Presentation training & media skills
Please note that our general Coaching and Mentoring services are outlined in our ADVISE section. This COACH area focuses on presentation training and media skills.
The brand is no longer a sufficient tool with which to boast about a company’s reputation. Today, it seems that an executive’s credibility is just as important. One word out of place, and shares can plummet. One gesture out of place, and investors can panic.
As figureheads, executives are expected to have superhuman qualities. They must be squeaky clean, yet have battlefield experience. They must have the gift of the gab amid personal restraint. They must be strong leaders whom everyone likes. They must be courageous, without rocking the boat.
Over the years, organisations have learned about the importance of ‘staging’ events. They spend thousands of dollars on lighting, graphics, special effects, and on entertainment. Ultimately, the most important elements are the content and the delivery of the presentation that carries the main message. Executives can detract from that message if they do not deliver a convincing presentation.
At the end of any speech, media interview, or after-dinner presentation, the audience members have to decide if: they like the speaker; the speaker is trustworthy and credible; they learned anything from the speaker.
The difficulty for any speaker is to overcome the challenges of clutter and distraction. The propensity for failure is high because people in the audience are easily distracted. A speaker’s job is a difficult one that requires skill and expertise.
The art of public speaking or dealing with the media is as difficult as any other, requiring exceptional attention-to-detail.
This section of our site features explains why and how Logictivity and Jonar Nader provide superior training programs. Please review the ten sections to on the right, and feel free to contact us if you would like additional information.
Not the basics
The typical approach to presentation and media training is useful for those who need to glean the basics. However, almost all executives know the basics. Ask them about the important aspects of a good presentation or a good interview, and they will rattle off all the right answers. They will say that content and delivery are important. They will say that lighting and staging are important. They understand the need for a powerful presentation and a captivating one-liner and ‘the five-second grab’. They know all about the ups and downs of using humour. They know that they need to woo and wow their audience.
Unfortunately, knowing the basics is not good enough. We live in a society that has brainwashed people into thinking that knowledge is important. So, executives set about to amass knowledge about the ‘perfect presentation’, without an understanding of the application of that knowledge to ‘produce’ the perfect presentation.
For example, everyone ‘knows’ what it takes to make a cake. They know that they will need sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and an oven. In fact, most people have all the ingredients and tools at home. Yet, they are unable to make the cake, despite owning many cookbooks and despite watching many TV cooking shows — and despite knowing what good cakes taste like.
The bottom-line is that executives know what to do, but they are unable to do it. This is evident when we watch business leaders present their ideas at shareholders’ meetings, or during media interviews, or at company events.
Clearly, they need help beyond sitting them down in a classroom and teaching them about presentation and media techniques.
Attending classes to learn about the ‘techniques’ is a good first step. However, this is just the beginning.
It is interesting to note that when executives think about floating a company, or when financial or legal issues arise, they immediately consult experts. Yet it seems strange that when executives need to communicate to the masses, they do not seek counsel. They believe that they can do it on their own. This does not make sense.
When an organisation decides to produce a television commercial, it engages over fifty experts who spend millions of dollars and six months to produce an advertisement that runs for only thirty seconds. Yet when executives stand up for one hour in front of an influential audience, or when they go on radio, they run the risk of alienating their target market.
Executives would never build a house without the help of architects. They would never engage in a take-over bid without the help of accountants. They would never enter a legal battle without the help of lawyers. Despite having a good understanding of what they want to achieve, they still seek the help of experts.
Seeking the help of a ‘Presentation Architect’ ought to be a normal process before any major presentation or media campaign.
Every presentation poses new challenges and new opportunities. No two audiences are alike. No two presentations, even if identical in delivery and content, will produce the same result.
A Presentation Architect is someone who can assist an executive to design a presentation for stage or media, taking into account the multitude of external factors, as well as the executive’s own capabilities.
A good presentation relies on many factors, including the social mood and the audience’s expectations. However, an architect, like a good book-editor, will not only consider how a presentation is structured, but how every statement is presented. The way that a question is phrased can make all the difference. The timing and sequence of a presentation can make or break the outcome. The ability to speak to a journalist is a specialised skill.
A Presentation Architect will be able to coach the executive to structure a dynamic presentation or media briefing that hits the mark.
Peripheral aspects also need to be discussed, including staging, lighting, and multimedia. The Presentation Architect will be able to assist the executive (or the support staff) to brief these service providers to make sure that the event runs smoothly. In the case of media interviews, knowing how to research the topic and how to tantalise the journalist or announcer takes careful planning.
Comprehensive, in-depth training
Jonar’s comprehensive training will assist with personal confidence, leadership, communications, persuasion, and influence. These culminate into a large set of skills that will enhance both the executive and the whole company.
Media training is not something that someone can do just once. It cannot be spoken about. It has to be practised. Some media training programs are ‘demonstrations’ and ‘games’. A person cannot learn to juggle tennis balls by watching a talented juggler in action. Even if the juggler gave the best advice, in the end, the only real way to transfer that skill is through a series of training exercises that ensure that the student becomes proficient. Media simulation exercises are not enough, in the same way that pilots cannot be trusted with people’s lives if they had never really flown an aircraft, no matter how many hours they might have spent in the million-dollar flight simulator.
Please keep in mind that good media training is not about teaching officials ‘what to say’ or ‘how to respond’ to difficult questions. No journalist is interested in the answer. A good journalist is interested in the reasons for the answer and the logic behind each response. Journalists are on a mission to uncover the secrets being concealed. Many media trainers fail to teach executives these important distinctions. The interview does not start with a question. It never ends when an answer is given. Journalists delve deeper.
The professional reporter starts his real interview after the answer has been given, and it is at this point that officials trip over. When they fail this tricky situation, they become defensive, and at this point, journalists turn the interview into a showcase, whereby they start to highlight not what the executive is saying, but what the executive is refusing to say. The interviewer will ask impossible questions, knowing that an answer is not so simple. This is done to show the audience/reader that something is hidden. When this happens, the audience becomes suspicious, and it now turns into a probe into ‘personality’ and ‘ethics’ as opposed to a search for ‘truth’ and ‘solutions’. A tough journalist will go from ‘what’ is being said to ‘how’ executives or officials handle themselves under pressure. This is the critical moment when the argument is won or lost based on personality and style, as opposed to honesty or justice.
Media training is not something that can be done when an emergency takes place. Executives can avoid disasters if they are well-trained in the ‘art of communication’ and the ‘science of persuasion’, and if they are aware of how to manage the risks associated with public misconception. Often, major problems are sparked when an official, who is off-guard, says something that seems innocent, that is later manipulated by the press and blown out of proportion. In the corporate world, one single executive can say one simple comment, and bring the share-price down overnight.
When to start media training
Unfortunately, organisations think about media training when it is too late. Executives and officials are very busy people, so they never seem to have time to attend media training, even though they understand its importance.
In fact, media training is like ‘healthy-living’ in that we cannot wait for a person to become critically ill and then suggest that the person goes to the gym to exercise. Therefore, the best time to engage in a health regime is when we are healthy. And the best time to engage in advertising is when a company is doing well and does not need to advertise. If a company waits for sales to drop and market-share to diminish, advertising will be very difficult and far too expensive, and it may be ineffectual because it would be too late. We must advertise when we do not need to advertise. If we wait until we lose ground and lose market-share, we will lose the battle. A brand (or reputation) cannot be lifted back up, if it has lost is leadership position.
The biggest mistake
The biggest mistake that organisations make is to ignore the most important element of executive training, and that is ‘communications skills’. These skills must be honed and improved while there is no crisis, just like an elite army is trained in peacetime. Every single day, Special Forces Units are trained so that they are ready. Unfortunately, there are competitors out there who do not like it when someone is successful. Those who are on a path to success also become targets. To inspire the market and to instil confidence in investors, officials must understand that it all boils down to ‘human relations’. As you know, human interaction all boils down to ‘trust’, which can take years to build, yet seconds to destroy.
Media training is an important subset of ‘communications’. We cannot start media training until we have first ensured that officials are in fact highly skilled in the art of communications. Everyone can speak. Everyone can present. Anyone can stand up and say something. However, this is where executives fail. They presume that because they can think well, they can speak well. This is not true. And worst, they presume that if they can speak well, or speak eloquently, or present in a polished way, that somehow they have done a good job. Indeed not.
Even after all of these skills have been honed and polished, there comes the hardest part of all — to convince someone else of what is being said. People listen and they hear. But do they believe? Can we hold their attention long enough to convince them, or are they instantly presented with a counter-argument by an opponent who distracts them and forces them to switch sides?
Before he commences the media skills workshops, Jonar’s training starts with ‘communications skills’ to ensure that officials are strong in this area first. He teaches officials about the five hurdles that they must master if they are to succeed. He shows them that their job is not really about an exchange of words or ideas, but about winning hearts and minds. The most powerful communicators set out to stir hearts, so that they can win minds. Many confuse this and do it the wrong way around. Leaders are often so keen to get their message across that they attack the mind with endless proof-points and logic and evidence. As you know, there is enough evidence in the world to prove anything! The strongest communicators are those who achieve something that very few people can achieve, and that is to ‘evoke emotion’. When mere words can be transformed into feelings, we end up with power that solidifies into support.
The role of a leader is to sow the seeds. Leaders do not have time to reap. Sadly, rewards are often given to people who harvest, because they can hold something up and say, ‘Look at what I have in my hand’. A strong government or a strong corporation is one that rewards its officials based upon the seeds they sow. Such seeds include inspiring ideas, as well as long-term innovations. The seeds can include intangibles such as the framework for a productive environment, or an inviting atmosphere, or an encouraging attitude. Officials should use their communications skills to inspire people to greatness — not so that the officials can receive the accolades, but so that their colleagues can each reach their potential.
We have three tasks when working with the media.
The first task is to win the journalist. This is very hard if the journalist comes with hidden agenda and a negative attitude or unprofessional conduct. Sadly, many journalists are only interested in making themselves look good.
The second task is to win the audience/reader, and this is difficult if we do not have control over how the interview is edited, and if we do not have control of the distractions and propaganda that afflicts the audience.
The third task is to turn a media opportunity into a positioning strategy whereby we can use the media to send out our own messages and to project our own philosophies so that we can use the media to help us to reach our own goal. This is the masterstroke. Indeed it is very difficult, and can only be achieved if the official fully understands what ‘communications excellence’ really means.
The trainees will begin to see that, what starts out as communications and media training, becomes exceptional ‘leadership training’ that helps to drive ideas that are adopted, willingly, by investors, constituents, neighbours, and supporters. From this point of supreme excellence, we have the greatest of all tools for success, and that is ‘momentum’. When we can send out a message and give it wings, and encourage other people to relay that message on our behalf, we can move to the next project, confident in the knowledge that momentum is on our side.
The media today is fast and furious. Within seconds, a story can spin around the globe, and every faction has its own network. With Internet communications and social networking sites (and the speed with which a photo and a voice-recording can capture almost any moment in time) it seems that, as you know, anything can be posted, published, broadcast, and criticised within a matter of seconds.
Confidence is invisible and intangible, and as such, is no match for logical and rational thinking. An economic crisis proves what can happen when confidence is shaken. The negative form of momentum takes over in a domino-effect, and thereafter, it becomes all about psychology. Value becomes questionable.
When we discuss strategy, we need to know how to prioritise. When we know what our priorities are, we can then discern between fleeting change and lasting change. We will be able to sort out what is important versus what is distracting and draining. If we are to prioritise, we must learn to have the courage to understand that we, as humans, have limitations. For these reasons, a ‘top-down’ communications strategy is required, so that we can all know what can be postponed for tomorrow, and what must be done today.
In the dark
Communications is invisible. Words leave us and they have to enter another person’s mind. We quickly lose control over them, so we have to turbo-boost our messages to cut through the clutter and the distractions. In the end, we want people to believe us, to become advocates, and to take action in our favour. These are the elements that are canvassed through Jonar’s comprehensive training that takes place over a series of months.
Media training will not work unless someone is strong at all forms of communications. The toughest of all is the art of persuasion. Here is why: anyone can say anything, but how can they take an invisible (and sometimes complex) idea from their own brain, and bring it down to their mouth, and use the simple alphabet to construct a series of words and send those simple words through the air, into someone’s ears that are being bombarded with signals, and blocked by that recipient’s own bias or personal limitations or strong beliefs? All this takes place amidst distractions. The communicator cannot ignore the recipient’s personality, style, intelligence, or experience. The communicator might also be causing distractions due to the tone, and the intangible aspects of credibility, reputation, and charisma that are outside the communicator’s control.
Even if someone pays attention, will they believe what we are saying? Will they understand what we are saying? Will they accept what we are saying? Will they adopt what we are saying, so that it becomes part of their personal philosophy? Will they act on what we are saying, so that we no longer have to supervise them? Communications is not as easy as people suspect. Communications requires strategy, skill, and an understanding of human behaviour.
The training challenges
It would be useless to educate someone about ‘public relations’, if they do not understand the function of marketing. Similarly, it would be useless to teach someone about ‘media skills’, if they were not strong in ‘presentation skills’. We cannot teach someone to write, if they cannot read. Whether we like it or not, every day of our life, we are presenting. Presentation skills do not only refer to someone standing on stage and delivering a speech. Any interaction with internal and external people constitutes a presentation.
From his extensive experience, Jonar says that media training is one of the most difficult briefs that any consultant can receive. It is also one of the most complex of all training programs.
To illustrate this challenge, please consider (by way of analogy) the request to help someone to play a song on the piano. A music teacher can sit with a keen student and teach him how to play a certain song. After a lot of practise, the student would be able to play the song.
Knowing how to play one song is not good enough. A lot of media training is conducted in this bad way. It is too risky to teach someone only one song or one way of answering questions. Student need to learn the ‘art of music’ itself so that they can play any song, at any time. The other factor, as mentioned previously, is that before students can be taught about music (or how to handle the media), the consultant/trainer would need to meet with a range of the high-ranking executives or officials from a range of departments in order to understand the ‘policies’, ‘preferences’, and ‘position’ on issues (and potential issues) that might arise.
There is no point in training someone about jazz, if classical is the house style. And keep in mind that even if classical is the preferred music, we must train officials in a broad cross-section of music (media) so that they will not be tripped-up by the media. Here is why: no two journalists work in the same way; each medium requires a different set of skills.
Even within media types, such as radio or TV, the method of delivery completely changes, depending on the time of day, the type of network (whether it is syndicated or not) and whether it is being pre-recorded or live to air.
The variances are so magnificently different, that media training would be ineffectual and incomplete unless an official is prepared not only for how journalists operate, but how different types of media work.
The sensitivities and technicalities are massive and cannot be ignored. The tone, manner, style, speed, and content of an interview must change depending on whether an interview is for TV, radio, newspapers, and even magazines. The skills required are hugely different for each one.
A ‘press conference’ is yet another different factor. Indoor or outdoor venues create issues of sound quality and external peripheral distractions.
Having gone through these, Jonar will then show each official the tricks of the trade. There are technical tricks as well as psychological tricks that the media uses, to get what it wants. While all this is taking place, there are the issues of back-room support. Official need to ensure that they have a team of staff ready to back-up his statements with data, files, images, and other documents and media releases.
The role of the ‘media release’ is important, and although officials have specialist consultants to assist them with this, they must be trained to know how to prepare a good media release. Not knowing how to prepare a media release is like not being financially literate. A department-head might have accountants to prepare the accounts, but they must also know how to spot problems and how to read a balance sheet. Similarly, officials must understand the support structures such as media releases, website updates and what to do about other logs and minutes and the function of ‘contact reports’.
Once we can understand the range of issues that might arise, and the Government’s desired communications strategy, we need to prepare the trainees in the ‘areas’ and the ‘types of media’. However, this is still not enough, because teaching someone about music, does not mean that they know how to ‘perform’ on stage. ‘Playing’ and ‘performing’ are two different things. Also, playing a song on stage is usually done to a willing audience who is happy to listen and appreciate the song. Audience members do not interrupt and they do not try to trip-up the player. But speaking to the media is often random, in that a tough journalist’s priority is to file a story that rates well and makes the journalist look good. The questions change by the second, and journalists aim to make the executive say something that would help the journalists to prove their own (or their his station’s) agenda. Journalists set out to do a great job that makes them look good.
Often, for the media empire, it is not about truth and justice, but about ratings via controversy, scandal, and sensational headlines.
Continuing with the music analogy, and noting that ‘knowing’ is not the same as ‘performing’, there is the question of the venue. Every interview and every performance is different, in that it all depends on the platform. Even experts, who can play in front of a small crowd, are not necessarily able to play to a large crowd. The dynamics are almost 100% different in every way. An expert who can play to a full stadium might have no ability to entertain a small group.
We now complicate the matter when the student has to play a different instrument.
For these reasons, Jonar emphasises the need to first train executives in communications skills, then presentation skills, then media skills, then technical skills, then performing skills. While conducting all of these, Jonar ensures that the overarching policy is being adhered to, so that the training is real, pertinent, current, specific, and purposeful.
Removing the safety net
Journalists are being trained in how to handle executives who have been media trained! This is like police officers who now have to be trained in how to handle well-trained computer hackers. The police units are now being forced to learn what the hackers are learning. And so we need to be aware that basic media training is no longer useful because the journalists are being trained in how to combat well-trained executives.
Department-heads cannot be the only ones to be on the lookout for incongruence or inconsistencies. For this reason, whole-of-department training is vital so that everyone is pushing in the same direction.
Due to the strong nature of executive media training, good journalists are now doing their thorough background research first. They speak with as many people as possible. When an official becomes surprised by how well a journalist has done the research, the official becomes distracted and loses confidence, thereby handing the victory over to the reporter.
Jonar’s training programs include live simulations. This means that after the extensive training, officials are placed in near-real scenarios so that they can get a real feeling for how an interview takes place.
Executives need to feel the pressure and feel the adrenalin, and cope with different cultures and different languages.
Even with the best of intentions, technical considerations can sometimes be very distracting. There are many technical issues that most people would never think about, but could cause an executive to freeze. Apart from media training, we need to teach officials how to handle technical faults, unplanned problems and line-drops or echoes that can paralyse the unsuspecting and inexperienced. They must also understand the various functions of producers. What is the difference between a floor manager and a director and a researcher; and how and when to look into the camera, and how and when to avoid touching the face, or coughing, or sneezing. The list is endless. Preparation will help the trainee to feel confident.
Other factors will be outlined that help to keep the officials comfortable. There are golden rules that must never be broken, and these will be outlined and rehearsed.
Listen to Jonar talking about presentation and media skills
In these audio files, Jonar speaks about one-on-one presentations skills. He explains the role of the Presentation Architect and he outlines how and when to use humour and who can benefit from his programs. Jonar also talks about how to connect with the media. If you would like Jonar to become your personal Presentation Architect, please write to us via this Business Request Form.
Jonar speaks about presentation skills
- Shocking your audience
- Words with baggage
- What makes a good presentation?
- Rationalising the investment
- Beware the mind guards
- Handling nerves
- Witty or corny
- The magic of timing