Retail Observer

December 2019

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM DECEMBER 2019 46 T he lights dimmed as Larry took the stage. It had been six months since he'd gotten the big promotion, and this was his moment to shine. Larry knew from painful feedback that people found him "wooden" – he was a nice enough guy, sharp as a tack, but not exactly relatable. So Larry hired a coach and got to work. Larry architected a highly logical presentation of the messages he wanted his customers to understand. His assistant put together a slick PowerPoint deck. His wife bought him a new pair of trousers. The day before the speech, he walked through the whole thing twice, end-to-end. Onstage, Larry nailed his lines (albeit with the help of his "courtesy monitor"). The slides were lovely; the trousers perfect. But the feedback did not change: Larry was still "a stiff." Larry hit his marks, but he failed to connect because he wasn't authentic. Don't be Larry. Here's how to be yourself instead. UNDERSTAND THE CHALLENGE If you've ever frozen in fear beneath the hot glare of the spotlights, you know how deceptively difficult it can be to deliver the goods with ease, honesty, and color. Your audience might be digesting one word at a time, but you, the presenter, need to negotiate four tricky mental tracks at once. Track 1 is hard enough: stating a simple cogent thought. You're presenting a complex idea and you want to articulate it in a way that makes sense. Then comes Track 2, which is remembering the message that comes next. This is often where the nightmares happen in the terror of drawing a blank and losing your bearings. Assuming you don't flub your lines, you still have two other tracks to manage. Track 3 is the physical one: controlling your body, your movements, your gestures. This track is frequently relegated to the subconscious, in which case your anxiety and stress can get projected. Finally, Track 4, the hardest and the most important, is where you read the audience's responses as they happen and adjust accordingly. The better prepared you are, the more tracks you'll be able to handle when it's time to stand and deliver. Try to wing it and you'll likely to crash and burn on Track 1. DELIVER NARRATIVES, NOT FACTS Great presentations are less about lecture and more about theater. Audiences long to be entertained and to feel an emotion. They want stories, character-driven narratives that embody your insights and bring your lessons to life. And they want to get to know you. To craft compelling narratives, first look inward to the truth of your own personal and business experiences. Find the dramas that underlie your values and ideas. Ask questions such as "What problems did we struggle to overcome?" "Who really mattered, and what did they do?" and "What were our defining moments?" Sharing real-life experiences is a lot more effective than projecting pie charts and platitudes. Stories let your audiences learn your lessons for themselves. They also reveal your temperament and disposition. They make you real. PRACTICE, AND PRACTICE AGAIN Once your narrative is set, the formula for success is simple. The more hours you spend practicing, the more authentic you'll be, and the better you'll perform. If you've got a 20-minute keynote, plan on spending 20 hours, more if possible. Practice in front of as many test audiences as will tolerate you, and really listen to their feedback. Record yourself on video and watch it (perfect for avoiding the pitfalls of Track 3). Practice when you're driving and showering, and when you're stressed and distracted. The goal is not to memorize your lines, it's to become so intimate with your material that the details and the flow become available to you like happy memories, never taxing your mind. This frees up the brain space required for that critical Track 4: internalizing the audience's feedback and adjusting your delivery as you go. And when you own your narrative, it's much easier to do. You can't quantify authenticity. People simply know it when they see it. The good news is, it's within you. Dare to be original, to share a bit of vulnerability, and to do the hard work of preparation. Your audience will love you for it. HOW TO BE AN AUTHENTIC STORYTELLER Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

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