Radio – a slide-free zone

I had the great privilege to join Rick Tocquigny yesterday on the Life Lessons radio show on BlogTalk Radio. This is a very worthwhile show with reflections from seasoned professionals on business, life and things they have learned along the way. I felt honoured to be following in the footsteps of previous guests like Seth Godin and Jim Gilmore.

You can listen to my interview via this link on the BlogTalkRadio web site. The 30-minute show covers topics such as leadership, change, values, and what led me to set up a company focusing on communication and presentation skills.

I have a couple of comments to make about this. Firstly, when answering questions which haven’t been prepared, it’s impossible to give your absolute best answers. I think I managed fairly well, but in some cases I could have done better. In particular, I didn’t take the opportunity to give my wife all the credit she deserves for the fantastic support she has given me over the years and never more than in the last two years while I’ve been combining a full-time job with an Executive MBA. I didn’t convey how lucky and grateful I feel to share her life. I also didn’t find the chance to mention the wonderful team I had at HP in the last three years, with whom it was a real privilege to work.

A key lesson learned from this, which is absolutely relevant for presentations, is that you should not expect perfection from yourself – don’t set the bar too high, and don’t be afraid to be imperfect. Of course you might think afterwards “I should have said something else instead”, but if you spend too long looking for the perfect answer, the delay will bore your audience and betray a lack of confidence or expertise. Most likely only one person will realise afterwards that you could have given a better answer, and that’s you.

A question is never to be feared: it is an opportunity to reinforce your key messages with your answers, and before you open your mouth to respond, quickly think not only about what the question was and why it was asked, but also about the messages you’re aiming to communicate. (Of course it’s vital to work out what your key messages are before you take the stage, but that’s another story and another blog post.)

Another thought I had about this was that radio is an extremely pure form of communication. There are no slides to distract people, no need to worry about gestures or body language: it is all about the words you use and the way you say them. Anybody who could not imagine presenting without a deck of slides should imagine they are on the radio, and learn to do without them. If you can get your message across well on the radio, then you’re ready to stand in front of a live audience.

In any case, it is refreshing to find a slide-free zone and BlogTalkRadio certainly provides that. I recommend listening to some of the Life Lessons shows, and working out how some of the guests get their messages across – and how you would speak if you were on the show. What is more, you’ll be sure to learn some interesting life lessons along the way.

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