I just got off the phone with Gary an unhappy friend of mine. He heads up a cutting edge architectural firm. He was disappointed to learn that his hand picked team just lost a big account, which they thought was in the bag. Gary was granted a rare postmortem. The corporate reps said they really liked his designs. However they went with his competitor because they were blown away by their presentation. “Your team appeared clunky and awkward. They gave us lots of data but no story. When the other team presented they were having fun. They were graceful and they made us feels like we were involved in a beautiful ballet.” This is rare and invaluable feedback only given because Gary’s firm is held in high esteem. What are the jewels of wisdom to be recovered from the mud of defeat?
I know the members of Gary’s team. They’re all bright creative people and they work damn hard. All their effort was fruitless because they were doing what they had been taught to do in school. Gary’s team was presenting a clear and logical thinking path without emotionally engaging their audience. Facts became weights around their necks. The more they struggled to be rational, the deeper they sank. What they had failed to do was to know and move their audience.
Great presenters study audiences. They understand what audiences want. What they want is what we all want; to be surprised; to be transported into another world. Successful presenters create an emotionally charged community where presenter and audience share a common experience. Facts alone can never transport an audience into the heart of the story. Passion and vitality are the keys to the kingdom. The word emotion comes from Latin and it means “To stir up and to move” which is exactly what Gary’s team must learn to do in order to win the next account.