“Fear is a pair of handcuffs on your soul.” – Faye Dunaway

Have you been told to practice your presentation in front of a mirror?

That’s terrible advice!

Why?

Practicing in front of a mirror focuses you on YOU which makes you self-conscious.

Self-consciousness is the opposite of the stream-of-conscious state you want to be in when you speak.

The goal is to focus on your audience (not yourself).

Are you thinking, “I agree with this in principle; but it’s easier said than done. What I want to know is HOW can I get over my nerves and focus on my audience instead of feeling like I’m going to __________ (fill in the blank) ?”

Here’s how.

A client came to me who was going to be pitching to a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York City.

She had had a “nightmare” experience a few weeks before where she had “frozen” in front of a VIP audience.

She had become painfully aware that the future of her venture – in which she had invested years and her life savings – depended on getting a yes from these venture capitalists.

The enormity of the situation “got” to her and her mind went blank. It took several awkward moments before she regained her notes  … and her composure.

By then, it was too late. She had lost their respect – and any chance of a deal.

She came to me in the hopes I could help her regain her confidence so she could walk into this high-opportunity situation at the Paley Center and land funding from these venture capitalists.

I asked her, “You’ve heard of MBWA – Management By Walking Around?”

She said, “Isn’t that when leaders get out of their office and walk around to connect with employees -instead of holing up behind their desk where they become isolated and out of touch?”

“Exactly. We’re going to Rehearse By Walking Around.

We’re going to get out from behind that mirror and walk around the lake to connect with your intentions instead of practicing in your head where it’s easy to get up tight and out of touch.”

She asked, “How will walking help me get over my stage-fright?”

“Going for a walk gets your oxygen pumping, your blood flowing and aligns your left and right brain so you’re at your creative, intellectual best.

Furthermore, looking around at your surroundings while navigating your way is a way to practice that multi-focus type of concentration where you’re sharing your message and observing and adapting to your surroundings – all at the same time – without going blank or getting distracted.”

“Really?”

“Really. Did you play sports growing up?”

“Yes, I played soccer in high school and college.”

“Then you know that we play the way we practice.

I had the privilege of working with Rod Laver (who won the Grand Slam of Tennis twice) when I co-managed his tennis facility on Hilton Head Island, SC.

Rocket thought it didn’t make sense to just ‘rally and hit balls’ in the days before a match. He thought if you wanted to serve well and return well – you ought to practice serving and returning.”

I told her, “I think speaking is like playing a sport.”

“How so?”

“It has many of the same elements.

We prep for speaking as we would an important match. If we want to access that peak performance zone state where we turn nervousness into focus and become one with what we’re doing, we better GET MOVING.

Walking (or running or working out on the treadmill or stair-stepper) WHILE you rehearse sets up that sublime sense of entrainment where there’s no room at the mental inn for doubts – just determination.

Walking embodies your message. You’re not just rehearsing; you’re immersing yourself in your message.”

My client was open to this rather unique approach – so we headed out around the lake to prep her pitch.

As we walked and talked, she started obsessing about how afraid she was of having another “meltdown.”

I asked this bright, talented entrepreneur, “I bet when you were in high school and college playing soccer, you were a ‘Give-me-the-ball kind of player’ when the game was on the line.”

She smiled and said, “Yes, I was.”

I told her, “That’s how you want to approach this pitch. Become a ‘Give me the ball’ kind of speaker.

Instead of worrying about what could go WRONG …  FILL YOUR MIND with appreciation for this opportunity and FOCUS 100% on how you’re going to do everything you can to make it go RIGHT.”

She did just that.

She transformed her approach and walked into that auditorium with determination instead of doubts.

She “walked and talked” in the halls in the moments before her pitch and embodied her message and exuded an athletic confidence that commanded respect.

She filled her mind with how grateful she was for this opportunity – and projected the joy and pride that helped her hit it out of the park – and favorably impress everyone in the room.

How about you?

Are you prepping for an important pitch or presentation?

How do you overcome your fear or stage-fright?

How do you prepare to walk in with an athletic “give-me-the-ball” confidence that captures the favorable attention of everyone in the room?

How do you keep yourself from getting brain-freeze?

Sam Horn Eyebrow Test

Sam Horn's Eyebrow Test

“If you want decision-makers to care; you’ve got to show F.L.A.I.R.” – Sam Horn, author of POP! and the upcoming Eyebrow Test

Sam Horn at EO-Alchemy Los Angles

October, 2011


I’m here in Hollywood speaking for EO Alchemy, along with Biz Stone (founder of Twitter), Magic Johnson (basketball player extraordinaire), Simon Sinek (Start with Why) and a couple hundred of the best entrepreneurs in the country.

Yesterday I spoke on “Communicate by Design, not Default” and emphasized the importanc

Win Buy-In:  Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything in 60 Seconds.

Win Buy-In: Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything

e of abandoning outdated defaults that are undermining our ability to win buy-in – and adopting updated designs that intrigue and impress decision-makers.

In about a half hour, I’ll be giving a hands-on workshop on how to turn a:

* 1-way elevator speech into a 2-way elevator connection
* no into a yes
* one-of-many positioning into a one-of-a-kind positioning
* passive close into a pro-active close that motivates people to follow-up and take action
* ho-hum forgettable presention into a memorable presentation that hums

The focus of this hands-on workshop is how to pleasantly surprise busy, jaded decision-makers with approaches they haven’t heard before – approaches that quickly communicate a convincing competitive edge that get their eyebrows up and smart-phones down.

I promised several EO members that I’d post an article that will help them walk in with confidence for important presentations they’ve got coming up next week.

So, I know I should break up this article into several shorter posts – however for their convenience I’m keeping these 5 tips together in one post.

So, pardon the l-o-n-g article . . . hope you find it intriguing and are able to use these techniques to deliver a winning presentation on behalf of your cause, company, idea, invention, program or project.

Here are 5 ways to walk into any room with FLAIR and command the attention and respect of everyone in the room.

F = FUN!

“Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.” – Woody Allen

Sound familiar? Many people are so tight and tense during their presentation; it’s almost painful to watch.

Likability is not trivial – it plays a pivotal role in whether people listen to you.

Fun is a sign of confidence. It shows you’re comfortable in your own skin and can be counted on to wield authority without getting weird. In fact, your ability to enjoy yourself in front of a group is a sign you won’t panic under pressure or “choke” as a project manager or leader.

In the Vancouver Olympics, #1 ranked snowboarder Shaun White was in danger of being eliminated from the games after having a lousy first round. He and his coach actually went into the back-country for some “goof off time.” Some of his competitors thought he was taking a huge risk, but Shawn knew he’d lost himself in the pressure and the only way he was going to win was to “find himself by having fun.” His strategy paid off with a gold medal.

Yes, asking for 5, 6 or 7 figures for your venture, non-profit or idea is “serious business;” but don’t make it SO serious you lack personality or passion.

Stand in the wings beforehand and put a HEARTFELT SMILE on your face which increases likability.

Instead of filling your mind with doubts and fears which feed nervousness, “(What if I forget what I’m going to say? What if someone asks me something I don’t know?”) . . .

. . . fill your mind with thoughts that fill you with joyful anticipation, “I am GLAD to have this opportunity to tell potential investors about what we’ve created. I am HAPPY to be here and have this chance to get funded. I am GRATEFUL we’ve developed something I’m proud of that’s adding value. I am LOOKING FORWARD to being IN MY WHEELHOUSE and having FUN.”

L = LINK TO WHAT THEY LIKE

“The quickest way to help decision-makers connect with your priority is to compare it to something they already know and respect.” – Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert

Jan Bruce of New Life Solution is already a successful entrepreneur having developed meQuilibrim (talk about a business name that POP!s).

Better yet, she has a compelling “back-story.” As she confessed to our group, after selling a business to Martha Stewart for millions, for some reason, Jan didn’t feel as happy as hoped. In fact, she wondered, “Why am I feeling so bad when I am doing so well?”

This prompted a quest to figure out what was going on. Her research revealed that “stress is the new ‘obesity.’” It’s reached epidemic proportions, is compromising people’s health and is costing companies billions.

Jan’s developed an “online, guided, self-help program providing interactive education, behavior tools and peer support on a scalable basis.”

HUH?

See, that’s the problem. That sentence describes what her business does – but we still don’t get it. And if we don’t get it, SHE won’t get it.

That’s where LINKING comes in. Linking your idea to something your decision-makers already like provides a shortcut to comprehension. A metaphor comparing your unfamiliar idea to something with which they’re already fond and familiar fast-forwards understanding.

Jan knows this and excels at it. What’s her “link to what they like” elevator intro?

“New Life Solution is like Weight Watchers for stress.”

OOOHHHH. Got it.

Are you proposing a program, product or venture? What is it LIKE? Paralell what you’re proposing to a proven entity to turn people’s confusion into clarity.

When you do this (i.e., “Jaws is like Moby Dick with a shark”) you’ll get an intrigued “ooohhh” which, believe me, is a lot better than a confused “huh?”

A = Alliteration Gives Audience Members a Hook on Which to Hang a Memory

“I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t developed it yet.” – Jonathan Winters

Say these words.

Best Purchase.
Dirt Vacuum.
Bed, Toilet, Etc.

Kind of clunky, eh?

Now make those words alliterative. (Alliteration is when words start with the same sound.)

Best Buy.
Dirt Devil.
Bed, Bath and Beyond.

More musical and memorable, right?

This is not petty.

Repeatability is crucial to memorability.

And memorability is crucial to winning enduring buy-in to your message so you won’t be forgotten the second you leave the stage.

When I spoke at the Springboard Enterprises Boot-Camp at Microsoft’s Boston location, each of the 21 entrepreneurs (selected from more than 100 applicants) started with a 2 minute bio presentation.

Their assignment? “Tell us, in 2 minutes, your strategic credentials and proven track record so we are intrigued, impressed and convinced you have the clout to carry this off.”

45 minutes later, here’s what I told the group at the end of everyone’s bio presentations.

“Okay, I’m giving you each $10 million. You just heard 21 entrepreneurs introduce their business credentials. Who would you invest in?

Look around the room. WHO DO YOU REMEMBER? Do you remember ANY of the names of the presenters or businesses? What do you remember that so impressed you; you’re motivated to walk up to that person and initiate a follow-up conversation?”

It was a sobering moment. Because these entrepreneurs realized that most of what they just heard had gone in one ear and out the other.

They realized that unless they did something special with THEIR bio and presentation, the business they’d invested their head, heart, soul and bank account in . . . may not even register , much less be remembered by, future investors who’ve heard thousands of pitches.

Think about it. These were 2 minute pitches. Many pitch forums feature twenty or thirty 10 minute presentations, back to back. Imagine sitting through 8+ hours of pitches.

At the end of a l-o-n-g day, pitches start to blend together. It’s hard to remember who was who. Unless you do something special to stand out, you’ll be out of sight, out of mind.

That’s why it’s essential to give your audience hooks on which to hang a memory.

If you care about your message, it’s YOUR responsibility to communicate it so crisply and confidently, YOU’RE THE ONE they remember . . . YOU’RE the one they respect . . . YOU’RE the one they want to talk to at the end of the day.

Alliteration helps you POP! out of the pack.

Look at your program or product description, web copy and business name/slogan. Are you using alliteration, i.e., Rolls Royce. Dunkin Donuts. Java Jacket. Merlin Mobility?

If so, good for you. If not, rework your important sentences so they have words that start with the same sound. It will make your language more lyrical so you’ll be top of mind (vs. out-of-sight, out-of-mind) at the end of a long day.

I = Inflection and “In Your Body” Posture

“My job is to talk; your job is to listen. If you finish first, please let me know.” – Harry Herschfield

I’ll never forget it. I was speaking a high-profile, national conference and this was the opening session featuring several big gun keynoters. Seth Godin. Tom Peters. Jim Collins. Tim Ferris. They were all there. Everyone was on the edge of their seats, listening to every word.

A female CEO of a billion dollar company was introduced next. She walked to the center of the stage, stood with her feet together, and crossed her hands in the . . . Fig Leaf Position.

Yikes. Standing with her feet together made her appear off-balance, like she was teetering.

Plus, holding your hands in the Fig leaf Position is a defensive posture that makes you look like you have something to hide. It pulls your head and shoulders down and collapses your body which creates a Cower stance that makes you look submissive.

This female executive’s first words, “I was telling my grand-daughters yesterday . . .”were said in a querulous voice with upward inflection.

Within seconds, the digital devices came out and people started texting. Which was a shame because this CEO is a respected leader who’s done an excellent job running her company.

Whether it’s fair or not, people form their first impression by how you hold yourself, by the volume and tone of your voice, and by your opening words.

A meek or weak voice sends the message you have trouble speaking up for yourself – you don’t believe you deserve to be heard. Those are red flags to anyone deciding whether to hire you, promote you, fund you or give you their valuable mind and time.

Plus, ending sentences with upward inflection and speaking in a sing-songy “Valley-Girl” voice makes you seem unsure, hesitant, like you’re seeking approval.

One of the first steps to feeling and looking confident is to lose the “Little Girl Voice.”

A coquettish, “I hope you like me” voice will undermine the perception you have the clout to lead a company, carry off a multi-million dollar venture, or manage hundreds of employees.

Instead, do what TV broadcasters are taught to do their first day on the job.

End your sentences with downward inflection to project a voice of authority.

Try it right now. Imagine you’re pitching to venture capitalists and they’ve asked, “How much money are you seeking?”

Say, “$500,000″ with upward inflection at the end. Hear how it sounds tentative? Like you tossing it out there and HOPING they say yes?

Now say, “$500,000″ with downward inflection at the end. Hear how it comes across with more certainty? Like this is a justifiable figure you deserve to get?

When presenting, don’t use a casual, conversational tone. It’s tough to hear and doesn’t connote authority. PROJECT so every single person in the room can hear every single word.

Never, ever force an audience member to have to sat, “Speak up . . . I can’t hear you.” The truth is, if people have a hard time hearing you, they usually won’t ask you to speak louder . . . they’ll just give up and tune out.

Want another way to exude an executive presence? Get OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO YOUR BODY.

When you’re introduced, stride to the center of the stage, plant your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly so you feel and appear grounded.

This balanced, athletic stance helps you feel in your body (vs. in your head) – and helps you stay “rooted” in one spot so you’re less likely to rock or pace back and forth.

Nervous movement patterns distract from your credibility because they give the impression you’re flighty and can’t or won’t hold your ground.

Now, instead of assuming the “fig leaf position,” hold your hands out in front of you like you’re holding a basketball. This opens you to your audience and frees your hands to make organic, natural gestures that illustrate what you’re saying.

Furthermore, this Basketball Position helps you straighten up and stand tall. Pull your shoulders back and instead of ducking your head, hold your head high.

Aaahh . . . that’s better. Feel how this TOWER stance makes you look and feel like an athlete which contributes to (vs. compromises) your confidence? Now you look like a leader.

R = Rhythm and Rhyme

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” – Duke Ellington

Many people have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of presentations. After awhile, speakers start to sound alike.

To POP! out of the pack, you’ve got to craft intriguing content that will get noticed and remembered.

One way to do that is to use R = Rhythm. Duke was right. When you put things in a beat; you make them easy to repeat.

Hence the enduring popularity of such “earworm” ad slogans as “I Can’t Believe I Ate The W-h-o-l-e Thing” (Alka Seltzer) and “Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking” (Timex)

Chances are, you haven’t heard those jingles for years: yet you can still repeat them, word for word, in the same cadence you first heard them. That is an advertiser’s dream.

When I prep clients for their presentations or media interviews, one of our priorities is to produce a proprietary “phrase that pays” that showcases their strongest selling point.

We work on saying it clearly and distinctly so anyone can repeat it, word for word, after hearing it once.

One way to do that is to pause and punch.

When nervous, or when trying to jam a lot of material into a short amount of time, many speakers blush and rush. They jumble their words together.

The consequence is people don’t “get” your name or your important points – which means they won’t be able to repeat them a minute, hour or week later – which means you and your message had no enduring impact. Not good.

Put a pause between your first and last name (i.e., Sam – Horn) or before an important statistic – has spoken to more than a . . . half million people . . . around the world . . . . so each word is distinct . . . and will be imprinted.

E – nun – ci – ate each syllable of your business name – and put a 3 beat pause between crucial words in a quote, slogan or elevator intro – to make sure people get it the first time.

For example, In — trigue . . . In – sti – tute.

Two monologues . . . don’t make a . . . dialogue.

I help . . . entrepreneurs . . . executives . . . and organizations . . . create more compelling communications.

This may sound petty or like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. However, if people can’t repeat your name or elevator intro, they didn’t get your name and elevator intro. . . which means you may not get their business.

Another way to have confidence you and your message are going to get remembered is to use R = Rhyme, Ryhme is sublime because it gets you remembered over time.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from the U.S. Government.

They were concerned years ago about the number of fatalities and injuries in car accidents so they invested a lot of money to create a public service campaign called “Buckle Up for Safety.”

Hmmm. Are you motivated to just run out and fasten your seat belt? No one seemed to care and no one was inspired to change their behavior.

So, they went back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin was famous for saying, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?”

This time, they put their slogan in a rhyme that had a distinctive beat. I bet you know what I’m talking about. Yep, Clickit or Ticket.

Not only did that catchy phrase that pays catch on, it’s motivated people to buckle up and, as a result, the number of injuries and fatalities has decreased.

All this goes to prove that phrasing isn’t petty. You can spend hours and thousands of dollars on fancy power point slides, bar charts and graphics. But if you blush and rush through your material and your audience doesn’t understand or can’t remember anything you said – it will all be for naught.

If you want to close that deal or land that contract – remember these 5 elements when designing and delivering your communication.

F = Fun. If you’re not having fun; they’re not having fun.

L = Link. Compare what you do to something with which they’re fond and familiar so the light goes on in their eyes and they “get” it.

A = Alliteration. It’s working for Java Jacket and Dunkin Donuts. Why not for you?

I = Inflection and In Your Body Posture. Tower (vs. cower) and speak with downward inflection so you have the look and voice of authority.

R = Rhythm and Rhyme. Craft a easy-to-repeat “phrase that pays” so you’re the one they relate to, you’re the one they remember, you’re the one they want to work with.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Want more ways to communicate confidently and compellingly so you close that deal and land that contract?

Check out my book POP! – which has been featured on MSNBC , BusinessWeek.com, FastCompany.com and in the New York Times and Washington Post. Its 25 innovative techniques can help you create one-of-a-kind communication that intrigues and favorably impresses everyone in the room.

Or contact us at Sam@SamHorn.com to arrange for Sam to speak at your next marketing conference – or to explore how you could work together to make your next presentation a win for everyone involved.