Home' micenet eMag : micenet AUSTRALIA October November 2014 Contents M
eetings people love a good acronym, and our industry
presents more opportunities than most for the CLM
(Career-Limiting Move). Most happen in the alcohol-
soaked months we’re approaching right now, where long
evenings of cheap party wine will turn you into the UMC (Ultimate
Management Consultant) with frank and fearless advice for all
senior executives on exactly where they’re going wrong.
But there’s another CLM minefield that operates all year round:
planning presentations for the CEO, or Minister, or whoever rules
your particular work world. The critical ‘nothing must go wrong’
speeches when they face media, appease analysts or present a
GFV (Gleaming Future Vision) to staff. The shows where you’re
the Smithers to their Burns, where a planning or execution error
means ritual sacrifice of all your suppliers, followed by your
transfer to the Snowtown branch office.
There’s No ‘I’ In ‘Speech’
Managing these speeches is a subtle art, given that CEOs didn’t
get where they are today by taking orders from people lower
down the slopes of Seniority Mountain. There are complex
psychological factors, mainly ego and competitiveness. Ironically
those are the parts that you’re usually trying to hide in their
speech, specifically their love of saying ‘I’ at least twice in every
sentence. Any executive speech can be improved 100 per cent
simply by changing every ‘I’ to ‘we’.
What Would Casanova Do?
Try surprise tactics to steer your CEO. Casanova, a man more
thoughtful than his sleazy shagmeister reputation suggests,
advised ‘praise the beautiful for their intelligence, and the
intelligent for their beauty’. Translated to CEO talk, they’re used
to people telling them how powerful and great they are, so
surprise them with praise for their unnoticed warmth and
approachability. These are the characteristics that separate a
presentation from just reading something aloud.
Time Is Money
CEOs hate a rehearsal, because they’re very busy. I once saw a
CEO walk off a two-metre stadium stage into an orchestra pit in
the dark, purely because he had rejected all requests to come in
early to rehearse. So the simpler the stage layout and AV, the
better. CEOs have a tight schedule, so you can’t kick off 10
minutes late like they’re a party band. They want to start on
time, finish on time and get to the next thing.
For the same reason, CEO speeches should use hot back ups
of key technology. Second laptops and projectors run in parallel
with the show machines so if something locks up, you switch
over straight away. Time passes very slowly with a CEO chillin’
on stage while a sweaty tech tries to reboot.
Throw Out The AV Rules
You can cast the standard AV rules aside for CEO speeches.
You want them to look authoritative. But the standard event
setup is screen in the middle, lectern at the side. The speaker is
subservient to the screen images. Does the President of the
United States of America use PowerPoint? No, because he is
too powerful. The absence of screen images says Look Directly
At Me, I’m In Charge of This Situation.
Have a look at what I rate as the finest boss speech in recent
years, Chief of Army Lt General David Morrison on unacceptable
behaviour. Even on YouTube, it carries a terrifying laser intensity.
Watch and consider how much weaker it would be with slides.
A lectern is normally a clunky communication barrier. For a big
boss, however, it says power. Put it right in the middle of the
stage. For centuries, emperors, archbishops and dictators have
held this position, so our subconscious mind says: listen up,
because if I don’t, maybe they could have me killed.
Major CEOs generally bring an entourage to keep things on
track, including a PR wrangler, who will often want to send the CEO
instructions mid-speech during Q&A. Remember to arrange a video
foldback monitor in front of the stage. It saves a lot of arm-waving.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
If you have a female CEO, you’re done with this column, move
on to the next page.
Still here? As a general plea to CEO minders, could you
encourage them to get a haircut? There’s a current major trend
back to the comb-over on business – ahem – bigwigs. The
federal government is currently advised at the highest levels by
two particularly wispy comb-over guys.
It’s not acceptable even under sympathetic lighting, but stage
or TV conditions really show how far the tide has gone out. High
wattage lamps light up the scalp, and backlighting creates a
nightmare halo like a 90s spun-sugar dessert.
Cameras pick up heads from angles their owners never see in
the bathroom mirror as they lacquer down each precious strand.
And let’s not even discuss the spectacle of backlit ear hair.
Yes, it’s a thing. Gentlemen, you have the great fortune to be
alive in a time when being bald is cool. Clip it all off. You’re in
business, not American Hustle. m
The usual rules go out the window when you’re
planning a CEO speech, writes Ian Whitworth.
BY IAN WHITWORTH
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