Where is the connection?

I am proud to say that my article was published in the John Maxwell Team Blog (newsletter) this month. The main theme for the month was “Public Speaking and Leadership”. Here is a link, and if you can’t get to it … read below.

The Leading Edge: Where Is The Connection?

There were 900 students in the auditorium. I was killing it. Three and a half minutes into my five-minute speech, I had them right where I wanted. Feeling confident about wrapping up the election for class President, I looked up at the audience to take it all in.

And then “it happened.”

As I looked back down to my index card, my mind went blank. I had forgotten where I was. An uncomfortable 10-seconds went by and it felt more like an hour. It just rolled out of my mouth.

“Aw s*** … I lost my ***m place.”

The students loved it! I won the election in a landslide, but was then disqualified due to my 1-day suspension for using inappropriate language at the assembly.

My lesson learned, I sure knew how to connect with people! However, proper planning prevents poor performance!

I learned early on that needing to connect with people in the audience makes a good speech or presentation a great one. Communication is important, but when you connect, things happen. In John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, we learn that connecting goes beyond words. Audiences will remember only 7% of what they hear us say! Over 90% of the impression we leave our audience comes from our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

As a young pup in my earlier sales career, I had the opportunity to present in front of Proctor & Gamble. This would be a one-time shot to gain an opportunity to begin development on a potential $100 million project. I was being given 60-minutes to present whatever it was that I thought was important to the research & development group at P&G. I had 3-weeks to prepare, and I sure as heck didn’t want to have another “aw shucks” moment like I did in 9th grade. I prepared, researched, and studied everything that could have anything to do with the project.

A few days before I was to present, I sat with a mentor of mine to get his input. I brought out my overheads (for those of you, this is pre-Power Point). I had over 60 pages of information that I was prepared with. There wasn’t anything missing that could have needed to be said. After exactly 57 minutesI finished and looked for an approval.

My mentor looked at me, and said the words that I will remember forever:

“Son, don’t say in blah, blah, what you can say in blah.”

We then proceeded to tear the presentation apart, and re-write the entire discussion. As we did this, he began to ask me questions about the project. He asked me about my concepts, ideas, and if I thought it would be a success. After all the research that I had gone through, I answered these questions with confidence. He was very impressed, and wondered aloud, “When are you going to get them to ask questions? What do they want to know?” In other words, when was I going to connect their needs and wants with what our company had to offer? When was I going to connect with them?

I had spent so much time preparing what I wanted to say, that I was neglecting the audience.

Unlike 9th grade, I would not commit one of Maxwell’s unpardonable sins of being unprepared! I wouldn’t lose my place. I knew this material like the back of my hand. In my briefcase, there were 60+ pages of information available, but I started the presentation with the overhead machine turned off.

We began the session with me asking them questions about where they were in the project, what obstacles they had, what were the main benefits to P&G to launching this project, and many others. At first their responses were reserved. After a few minutes the conversation began flowing as they saw that I was sincere in my questioning, and was proving to be an industry expert. As they highlighted their needs, wants, wishes, and dreams, I began to pull out my overheads that applied, and showed them how we could make those problems go away.

All in all, I used less than 10 slides during my 60 minutes, and I believe if measured, I only spoke 20-25% of the time. With all the research and preparation that I had gone through, I answered 100% of the concerns that were voiced. We had time to connect deeply on what they needed to know about, not what I wanted to say!

If you are wondering, yes, my company won this opportunity. It took a few years of development, but this turned into a $150 million annual contract to supply materials to Pampers.

Most people communicate, few connect. In that room, on that day, we connected.

About Mike

Mike Kole is an Executive Coach who partners with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives developing leadership skills and a balanced work-life. After spending over 30 years in the field, Mike knows what truly increases personal & professional growth, employee engagement, and effectiveness.

Mike has been successful in every aspect of business. He went from being a field sales agent to a member of the board at a division of a Fortune 500 company. He is a published author who has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Mike also writes a weekly blog on leadership, sales, and professional development.

Mike holds an MBA from the University of Detroit, is a John Maxwell Team certified speaker, coach, and trainer, and is professor of leadership, strategic management, and international business at Northwood University. You can learn more about Mike and connect with him at his website, http://koleperformancegroup.com.