the country has become less and less equal, Silicon Valley is one of the most unequal places in America.
Nevertheless, Hill notes, the public trust in, and love of, technology is much higher than that of banks. If executives can resist the temptation to take the users for granted, share some of the wealth, and “stay clean” in terms of communications they will be able to placate public opinion.
The advice to those who write the speeches of tech execs is to
…adopt a new slogan, borrowed from Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer’s declaration to fans of Tumblr, the blogging platform her company has just bought: “We promise not to screw it up.”
Rene shared six tips on getting a job in communications and PR in Silicon Valley.
Here’s the video and transcript of her speech.
Good evening, fellow Spartans, family, friends, and faculty.
I am so honored to be here today with your family and friends–all your loved ones–to witness this extraordinary moment in your life. This is indeed a tremendous milestone, and you should be extremely proud.
Twenty-six years ago, I sat where you are now sitting–a proud Spartan with a Public Relations degree. Equally excited and terrified about my future.
And now I’m the owner of a multi-million-dollar consulting company. Over the years, I’ve found 4,271 projects and jobs for journalism, PR, advertising, and marketing professionals. I counted. I found my calling: helping people do their best work while still having the time and flexibility to pursue their personal passions.
But all of this almost didn’t happen.
You see, I applied to San Jose State as a Chemical Engineering major. I didn’t know anyone in that field–and had no idea what a Chemical Engineer did. But of course my Asian parents approved.
To be honest, I was an insecure geek. Who did what others expected me to do. I was headed for a lifetime developing, designing, coding and whatever the hell else the good people with engineering degrees do.
I was also away from home from the first time and did what any Asian-American engineering major with low self-esteem does: I let my dorm friends talk me into entering a beauty pageant. Okay, the politically correct term is now “scholarship program”. It was after a few beers, and I thought, why the hell not?
A few months later–and now stone cold sober–I was in the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Queen Pageant, onstage, dancing in a kimono. Thank goodness, no swimsuit competition. And, to the surprise of everyone including my grandma, who reminded me I had “no talent,” I won!
Suddenly, I went from all-nighters in the grungy computer lab to being an ambassador a twinset and tiara, representing the Bay Area Japanese-American community. I rode cable cars and floats and waved to crowds. I met politicians and business executives, entrepreneurs and celebrities. And I thought, this is a heck of a lot more exciting that organic chemistry. And along the way I also worked with a lot of marketing and publicity people.
So when I returned to San Jose State for my second year, I shocked my family again and changed my major to PR. And yes, I was a starving student again. I waitressed and sprayed perfume on people just to pay for college. I was just as scared as you are today.
But after I graduated, I held six jobs in eight years. And with each job I learned a heck of a lot and met people who led me to the next opportunity. These same people later begged me to start my own company.
And so tonight instead of telling you something abstract and lofty, like “follow your dreams”, I want to share my practical tips for landing a job–and having a great career. Something you can use. I’ve coached professional communicators for two decades, I’ve seen these strategies work again, and again, literally thousands times. My hope is one of these tips may change your life.
Just do it
Here’s my first one—just do it.
In my senior seminar class we had to write a cover letter and resume for a job, in any communications field, just find a job description. We had to make sure we knew how to do it. I’m sure they still make you do that now, right? I found a marketing coordinator job description for a small company with a weird name. The description said they wanted three to five years of experience. I only had done a summer internship so far – but turning in my class assignment, I got my 15 points, then, I sent the cover letter and resume to the company. Believe it or not, they hired me part-time while I was still in school my senior year — and I started full-time as soon as I graduated.
Here’s my tip. Just do it. Apply for everything. It costs nothing, and yet I was the only one of my peers who did that.
As former President Jimmy Carter says: “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”
Remember: Job descriptions are wish lists. And companies love people who are willing to put themselves out there. Sometimes all it takes is just a tiny extra step. Just do it.
Tip number two, seize opportunities.
Two years ago I was asked to speak here at the San Jose State Leadership Conference. I made a special offer to everyone who was there that day. If the students gave me their name, email and major, I would match them with a mentor from my personal network, for free.
One hundred students gave me their info and over the next several weeks, my team helped me match students with working professionals who had similar career interests or majors. Nurses, pilots, engineers, writers, scientists, government officials.
One hundred students received an email with contact information for a professional who generously offered to help propel their career forward. We told the students, they were responsible for initiating the contact. So how many do you think out of 100, actually followed up with the mentors?
Zero out of 100.
Everyone wanted the golden ticket, but nobody bothered to unwrap the Wonka bar. How many golden tickets do you think you’ll get in your lifetime?
I know. Professionals can be intimidating. You may not know what to say. You’re busy with classes and work. But you never know when one person may know another person whose neighbor’s daughter needs someone just like you. If you want success, you need to seize every opportunity.
When opportunity knocks, answer the frickin’ door!
Tip number three, be creative.
My son Adam was born with more courage and creativity than anyone I know. He’s attending college in Los Angeles and wants to get into the entertainment industry of course — along with thousands of other people.
Freshman year he had to listen to a guest speaker for a class and this woman was a producer in Hollywood. After class, he walked and talked with her and found out they had both worked at Baskin-Robbins – and, more importantly, they shared the same favorite flavor: Peanut Butter & Chocolate.
The producer promised to connect him with her friend who owned a talent agency for dancers and choreographers in Hollywood, but when Adam didn’t hear anything, he emailed and called, twice. Finally, she made the email introduction and he got the unpaid internship at the dance agency.
Now, get this.
After his first week at the internship, Adam bought a Styrofoam ice chest, took a taxi cab, because he didn’t have a car, went to Baskin-Robbins, loaded the ice chest with pints of Peanut Butter & Chocolate, and he delivered it to the producer’s office with a hand-written thank you note.
Would that make an impression on you? How much did it cost? $50.
By the way, Adam’s unpaid internship is now paid and the agency sent him to work in their Broadway New York office for the summer. He’s just finished his junior year; they’ve already offered him a full-time job as talent agent when he graduates a year from now.
All it takes is a tiny bit of extra creativity to stand out. Perhaps it’s not something they teach over in the Engineering building, but you guys are Communications majors. Be creative. Be unique. Exceed expectations. That’s how you build a professional brand.
Tip number four, network harder.
In my experience it’s not just the hard work you do, it’s the net-work that counts. Building a professional network takes work.
Your formal education may have ended, but your career depends less on what you know than who you know. Don’t just connect with people you already know on Social Media. Get your butt to IABC and PRSA and all the other professional organizations where people like me are looking for outgoing, polished young talent.
And if you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, whip one up this weekend.
In the business world, this is the first place I go to creep on you. Facebook is second. Clean ‘em up guys, you are in the professional world now. You don’t exist if you are not on LinkedIn. A resume goes to one person at a time, but your LinkedIn profile is accessible to millions of potential employers.
Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn of MGM was asked how he got so successful. And he said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Sweat the small stuff
Tip number five, sweat the small stuff.
You are professional communicators. There is no excuse for sloppy grammar or typos. You should be fanatical about accuracy and integrity in everything you write, shoot or post.
I still see Public Relations job titles with typos. Try spelling “public” without the “L.” Not so nice.
And guess what, girls and boys, spellcheck is not going to help you with that one.
So if you want to be regarded as professional, reliable and educated take the time to read and re-read everything.
There’s no place like home
My sixth and final tip is a bonus tip, there’s no place like home.
Toto, we are not in Kansas, and that’s a good thing.
We are here in San Jose, California – the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s one of the most prosperous and exciting regions of the world. Hundreds of incredible companies are within a 10-mile radius of this campus. You could be graduating from Lower Mediocre College or Nowhere State. You are lucky. There’s no place like this on earth. People are dying to come here and get jobs. So think to yourself: Do you want to travel for free and do creative, challenging things? Would you like to make the world a better place? Do you want a stable career that pays well? Parents, do YOU want your child to have a stable career that pays well?
Then don’t be intimidated by Silicon Valley and technology.
You are communicators. You’ve been trained to write and speak and think so that great ideas are heard and shared. The most innovative new product or technology invented by engineers here in the Valley won’t change the world if nobody knows about them. You are the amplifiers. Your job is to make sure the world hears about things that are important and valuable.
There are hundreds of companies that need great communicators. Right here. Right now. There are sexy companies like Google, Twitter, Apple and Zynga. But there are hundreds, thousands of other companies. Those have less competition for jobs and you’ll have more to do.
I’ll also promise you that you’ll never have to learn advanced math or pick up a programming language to be a successful communicator in Silicon Valley! Don’t be intimidated.
So there you have it, my six tips. Give them a try. I think you’ll be amazed at what comes your way.
Remember, there’s no carefully crafted career plan for any of us. It’s yours to create.
You have the same foundation I had 26 years ago. You have a great world-class education, practical experience from internships and a wealth of Spartan connections. You’re also entering the market at a time when Forbes lists San Jose and San Francisco as two of the best big cities for jobs in 2013. And employers plan to hire 13% more grads this year than last, including public relations, communications and marketing majors.
Yes, competition will always be fierce and employers will always be picky.
It’s okay to be scared. I’m still scared every day. That’s how I know I’m still learning and growing. Deep down, I’m still the insecure girl who never dreamed of being a beauty queen. Or president of my own company. Or a convocation speaker at San Jose State.
I’ve found my passion for connecting and empowering people in their work and life. I get to do it with people I love and laugh with, every single day. And I had to create that from nothing. There was no template. If I can do it, you can do it too.
Just be a tiny bit braver tomorrow than you are today. In work, and in life.
Yup, everybody wants a TED talk at their event these days. I recently coached three teachers to help them deliver “TED-like” talks at a primary education conference.
The event was held by a very high-profile non-profit organization and these teachers were no strangers to public speaking—they had years of experience giving speeches, teaching larges classes, and appearing on TV.
But they needed guidance on how to “talk TED”, i.e. engage the audience for 7-15 minutes on their topic “Why Teaching is a Calling.” They didn’t quite get how to craft their ideas into something conversational and inspiring that would RADICALLY MOVE the audience.
I tried to explain: what makes a TED Talk different?
There’s no podium—just you and an open space.
It’s not merely a presentation of data or research; it’s your view of the world.
You give insight into your thought process, not just methodology or experience.
It’s vulnerable, intimate, and even, at times, unprofessional.
It’s all about an emotional takeaway for the audience.
Every company or organization seems to want a TED talk these days. And it’s understandable: when done well, talks like these can transform conferences and, if filmed and edited properly, can also translate into great online viewing. Videos of some Ted talks, like Ken Robinson’s on how schools kill creativity, have been watched online over 15 million times.
But no one wants to be a cheap imitation. So avoid common traps like:
Attempting to recreate actual TED-talks, like using a real brain as a prop (sorry it’s been done) or taking long pauses after saying the word “creativity” or “inspiration.” In other words, own your individuality.
Wearing black. Almost always the backdrop at these TED things is black. So don’t wear black. Even with a colorful scarf.
Deciding to use prompter (which is fine) but then not writing your “script” in conversational and colloquial language (see this post on How to Use Teleprompter).
Getting distracted by your body language. Everyone always asks me what to do with his/her hands.
In the process of breaking down TED-talks for my client, I developed crash course that can help you deliver a TED-like talk should your CEO suddenly discover that your company needs one too.
Watch three TED Talks; decide on your topic and write the three things you hope the audience gets from your talk.
Tell someone your “story,” consider use of possible extra media or props, draft your talk (bullet points, not written out).
Record yourself giving your “talk” with notes to guide you. Make edits and additions. Decide whether to stick with notes or use a prompter.
Give your talk to a friend (without worrying about movement or body language). Then practice giving your talk in an empty room with full movement and props; check duration. Make edits and adjustments for length and lulls.
Decide on your wardrobe/makeup/hair. Give your talk three more times aloud.
Rehearsal Before Event:
Do a full on-stage rehearsal with slides, props, and/or prompter. But relax (no rehearsing!) for at least two hours before the event.
Julie Mergen is fascinated with business systems. She admires those who create products from concepts. Along with her innate entrepreneurial spirit, she simply finds money interesting — even more intriguing is the multiple, seemingly endless perceptions we as humans have about money. Julie says: “Money stops us, blocks us, money molds us, holds us, money is freedom, money is greed, money is a tool and a crutch, money is anger and happiness, money is love, companionship, affection, money is scarce, money is security, money is prosperity and abundant, money is influence and power. Money can be build an empire and destroy a marriage — if that is how money is perceived, that is what money becomes.”
Julie started a women’s investment club in 2004. During its existence the club has touched the lives of 16 diverse women. Together, these women learned and implemented strategies for investing one dollar to earn two in return. They studied the stock market; learned about real estate investing; explored several business models; held a club portfolio which fostered courage for many members to move outside their comfort zone; and expanded their individual portfolios. They made some money, they lost some money — but most importantly, Julie led these women through a learning process to change their perceptions about money. Perceptions about money had restrained each of them from achieving financial freedom, which meant something different to each of them in turn.
Spending six years in a club with these magnificent women was an immense gift that Julie is eternally grateful for. Along with her interests, this experience shaped the concepts for workshops, one-on-one mentoring and a monthly publication, Her Money Magazine. Julie’s passion now is to reach out and share in creating a new community which includes all women, anyone who wants to discover their relationship with money and create financial freedom — freedom in all aspects of life.
Through workshops, mentoring, and public speaking Julie’s sets a standard for women to rise up authentically with confidence and achieve what each individual woman believes is her standard of financial well being.
Her Money Magazine is a pillar in the financial realm of women’s lives; sparking an interest and cultivating confidence; demystifying fears and broadening views about money in ways that educate, encourage, empower and even entertain while women of all ages all over the world take action to achieve financial well-being; living dreams that come true.
Through a newly founded non-profit, Her Freedom Foundation, Julie will reach out specifically to the single mothers who find themselves struggling financially, feeling trapped and possibility seeing themselves as victims of circumstance. The Foundation offers support and education to show these women the way to financial empowerment.
Julie is a leader making a difference in the lives of women, so that they in turn may make a difference in the lives of those who surround them.
Speaker’s Academy Archive
I caught up with Julie at a National Speakers Association Northern California Chapter meeting immediately prior to the start of the Speaker’s Academy program. To hear what she told me about her plans to publish the magazine and her best single piece of advice for women who want to learn to manage money, click on the podcast icon below.
Newspaper circulation is down while YouTube views number in the billions. These facts are not unrelated.
Apkon argues that we are on the threshold of a new era where the democratic reach of media can now stretch to a level never before possible in human history. This phenomena is enabled by the ubiquity of screens to consume video; the universal language of the image over the specificity of written communications; the power and reach of the networks of distribution through YouTube and the web; and, finally, our ownership of the means of production via smart phone cameras and inexpensive editing tools. Apkon notes:
What we are now seeing is the gradual ascendance of the moving image as the primary mode of communication around the world: one that transcends languages, cultures, and borders. And what makes this new ear different from the dawn of television is that the means of production–once in the hands of big-time broadcasting companies with their large budgets–is now available to anyone with a camera, a computer, and the will.
The power of images
Akpon details how the human brain is wired for images (the province of 85% of our grey matter) and why we trust the evidence of our eyes above all else. Images are understood in context, which can be manipulated with narrative to hook an audience emotionally. We expect nothing less from Hollywood, we should not deny ourselves this facility.
Every picture tells a story
Images have energized corporate storytelling. Apkon shares examples where the old rules no longer apply: from the low-budget Dorritos Super Bowl ad to Gillette’s instructional video on How to Shave Your Groin, corporate video appeals directly to our ‘reptilian mind’, prior to logic and rationality.
Lawyers and journalists are tapping into the power of the image to bolster reasoned arguments.
Implications for executive communications
For anyone involved with corporate, political or executive communications the implications of Apkon’s thesis, even if he only partly right, are profound. Those who wish to succeed in the corporate world need superior communication skills. Today, these include not only listening, speaking, reading and writing, but also superior visual communications skills.
The days of the copy editor, speech writer, or PR professional who focuses on the language of the press release alone are numbered. We need to relax our obsessive focus on a logical, written narrative. Instead of endless meetings about the nuances of a product announcement, we should look for ways to craft images that will emotionally connect with an audience. Apkon recommends we learn from the black arts of the political advert:
Political images are much less logical that they let on–in fact, they rely on the image makers’ ability to tap into primitive emotional centers that govern adaptive urges such as fear, comfort, and love.
Remember, America is a country where one of the more popular of recent Presidents was a trained actor; California a state where we elected an inarticulate Austrian body builder with an outsized fictional screen presence as Governator. The biggest stumble made by the Republican challenger in the last election was being caught on video talking about “the 47 percent”.
Corporate communications professionals need to grab their Flip cameras (or whatever is available to them), fire up Windows Movie Maker and go stick the lens in the face of customers, partners, employees, and, yes, even executives.
Apkon’s important book challenges us to recognize the importance of the image over the written word, to learn to become literate in this medium, and to be willing to step forward and say “Lights, Camera, Action!”.
Jan Dalley writes in the Weekend FT on the paradox that in an age of increasing digitization of our culture (via music downloads, YouTube video and more) people still seek out the unique personal experience of attending live performances: at literary festivals, rock concerts, and lectures.
Historically, authors like Charles Dickens drew crowds of many thousands. Modern literary festivals such as the annual Hay-on-Wye event attract tens of thousands.
Dalley speculates that the appeal of these live events is
..because of something to do with attention … you (feel) the full beam of someone’s focus right on you.
Professional speakers and executives who deliver their content at live events rather than virtually know there is a special magic in being in front of an audience. For attendees, there is the thrill of attention Dalley speaks of, but also, I would suggest, the chance to congregate with others of a like mind in a shared experience that touches something in us which pre-dates the modern world.
There’s the truth of the moment which our ancestors shared around the fire on dark evenings, enchanted by the tale, drawn together in a common understanding.