Archive for the 'produce your message' Category

The Engaging Speaker delivers a message slowly and clearly

A message is that part of your talk or presentation that you’d really like the audience to remember. It’s sometimes called a soundbite, a tagline or a takeaway message. It’s really a very concise way to sum up the whole presentation. When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone launch in 2007, he concluded his opening with the phrase, “Today Apple reinvents the phone.” This was the big picture message. It sums up the whole campaign. It was used in press releases, on Apple’s web site and through the tremendous amount of reporting that followed the launch. It announced a strong statement and positioned Apple as new player in the emerging smartphone market. All in five words.

However, a message is not a message unless it is repeated. That was the real power behind such a simple message. It’s easy to repeat and pass on. It’s an idea virus, made popular by marketing guru in his ebook Unleashing the Idea Virus, which claims to be the most downloaded ebook ever.

Once you’ve decided on your message, don’t rush through it. Plan where you will use it throughout your talk. Place it on your slides or on posters around the room. When it comes time to say the message, slow down your pace a touch and articulate each word clearly. I’ve heard many business speakers, rush through an important message so that the audience can’t catch the full impact. A good message should stick as-is in everybody’s head. If you asked individuals leaving the room after your presentation what the main message was, 90% of them should be able to recite it word-for-word. The other 10% should be able to catch the main idea. If not, you missed your chance.

In contrast to the iphone launch, the 2011 launch of the ipad used the tagline “iPad is a truly magical and revolutionary product.” This is less impactful. Eight words versus five. 9 syllables versus 17.

Make your message as tight as you can. Then deliver it slowly and clearly.

Big mistakes executives make while communicating

Speak without a clear message

Executives from technical disciplines, such as finance or engineering, often have a misconception that technical ability is more important than communicating effectively. The very skills that make technical experts successful actually prevent them from being promoted to senior management. They focus too heavily on process and small details when the situation requires something more concise. Unlike junior managers, a senior executive’s main role is to communicate a clear and compelling message.

Executives with presence understand how to tell the story behind the numbers, correctly balancing big-picture with small details. The best executives, such as Steve Jobs, communicate effectively using simple and concise language that conveys powerful and memorable messages. Jobs has honed this skill over the years and his product launches contain such gems as, “Today, Apple reinvents the phone” from the 2007 iPhone launch. This ability to express a situation in its simplest terms is often overlooked by technical executives. However, all effective executive communicators have mastered this art.

Here are some examples of four word messages which can be used as an “umbrella” message or overall message for a pitch, presentation, change initiative or campaign. Once you have an umbrella message, each supporting section would also be given a short message to summarize that section of information:

Better city, Better life” from Shanghai Expo 2010.
“The best-run businesses run SAP”from SAP Advertising campaign.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish” – Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford, 2005.
“Real Estate for Your World” from Century 21.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” from BMW.
“The Company for Women” from Avon Products, Inc.
“Expect More. Pay Less.” from Target Corporation.
“Photonics in the Fast Lane” from Thor Labs.
“The Miracles of Science” from DuPont.

Taken from the book “Speaking with Purpose: “How to present ideas that matter in 18 minutes or less”. Learn more about the workbook here.

About the Author

Warwick helps C-level executives, working in multinational companies based in Greater China, who need to become more confident and effective in their spoken communications. Warwick helps the executive project a clear message allowing them to express their opinions powerfully and gain respect from senior managers even when under pressure.”

Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world”.

Buy The One Minute Presenter here.

Speech Analysis by The One Minute Presenter on Ginni Rometty, first female CEO of IBM

Ginni Rometty is a very well prepared presenter with a clear structure and message. She delivers in an energetic and engaging manner and speaks in way that helps the audience understand her message.

You can watch the video of this speech here. [Tip: if you double click the video, it will play with subtitles in full screen]

Length of speech: Under 12 minutes

Here is my breakdown of the speech. The things that are great about the speech are:

  • Rapport building from the start
  • Framing the presentation
  • Let’s the audience know the purpose
  • Connecting questions
  • Vocal Pacing
  • Uses Taglines to deliver clear messages
  • Uses statistics and anecdotes to support message
  • Gestures add energy and impact to key messages
  • Rule of three

The areas that could be improved include:

  • Stretching supporting points to make them fit an idea
  • Fluidity

Here is my breakdown of the speech. The things that are great about the speech are:

Rapport building from the start
Started with a rapport builder about travelling in bad weather and the color purple. Good reaction from the audience. Great ice-breaker. Ginni also uses people’s names from time to time which is part of her personal style. It works to bring the audience closer to the speaker.

09:40 Ginni also employs a call back technique that many stand up comedians use. She sets up her point by citing the study mentioned in the opening.

09:55 Calls back the Drucker quote mentioned earlier. “the best way to predict the future is to create the future”

Uses ‘we’ throughout the speech to include herself in the challenges facing the CIO audience [Ginni was IBM CIO at the time of this speech]

Framing the presentation

This is a good technique which Steve Jobs would employ. Overviewing the talk in 30 seconds:

00:50 Smarter Planet is a Business Strategy, Why is it resonating?, A decade of smart

Let’s the audience know the purpose

03:10 How can you think differently when implementing. Uses examples to  add credibility to what is coming with Eindoven’s pilot roll-out 70% pilot traffic, Tennessee Valley Authority – largest public utility, and Shell.

Connecting questions

A higher level skill which involves using a question to connect or engage with the audience [without waiting for interaction] and then delivering a key message or point.

02:25 And you may say, what’s so interesting about that? Except it connects….

06:00 But what do you guess is the number one inhibitor for growth? Lack of integrated information

06:15 As growth returns, what kind of growth? And that’s what I meant by pushing the boundaries

07:05 How do you go make a market? This is where I really assert…

Vocal Pacing

Clear and easy to understand throughout. Shows how to deliver to an international audience.

Uses Taglines to deliver clear messages
03:10 3 Observations
1. The New Normal “productivity while you grow”
2. Pushing the Boundary “through data”
3. New leadership for new economy “compliance”

Uses statistics and anecdotes to support message
Ginni uses a mix of data to support her point. She cites EIU reports, IBM studys, anecdotes, statisitics on CEOs changing position and also historical data referring back to past recessions. She doesn’t use slides and instead deliver short precise anecdotes to back up her points.

Example from section on The New Normal

05:20 Statistics: EIU report 90% of CEOs → focus on productivity. IBM study CFO 70% input to growth agenda BUT lack of integrated information

07:15 Example of health insurer using data

08:00 Statistics on 2,700 CEOs positions change

Gestures add energy and impact to key messages

Ginni uses gestures actively and throughout the presentation. Some gestures include:

00:50 – count to three on her fingers [although the third point was forgotten!]

01:00 risk and efficiencies using the ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ gesture

02:00 ‘foundation’ ‘rollout’

03:20 Three observations

03:35 ‘pushing the boundary’

Like all energetic speakers, Ginni tends to over-gesture. In other words, many gestures are not linked to a clear point. In my opinion, this does not distract too much and does not detract from her message.

Warwick’s coaching tip:

Note the way that Ginni linked specific gestures to her key message, like ‘pushing the boundary’. This is intentional and most like pre-planned. After you have identified your presentations key message see how you can create a simple gesture to add impact to it.

Rule of three

Structure is made clear at the beginning:

1. The New Normal “productivity while you grow”
2. Pushing the Boundary “through data”
3. New leadership for new economy “compliance”

08:00 New leadership for that new environment and that new economy [repetition of ‘new’] adds more impact

08:40 “Bold, open-minded and persuasive” is a good example of rule of three in a message

11:30 for conclusion wrapped up with three main messages

The areas that could be improved include:

Stretching supporting points to make them fit an idea

Ginni used an example of Kraft introducing a product just after Great Depression to support her point that leaders need to be bold, open-minded and persuasive in difficult times. The Kraft example worked but the others felt too stretched.

2001 while Apple launched iPod on 23 October 2011 after the 9-11 event that Ginni alludes to – this launch would have been in plan for months or years. In 1954, Texas Instrument introduced the transistor radio but it had been in development for many years and the bottleneck was around finding a suitable manufacturer.

Warwick’s coaching tip:

It’s good technique to find supporting evidence to back up your message. Ensure that the points you choose are credible and realistic for the audience. Avoid stretching an example to fit your piont. Try to find a point that matches the message. Ginni ‘s message here was around leaders being “bold, open-minded and persuasive”. Perhaps it would have been better to find examples of individual leaders who took bold decisions in this tough times. Like for example, Steve Jobs saying we are going ahead with the iPod lauch even though the country and economy was in a state of shock. Getting a personal insight here would better match the point.


Having seen other presentations from Ginni, this one seemed just a little below her usual high standard in terms of the fluidity. At times it seemed like Ginni was trying to recall key messages and this made certain parts seem a little disjointed. But not so much to get in the way of her clear messaging.


A very well structured presentation with clear messages and energetic delivery. Ginni is a great presenter and you should certainly watch this video and her other presentations. This one was a little off-par in terms of smoothness but that it just a small quibble. If everyone presented in such an engaging and clear style, business presentations around the world would be so much better. A solid 8 out of 10.

About the Author

Warwick J Fahy

Warwick helps C-level executives, working in multinational companies based in Greater China, who struggle to get their point across and influence their key stakeholders. Warwick helps the executive project their message with confidence allowing them to express their opinions powerfully and gain respect from senior managers even when under pressure.Learn more about who Warwick helps here.

Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world”.

Now available on

Sign up to “52 Tips to more confident public speaking” newsletter at

The power of five minute modules

The content of your speech is like a diamond necklace. Imagine a string of stones on this necklace. Every diamond on your necklace is five minutes of content. Rather than delivering a data dump, these shorter modules help the audience digest your material and stay on track during your talk. Working your ideas into strong five-minute modules is the start of a great presentation.

Practice delivering these modules with different speech objectives from the Toastmasters manuals. I recently delivered five manual talks to identify five minutes of good content that I used as part of a 40 minute presentation. This polishing of content is the process that stand-up comedians use to refine their act. In the documentary Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld creates a new stand-up act. He went from comedy club to comedy club trying out new material and then reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. You can use a similar process.

Refine your content with these three steps: test-edit-test. Don’t just deliver a speech once. Instead, record every speech you deliver and listen to it. Observe when people laugh or react to parts of your speech. Extract those parts and try them again with a different audience. When different audiences react positively, you know you have good content. But what if your material flops? Try it on another audience. If it still doesn’t go over well, refine it and try it on a third audience. If after three times of re-working a story and it flops every time, drop it! Becoming more aware of how your audience reacts to your content is essential to being a better speaker.

Flexibility is the hallmark of all great presenters. You can ‘string’ your talk with different ‘stones’ of content depending on your speech message and audience. Each module could be delivered independently or as part of a longer presentation.

Express the big picture with your big idea

Crowns are used to represent power and convey legitimacy to the person wearing them. But crowns are not only for kings. You can ‘wear’ one to represent your expertise. Your crown of expertise is your big idea and frames everything you speak on. It provides the context for your talk and helps the audience understand the big picture before you go deeper into detailed content. Let’s illustrate with four examples:

1. Rory Vaden in a recent talk in China explained his big idea as “take the stairs”. He used it as a metaphor to mean literally stay in shape and also symbolically as the pathway to success. It’s easy to understand, remember and pass along.

2. Simon Sinek, a professional speaker, has a big idea called “start with why”. Simon believes that before you decide on a career, you should first understand what drives you by clarifying your passions in life. All his talks are hooked back to this main theme.

3. Educator Sir Ken Robinson’s big idea is to “increase creativity in schools”. He delivered two famous talks to TED Talks ( on this topic. His humorous delivery was effective because it reinforced his core message.

4. Zappo’s, an online retailer, big idea is to deliver “wow through customer service”. Their customer-friendly service allows goods to be returned up to one year after purchase and offers free shipping both ways.

Your big idea is your crown of expertise. It is expressed in three to five words, and can be applied to your job, your experience, your background or just a topic you like to speak on with passion. Create a big idea for your next presentation to help the audience remember your main message. With a big idea, you can also better filter ideas and decide how relevant they are for your speech

Lessons when communicating to senior managers: Get to the Point

A key skill to master when delivering your message is getting to the point. This is especially important when your audience are senior managers who are short on time and need to make decisions effectively before moving onto the next issue on their agendas. This is part of “Produce your Message”, step 3 in the 8 step journey of  The One Minute Presenter.

It’s a challenging skill to acquire as it often requires a different approach.

Start with the outcome. Most busy executives need to know the range of possible outcomes before they can make a decision. Don’t hold back on the possible consequences of your proposal or a plan. If you wait until the end of your presentation, you are likely to get interrupted with abrupt questions.


“In today’s presentation I will outline the new project X which has the potential to increase our market share between 3% and 25% I will explain why that range is so wide and ask for your decision on getting stage one moving at the end of the presentation.”

“The main reason we are having issues in our quality control is due to our change in supplier. I will outline the implications and make some recommendations on how we can reduce defects immediately.”

Know what your message is. Spend time to think about the key point or message of your presentation. In workshops we help managers acquire this skill by taking a longer explanation and gradually boiling it down to it’s most salient point. This will give you clarity on what the core point you wish to convey is and importantly will help you deliver it concisely to your audience.


“In a nutshell, the main message from today’s presentation has been the urgent need to align project controllers with the current priorities of the project managers. After lunch we will discuss how we will implement this in the next quarter.”

“In today’s presentation, I will explain our plans for 2011-12. The takeaway message is ‘maintain premium clients, expand into business parks’. Let’s start with our existing client base…”

Don’t be afraid to emphasis your message. Just because you said your message once, doesn’t mean the audience understood or remembered  it. Think about different ways of conveying the same point.


“Executive presence is the key to building up an effective leadership team.”

“Our senior managers need to become more influential. Executive presence should be part of their development plan.”

Be brief and then be gone is the best advice you can have when delivering to senior managers. Spend time to craft yoru message and then refine it so that you can say it in the fewest possible words.

Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch

A suggested outline for an elevator pitch from Penny C. Sansevieri at Huffington Post

While it is written with a book author in mind, you can apply it to different situations.

Speech Analysis by The One Minute Presenter on Sir Ken Robinson’s Feb 2010 TED speech: Bring on the learning revolution

In this follow up to his famous 2006 TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert and in this talks asks the question, “Why don’t we get the best out of people?” He argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. [Source:]

Here is my breakdown of the speech. The things that are great about the speech are:

  • Metaphors help make your big ideas easier to grasp

  • Crafting taglines is a discipline in finding simplicity in your (complex) ideas

  • Telling a story that engages is an advanced skill

  • Closing quote can make your message stick

The areas that could be improved include:

  • Making humour work is a funny thing

  • Do you lose credibility if you use shaky facts?

  • Audience interaction is not only about a show of hands

Type of presentation

This is a follow up talk from his highly acclaimed 2006 TED speech and as such the expectations are higher. While well received by the audience, it is hard to imagine that this talk will have as much impact, as the message is lost among the jokes. Well written taglines are the highlight and although the closing quotation is beautifully chosen and delivered it is not exactly related to the idea of creating a learning revolution.

Metaphors help make your big ideas easier to grasp

Robinson uses three major metaphors in this talk, and they all work well.

1. Compares crisis in natural resource with the crisis in human resources (starts 02:30)

although the set up to this metaphor was not accurately made. Robinson says there is a “second climate crisis” when he actually means “ a second crisis”.

This metaphor is followed up later by saying “Human resource like natural resources are buried deep, you have to go looking for them” (04:15). Good analogy.

2. Comparing the education system with fast food. Results are a similar depleting of spirits and energies as fast food depletes the body. (13:00). This really hits home it’s point.

3. Education is like manufacturing (conformity and batching people) (14:35)

What we need now is one based on agriculture … an “organic process” (14:55)

This is a nice comparison and one that is not only easily understood it catches the zeitgeist as organic food is becoming a growing trend, especially among the typical TED talks viewer.

Warwick’s coaching tip: Finding a metaphor or model to frame your ideas on can be an excellent way to convey your message. Vivid metaphors will help the audience remember your big ideas and overall message.

Crafting taglines is a discipline in finding simplicity in your (complex) ideas

Warwick’s coaching tip: Robinson is a thoughtful speaker (in between the jokes) and this reflects the deeper thinking he has done on his topic. A good tip for every speaker is to leave the audience with the feeling that you know a lot more on your subject that you could possibly cover in your talk.

This depth is shown in the clarity and concisely of his taglines or sound bites. Robinson has helped the audience do the thinking by making the complex really rather simple to understand – a significant asset for everyone who wishes to be influential.

Good examples of taglines include:

this is not a crisis of natural resources…but a crisis of human resources” (02:23)

we make very poor use of our talents” (02:30)

that’s simply improving a broken model” (04:40)

what we need is not an evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.” (04:50)

it’s a single function device” (when talking about a watch) (08:15)

life is not linear, it’s organic” (08:55)

we are obsessed about getting people to college\” (09:15)

human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability” (10:50)

college begins in kindergarten….[pause]… no it doesn’t” (11:15)

a friend of mine once said a 3 year old is not half a six year old” (11:40)

we have built our education system on the model of fast food” (12:45)

Telling a story that engages is an advanced skill

The fireman story (starts 09:20 – 10:40) makes a strong point on the value of having diverse talent in a community.

The example of three year old children being interviewed by “unimpressed panels” with resumes (12:00) hilariously brings out the ludicrous nature of how competitive early education has become.

Warwick’s coaching tip: When selecting appropriate stories and anecdotes ask yourself does the impact part (memorable) of the story align with the main message you want the audience to takeaway.

Closing quote can make your message stick

Choosing a quotation that sums up your message can be powerful technique. Like every tool, it can be misused. The trick is to find as close a match as possible to the quotation’s message and your overall speech message. Robinson chose a WB Yeats quotation (starts 16:40) which was beautifully connected to a powerful closing thought of “tread softly on our children’s dreams”. While a lovely closing, it is a little out of synch with the message of creating a learning revolution.

Overall this was a well received presentation, but there were a few areas which could have been improved.

Making humour work is a funny thing

While some of these jokes got an audience reaction, I did not like them as I felt they were often a shallow attempt at humour that did not develop or carry his ideas forward. Toward the end of the talk, the reaction from the audience dropped.

Example: ‘there is a hunger for videos of me’ (01:00) got a good laugh but really is too self indulgent for my tastes, especially when the set up used shaky facts (see below).

I only had 18 minutes frankly..” – audience did not react, perhaps because all speakers have 18 minutes. (01:38)

so as I was saying” (01:40)- again the audience laughed but it comes across as a little self-indulgent when being invited back to TED was an honour not made to many other speakers.

if you don’t believe there is a major climate crisis, you should get out more” – audience did not react perhaps because the point is not really clear (01:50)

I divide the world into two groups” (02:55) – while this got a good laugh, his follow up point did not come out so clearly. His point was that there are two groups of people in the world, those that “endure” and those that “enjoy” (03:30)

The joke about American history not being taught in Britain (05:50) while getting a laugh does not really add any impact to this message. And the set up referring to his lack of knowledge of what was happening in American at that time could have been cut out.

it’s difficult to know what it is you take for granted. And the reason is you take it for granted” (07:10). Not that funny.

The anecdote about receiving his first guitar at the same time that Eric Clapton did worked well, “…it wouldn’t work no matter how hard I blew into it” (13:30)

This uses the element of surprise, self-deprecating humour and exaggeration to get a good audience response.

Do you lose credibility if you use shaky facts?

In the opening to the talk, Robinson explained that 4 million downloads of his 2006 talk had been made, so if you multiply that by 20 you get the number of people who had seen his previous talk. It seems hard to believe that such large groups of people are sitting around watching online TED videos. This multiplier is a rule of thumb often applied to print media which for example if a newspaper or magazine is placed in a library or office would be read multiple times by different people. I am not so convinced it applies to a world of individual downloads.

Warwick’s coaching tip: The opening of a speech should be about building credibility, and Robinson was doing this by sharing how many people had seen his previous talk. Instead of his comment “there is a hunger for videos of me” which seems bizarre, perhaps a better retort would have been to express surprise, shock or amazement. By bringing in some humbleness he would have come across as credible and not self-aggrandizing.

Audience interaction is not only about a show of hands

In this attempt at audience interaction – always a tricky part to navigate in any large conference talk – Robinson uses the “put your hands up” technique. A trusted – if rather overused staple of conference speakers. The problem with this type of interaction is that it comes across as superficial and many people don’t like engaging in this type of interaction due to its overuse.

The interaction starts by asking who was over the age of 25, and wearing a wristwatch. (07:20). The underlying premise is that people under 25 won’t wear a watch because it is a “single function device” [great tagline] and that everyone over 25 wears a watch to tell the time. But do they? Personally I don’t always wear a watch but when I do its more because I like the feeling of being “dressed up” and other people will wear watches for aesthetic reasons or – if you have spent thousands of dollars on a luxury watch– as a status statement. People over the age of 25 wear watches for many different reasons.

Warwick’s coaching tip: A better approach would have been to ask the audience what they thought his daughter called a watch. The answer of a “single function device” would have got a good laugh (as it did when he used it after this interaction) and would have made a clear point on how younger people view the world differently.


This was a well delivered and generally well received talk. While there are very strong aspects to the talk notably the metaphors and taglines used, a greater impact could have been made by making the big idea more visible. What is the learning revolution that is needed? Besides from being organic, how can it be created? Even high level, inspirational speeches need to suggest a direction for the audience to go following the talk. Not as impactful as the 2006 talk. I think this was a 5 out of 10.

To see Warwick’s analysis of Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk speech, click here.

About the Author

Warwick J Fahy

Warwick helps C-level executives, working in multinational companies based in Greater China, who struggle to get their point across and influence their key stakeholders. Warwick helps the executive project their message with confidence allowing them to express their opinions powerfully and gain respect from senior managers even when under pressure.”  Learn more about who I help here.

Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world”.

Now available on

Sign up to “52 Tips to more confident public speaking” newsletter at

Two Key Executive Speaking Skills: Get to the Point and Project your Voice

The opening of The King’s Speech, starts with the King stammering his way through a speech in front of 120,000 people. While you may not face that level of pressure, having the ability to deliver effective presentations is an important skill to fast track your career, especially into senior ranks. Often a better presenter will be promoted ahead of a manager with superior technical skills. As an executive speech coach, I am invited to work with senior executives to help them iron out difficulties they have communicating with their key stakeholders, like board of directors or clients. Here we examine two common obstacles facing managers and executives in China and suggest a few solutions. Don’t worry, none of them involve smoking cigarettes or putting marbles in your mouth!

Obstacle One: Getting to the point

Many business presenters struggle to get to the point. They over-elaborate and leave audiences wondering, “What’s your point?” half-way through the presentation.

Sometimes changing industry is the cause. Jessie Wang, a 15-year veteran from a Big 4 consulting firm, switched to become an in-house tax specialist for a high-end real estate developer. Unlike her previous experience, where after submitting a client report, she had no connection with follow-through, now commercial directors expected advice and recommendations on how to implement a project. Although everyone regarded Jessie as an expert, frustrations emerged in meetings and telephone calls with the directors. Jessie gave rambling presentations covering tax legislation in too much detail. Her audience simply wanted to grasp the main point quickly and directly. Under time pressure and with millions of dollars investment on the line, they needed the best advice to make a decision and move on.

The solution worked on two levels.

Firstly, I helped Jessie understand how to construct a message-based presentation using a technique called the inverted pyramid. This technique puts the crucial information and message at the start and adds supporting points in decreasing order of importance. This executive summary approach uses the opening one to two minutes to outline the core message and key points to the audience who can then relax as they know where the presentation is heading. Secondly, to help Jessie adopt an in-house expert approach, I introduced a framework into which Jessie could slot her content. I work with 12 presentation frames and selected one that enabled Jessie Wang to cut out the irrelevant technical details, and finish the presentation with a strong recommendation. One approach divides the content into three parts; the problem, a range of possible solutions to address this issue, and finally a recommendation with caveats.

The resulting shorter, more outcome focused meetings helped lower tensions and improve key relationships with the commercial directors.

Obstacle two : Improving vocal projection

A common theme in The King’s Speech was vocal projection and this is a common obstacle facing many presenters. Jacky Li works in a Beijing professional services firm and as a new partner is expected to represent the company at industry events and bring in new business. Like many technical experts working in finance, IT, and engineering, Jacky is naturally an introvert, and is brilliant working with numbers and processes. Over the years by going deeper and deeper into his expert silo, he has secured consistent promotions. However, at this stage in his career, he needed to switch from being a technical expert to a more outgoing executive working with a wider range of stakeholders.

Two barriers stood in the way. Firstly, a lack of confidence at the daunting task of this expanding and unfamiliar role. This is common for newly promoted executives who find that their new portfolio includes a skillset that they have never developed. Secondly, Jacky had a very quiet voice, also common with introverts. This was not a problem when communicating one-to-one, but became a major fear factor when facing prospective clients or a conference hall full of industry peers.

Jacky worked on a plan to make steady and measurable progress on his voice which would also improve his confidence levels – a virtuous cycle. I applied a range of approaches to expand the range and volume of his voice. Warm up exercises were borrowed from opera singers, exaggerated vocal emphasis techniques were taken from improvisational theatre acting and scientific measurements were made with decibel readers. I provided a safe and supportive environment for Jacky to stretch his comfort zone.

In about one to two months, Jacky could clearly hear, see and feel the change. He had received some positive comments from his colleagues while in a client sales meeting, he could see that when he projected his voice with more confidence his audience paid more attention. This all helped Jacky feel more confident and as a result he was able to start to fill his new role with more energy.


Getting to the point and increasing your vocal projection will make a significant improvement to your presentations. Another take away from The King’s Speech is that hard work and persistence will triumph any current deficiency you have.

About the Author

Warwick J Fahy

“I work with high-potential senior executives who need to be more confident and influential with their key stakeholders. I help the executive quickly and powerfully express their opinions into message based presentations – even when under pressure.”  Learn more about who I help here.

Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world”.  Buy or download the book here.

Now available on

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If you have ever sat through a presentation and felt like this picture, then give us a call. We help executives learn how to get to the point and create memorable and persuasive presentations. Call us on +86 21 6101 0486

“Ever feel like the presenter is making too many points?”
“Ever feel like the presenter is making too many points?”

Photo credit: Piotr Bizior

You don’t need to be a King to work on your speech!

The highly acclaimed King’s Speech has been attracting a lot of attention recently. It was an entertaining film, especially for some of the bizarre treatments used to treat stutterers in the 1930s. It reminded me of the elocution lessons I took when I was about five years old to fix a slight problem I had in speaking certain words. Luckily I didn’t need to fill my mouth with marbles.

I was thinking whether this was a good film for my profession or not. Certainly, by showing a sometimes moving story of a person who worked incredibly hard at improving his skills for the new era of radio and public speeches, it is certainly a good role model for how we should all learn.  On the flip side, the eccentric nature of the practitioners (speech therapists) in the film gave me mixed feelings. From their bizarre suggestions that smoking is good for your lungs to the amateur dramatics actors lurking beneath the surface, they seemed to fall into the usual clichés of how public speakers are regarded.

In today’s busy, distracted and short attention span world, I think we do need to be not only great speakers, but also engaging storytellers.

Being an effective presenter is less about the mechanics of public speaking and more about the engagement skills you need to connect with your audiences. So while breathing and measuring the distance to the microphone are nice touches, they are the cherries on the cake.  They are useful only after a solid foundation has been put in place. Business professionals need to engage in so many different ways that most of their presentations are of the informal nature. Conference calls, one-on-one meetings, quick pep talks with their team, business events with regulators. Often they need to be just as persuasive without taking the stage.

So should we all have a speech coach? While I don’t think we need a speech therapist as depicted in the film, there is certainly a need for upgrading of business presentation skills across the board. Visit any company and speak with executives and you will pick up the frustration of long, dull meetings with long, dull data-heavy presentation slides. Or how long it takes to persuade a team that change is needed. Or inability to connect with younger colleagues. Or senior executives from a different country.

Most presentations are forgettable, do not have a clear message, are not delivered with passion, avoid all techniques that might make a message memorable (like story-telling and metaphor creation). Added to this most executives underestimate the amount of preparation that is needed for presenting a message.

A recent coaching engagement brought this out. A senior finance executive was frustrating his direct managers: the country CEO and also a global CFO based overseas. They had frequently asked the executive to be briefer and more concise in their one-on-one meetings which often over-ran by 30 or 60 minutes on a regular basis. Only after two or three coaching sessions where we worked on how to form a concise message, how to use structure to arrange ideas and how to think through the material by using scanning and drilling questions did the executive realise that “ this takes a long time to prepare” .  At first, like any new skill, it will take longer. But with practice, various techniques can be learned that dramatically reduce the time taken by the executive to prepare and deliver his points. When you think about how much it costs your organisation to have three or four senior level people in a meeting, this added productivity is a cost saver. In addition, the improvement in the relations between the executives helps enormously get things done in future projects.

So if you haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, it is an entertaining view and if it does inspire you to think about improving your public speaking or presentation skills, then please do contact us. We specialise in executive communication and have specific coaching packages to help senior executives become more productive through their communication and also for particular events like conference speaking.

How engaging is your presenting?
Here are a few questions to check before you deliver:

  1. Do you have an overall message for your speech which you could express in under 10 words?
  2. Do you have a good metaphor for your presentation?  (A quest, a battle, an exploration)
  3. Could you create a single visual image that would express your main idea?
  4. Will anyone remember your presentation? On a scale from 1 to 10, how memorable do you think your presentation will be? Will anyone remember it in a month’s time? Three months?
  5. Have you drawn your key points into catchy sound-bites, questions, powerful statements or eye-catching visuals that will help the audience engage with your main message?

If you can answer “yes!” to all five questions then you are well on your way to creating a great presentation. Make sure you then spend as much time as you can in rehearsal. For a 20 minute presentation, you should be spending 2 -3 hours in stand-up, speak-out-aloud rehearsal.

List of famous stutterers here.

So what now?

If you are ready to take a step up in your career, and want to learn how to be a more powerful communicator, then visit our web site below and download a free chapter on how The One Minute Presenter system works to help you develop more executive presence.

Warwick John Fahy works with high-potential senior finance executives who struggle to get their point across and influence their key stakeholders. Warwick helps the executive gain respect by quickly and powerfully expressing their opinions. Clients hire Warwick for his highly practical approach. For free executive speaking tips

To arrange presentation skills coaching visit For a media interview call +86 1391 786 7502.