The first business presentation to ever inspire me

By 31 August 2020 Blog

I still remember the first time I was truly inspired by a business presentation. It was in my first real job. I worked at a software company called OnGuard. Dave Taylor was the CEO and I still think of him when I think of inspirational leadership.

Dave had built the company from scratch. From writing the very first code in his bedroom to leading about 80 employees towards something great.

People called him the small big guy. He is not tall but when he was on a stage speaking, he looked like a giant. His natural charisma (and charming British accent) combined with persuasiveness made his speeches both captivating and memorable.

The speech that I remember the most was one where he used his son’s puberty as a metaphor for the stage our company was in. He showed us that we were not struggling but that we were simply growing. He found a way to inspire everyone in the room. From CFO to receptionist.

Recently I visited the company that I left 3 years ago to catch up with a few people. When I asked them about this particular speech, they all still remembered. This speech was held about 9 years ago!

During my 7 years with the company, I learned about how businesses operate. How projects work and mostly about how people (miss)communicate. I soon realized that not every leader or manager was a Dave. On the contrary.

4 key lessons I learned about public speaking from Dave:

  1. Make it personal. Personal to you and/or to your audience. Allow them to identify with you as a speaker and with the topic of your speech. Dave used his son which was personal to him and the concept of puberty which everyone in the room related to because we all went through it.
  2. Pick one key message for your presentation and focus on getting that across. The more you say, the less they will remember. After 9 years we still remember this speech because it was simple and effective.
  3. Use clear and obvious metaphors. If you have to explain why one is linked to the other, it’s not a good metaphor. Your audience needs to understand immediately. Consciously or subconsciously.
  4. Care about your topic. Because Dave cared so much about his company and his people, he was able to connect and persuade. Remember; people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Dave retired a few years ago but his legacy lives on.

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