13 Business Lessons from House of Cards


Apply the rules below at your own discretion in the workplace. The author assumes no responsibility for the consequences, although he is 99% sure they will help you climb the corporate ladder faster.

House of Cards - Netflix.

House of Cards – Netflix.

1. There is no difference between business and politics. Corporations are like the National Congress.

2. Crush your opponents again and again  (competition or coworkers). And yet again. But if they survive, align with them.

3. Keep your self-control. No shouting matches are allowed in public. Keep a perpetual fake smile on your face no matter what. There is sex, drugs and cigarettes to drown your misery at night. Use them in moderation.

4. Get married and have a big family. There is no way a single, childless person can prove their love and care for the constituents (or customers).

5. Lie, lie, lie. And lie once more. Do not commit to anything as far as possible. Then tell the truth, when you are out of danger and no one expects you to: now you become a hero.

6. If you are writing  a contract or some other kind of written document: make sure you get legal advice to make the language as vague as possible to allow for leeway and future changes.

7. Distance yourself as much as you can from the weak and broken. Discard them.

8. Involve your security personnel as much as you can. Get close. Have sex with them and your spouse together to tighten the relationship.

9. Unlike the common thought, intelligent people understand that being gay is not a personal choice and they couldn’t care less about who people go to bed with. However, play to your audience’s tastes and ignorance. If they hate gays, you must hate them too. And mean it. Typical doublethink tactic from Orwell’s 1984: study it.

10. Give condoms as a gift to whoever is sleeping with your husband. You don’t want him to financially support the bastard.

11. Eat ribs at shoddy joints.

12. Play the feminist card whenever you run out of options. “It’s because I’m a woman, right?”

13. Have Robin Wright on your side and get her to love you.

Good luck

Jorge Sette

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Blog Linguagem: 1st Anniversary. Jan 2015: 100% Growth!


We broke all our records in Jan 2015 with a 100% growth.  Join us now: http://www.jorgesette.com

LINGUAGEM, MARKETING, SALES TRAINING, CULTURE, ART

100% GROWTH

100% GROWTH

 

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

 

 

Click on the link below to check out our latest stats in PDF format.

Blog LINGUAGEM- First Anniversary

 

Au revoir

 

Jorge Sette.

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.48.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.52.35 PM

 

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

What’s your social media strategy as a salesperson?


As I have been stating in a number of previous posts in this blog, the barriers between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service need to come down fast, if companies are to become more effective. The upper hand of the relationship between customers and companies has shifted significantly towards the former in today’s market place. Salespeople must focus on the client as an individual and cater for her specific needs at every stage of the buying process. Therefore companies need to adapt and be way more attentive and responsive to be able to move the client along the sales funnel (the steps towards the purchase) and close the deal. Companies need to train their staff to develop sophisticated social media skills if they want to succeed.

Sales, Marketing and Customer Service have to work closer than ever to provide a seamless experience to the client, regardless of the different touch points (email campaign, sales call, the various social media channel communications, print ads, etc) she is exposed to and chooses to use on the path to a purchase.

The old system of departmentalization between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service is becoming obsolete: in the past, sales leads were generated by Marketing, which would qualify them and pass them on to Sales, which, in turn, would hand post-sales issues to Customer Service for support and help. This process does not work so neatly anymore. It has become a lot more complex, not to say messy. Customers are probably exposed to your product through a number of sources and the communication and the responsibility for the process of following up on their requests must be handled together, as a team, by your employees. Software is available to make all the history of this interaction clear to whoever deals with that client.

Selling through social media

Selling through social media

For starters the client is bound to already know a lot about the product even before she first contacts you. She has a number of ways to research and get precise info on what she needs to purchase. The idea is to be fast and prompt in your response, adding to what is already known, whether it be: passing on more specific info on the benefits, clarification on functionality, scheduling a live demonstration, an invitation to a webinar with a specialist, drawing the terms of a contract, the negotiation of a discount, etc.

Let’s focus in this post on how specifically the sales force could use social media more proactively to meet the customer’s needs and move them along the sales funnel towards a successful goal. They can use any or all of the following tools as a supplement to what they already do (such as personal sales calls or phone calls). In many cases, however, you will notice that if they use these online tools properly, parts of the more traditional in person face-to-face sales process might be replaced smoothly by digital communication – which, not rarely, are more likely to yield results.

1. LinkedIn: this is your personal online ID card. Chances are customers will check out your profile immediately after you schedule an appointment to see them. Make sure you live up or surpass their expectations. Choose your profile picture carefully. Only you can decide on the level of formality or informality expected from professionals in your industry. Play by the rules. Fill in as much relevant info about your career as possible, and do not hesitate to ask coworkers, bosses and senior management for recommendations and endorsements. You can always return the favor. Publish only work-related posts on this platform. Avoid jokes and cat photos (you can use other social networks for that, don’t worry). Think twice before you post an update here. Remember that slips may jeopardize your chances of a future job. Nurture and grow your contacts daily. Be courteous and answer communications sent to you as quickly as possible.

2. Facebook: if you are uncomfortable using your personal profile professionally, create a specific professional one (I’ve confronted that dilemma of separating private and public life myself for a couple of years, so I’m totally sympathetic to whoever has the same problem). However, I gave up the on the struggle and unified my profiles. In this day and age, customers expect to deal with genuine human beings, so developing skills to be able to post the right content to the right group of people through a single profile will surely make your life easier and boost your career. If you wish to post photos of your family barbecue, do create a little private group for the only people who would care about this. Besides, as you probably know, you have the option to post to your whole audience of “friends”, to a few chosen people, or to the public in general, by adjusting the platform settings for every post. Just exercise some common sense in your content publishing strategy and you should be OK. This works better than keeping separate profiles. What you can’t do is avoid creating a digital presence for the development of your personal brand on the Internet. Gather as many clients and prospects as your “friends” as possible, and start posting relevant and useful content (not annoying and interrupting ads) on your newsfeed. You will be building what they call “thought leadership”, presenting yourself as an expert in a specific subject, and, naturally, prospects will grow to depend on you when they have a problem that needs the kind of solution you have been discussing or blogging about.

3. Instagram: develop a similar a strategy. Of course, the focus here, however, is on visuals: photos and videos. Publish a balanced mix of personal and work-related content. The personal stuff will make it easy for the customers to relate to you as a person (so the occasional cat pictures are fine, don’t worry), whereas the work-related publications will hopefully help you build a friendly and caring image for your company and for yourself as a professional. You could, for example, post photos of your products and services (a dynamic teacher in action using the latest technology in the classroom, if you sell edtech products, for example). Try not to use fashion models – this is not an ad after all (lose the glitter and fake glamour) – but real life photos of actual happy users of your product instead. Show people you work with. Post pictures of the offices of your company, to make it more relatable to customers. The main thing to keep in mind is you should be providing valuable or fun information, educating your prospects, training your users, not interrupting your audience with a sales pitch. In the meantime, Marketing should be working on building a bank of images, video clips, ebooks, blog posts, white papers and other useful pieces of content to help you pass them on in a more personalized way to your prospects, but there’s nothing wrong in your creating your own content, if you have the skills and the authorization of your boss. Do not rely solely on the Marketing Department’s support for your success, it doesn’t work like that.

4. Twitter: don’t waste time using your Twitter account only for personal interactions. Think of it, as of any other social media channel, as a powerful tool to create an Internet presence and carve a unique personal brand. This may advance your career in unexpected ways. Create or curate as much germane content to your customers as possible. Retweet, for example, your company’s invitations to webinars and events. Indicate and promote useful and complementary websites to the customers. Share relevant information about your industry. Educate the prospects on the benefits of a new product or service. I know you have only 140 characters to use, but you’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished with that. Don’t forget you can use links to more comprehensive information (such as a blog post, a landing page or a how-to video clip), although I wouldn’t recommend you overuse this technique. The recommended balance goes more or less like this: for each 15 new updates, think 10/4/1: 10 posts should be about content from other people you are curating and sharing; 4 posts should direct them to your latest blog post or video clip; 1 post should invite them to a special offer on your company’s landing page. Don’t use this ratio as a straightjacket, though.

The bottom line is nobody has a perfectly safe job in today’s corporate world. Companies will not give you all the support you wish you had to carry out the ideal sales performance everyone expects from you. You need to stand up for yourself and imagine you are an external consultant hired to do the best job you can for a limited period of time. Lay-offs are around the corner. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is the brutal reality of our times. Therefore, you have no choice. Dive into social media, develop a powerful personal brand on the Internet, nourish a healthy and trusting base of clients and feed them all the relevant content you can. The pay off will be the empowering of your personal brand and the resulting sale – when and only when the customers are ready for it. The good news is this method will yield a lot more closings than the more traditional approaches, in which you need to wrestle down the poor customer to the floor and drag her across the room by the hair to force the purchase of the latest edition of your Manual for Reluctant Customers.

For more on the same topic, please refer to my previous post:

https://jorgesette.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/salespeople-need-to-become-marketers/

Please let me know your thoughts about this article. Use the comments section for your reaction.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

“ALEX FROM TARGET” – WHAT’S BEHIND THIS VIRAL CAMPAIGN?


You must have heard about Alex from Target, if you have accessed any social media in the past few days. This is the story of a 16-year-old boy from Dallas, with Justin Bieber kind of looks, who became an overnight celebrity after a teenage customer – a girl called Abbie – fell in love with him at first sight and posted his photo bagging groceries at a Target – the second-largest retailer in the US – where he works as a cashier. The good-looking boy saw his account on Twitter surge from a little more than a 100 followers to more than half a million in less than 48 hours! Messages of eternal love, passion and admiration, with the hashtag #alexfromtarget, came from all corners. Some girls offered to mother his kids.

Alex from Target

Alex from Target

 

Next thing, Alex Laboeuf is invited to take part in the Ellen Degeneres’s talk show, becoming even more popular. When asked by Ellen how he planned to tap into this sudden exposure,  and if he could dance or sing, he simply answered he was good at bagging groceries. Poor thing. The story has been reported by serious and important media outlets such as CNN and the New York Times.

A marketing agency rushed to take credit for the viral phenomenon, claiming they had orchestrated it, but Target and the boy denied they had anything to do with the agency and were as surprised as everyone else. The boy knew about his sudden wave of popularity through his manager, and, at first, thought he was kidding.

I find this both extraordinary and scary. If it’s really true that this was an organic and grassroots viral hysteria, it’s worrying that you can have your life instantly disrupted by a photo taken and posted without your consent by someone you don’t know or care about, while you are at work, and then getting retweeted thousands of times by pubescent girls who became your instant fans. Downright weird!

Also, these things tend to die out as fast as they start – remember the ice bucket thing?- which makes me wonder about the sense of frustration and emptiness the boy will feel when all this buzz comes to nothing in a couple of weeks, which is what probably will happen, if he does not show any special artistic talent soon enough.

As for the marketing implications of the story, we marketers know it’s very hard, if not impossible, to produce a viral campaign. The elements that make a video or a photo go viral are really intangible and unpredictable, and there’s always the danger that the campaign will backfire, if customers feel cheated. I wouldn’t recommend it as a promotional strategy to any company. A systematic approach to content marketing will yield a lot more results. Educating your customers on a regular basis by providing useful and interesting info is way more productive.

Obviously there will be an enormous boost of awareness for Target during the next few days. But did they need that? Who doesn’t know them in the US already anyway? Besides, customers may feel manipulated and could avoid patronizing the company for some time. Danger.

However, with the power of the Internet to amplify everything and the hormones of the youth running awry, you can’t prevent these oddities to happen. I wish Alex all the luck in the future.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Webinar: one of the most powerful tools to close a deal.


Webinars have been around for a while now, and, therefore, they’re not considered the sexiest media by marketers any longer. It comes as a surprise, though, that, among the social media available, they are demonstrably the one that brings in the most number of conversions and sales. Pretty sexy, in my opinion, huh?

Webinars are a social medium, because, just like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, they boost the creation of a community and generate a lot of interaction between the participants. The sessions themselves have a limited length of time– 75 min is the usual – but, just like a live in-person event, they bring people together who can then sign up for your company’s website or Facebook fan page and become a member of a community just like any other.

Most webinars are done live, although, depending on the software or service you choose to use, the session can and should be recorded for later viewing, in case some of the participants cannot make it at a certain time of the day.

I remember the first time I ran a webinar – facilitating the presentation of famous authors of a publisher I used to work for – with the objective of educating the participants on the new methodology of the English language teaching material we were launching, and, as a consequence, selling the material to the school or teacher who might feel it fit their needs. Being the first time on my own, I was kind of nervous, but then I relaxed and started to have a good time myself. The speakers, at first, were a bit stiff themselves, but then they got in the mood (of course, we all had rehearsed and had been carefully trained many times before) and the session was as a huge success.

Customers watching a webinar

Customers watching a webinar

There are basically three phases to a webinar: the promotion, the session itself, and the follow-up. If all these phases are implemented properly and carefully, the event will go as smoothly as it should, otherwise the session will flop, and the conversion rates and sales results will be disappointing. After all, a webinar is like any other marketing tool for collecting leads and selling the product. Some webinars are so powerful that the conversion from prospect to lead to buyer occurs during the session itself, and the client either makes the purchase online after the webinar or requests the visit of a rep to complete the process. Let’s talk a little bit about each of the phases of a webinar:

The Promotion: creating the buzz

After deciding on the best webinar provider for your company and having had extensive training on it, organize your first event. This does not differ much from how you promote your live in-person conferences, except for, in your communication with the customers – be it online (email, banners, Facebook posts); print collateral/invites that your sales people will hand out to VIP clients; or even phone calls – make sure to reinforce the main advantage of the webinar: the customer will be attending a high-quality session and interacting with people from all over the world from the comfort of their own home or the desk chairs in their office. Many clients still resist the concept of webinars initially, as they will have never taken part in one. Even the reps, if not properly trained, can damage your effort by not explaining to the customer the value of attending a session under these ideal conditions. All the clients need is a computer with an Internet connection. Remember to send out invitations to the event a least 30 days before the session, and be prepared to send two or three reminders afterwards if you feel the registration is low. By the way, make the registration process very simple (ask only for their names and email addresses). You can add more details about them later.

The session and its different parts

When the great day arrives, make sure you, as the facilitator, and the speakers, who will probably be in different parts of the world, get together online at least 30 min before the session starts in order to run some technical tests of sound and image and make sure everything is in fine. There are always some customers who arrive early, either because they are excited, or because they themselves want to make sure they can get in easily. Greet these people warmly, explain them that the session will start in X min (remember they might be in very different time zones) and ask them questions such as how they found out about the session, where they are watching it from, are they alone or with other people, etc., to warm them up. The webinar provider usually has a forum section (or chat room) where the participants can chat with each other by entering their questions, answers and comments in writing. So expect a lot of interaction among them even before the session starts.

When the time is right, introduce the speakers, present the agenda of the webinar (it is a great help for the audience to know what is going to happen, so show a slide with bullet points telling them the plan). In the phase of the preparation for the webinar, ask the speakers if they would feel comfortable telling a story related to the content they will be presenting to open the session. We love stories and this is a great way to break the ice. Of course, the story ideally tells of a problem and its solution – which will be the product/service you are promoting. The speakers mustn’t make it too long, as some attendees will want them to jump straight into the content itself.

Then the speakers start the session per se. If the speakers decide to make it more interactive – which I strongly recommend – they should ask questions during the presentation and teach the audience how to react by using the different buttons available on the dashboard on their end of the interface of the webinar provider: they can say YES/NO, they can insert emoticons in the chat section applauding a point the speakers made, or laughing at one of their jokes. They can also make comments in the chat section. They love it.

When you finish the content part of the session, you or your speaker need to put on your sales hat, and smoothly, transition to a sales close. Ask if they liked what they heard so far, if they have any questions and whether they are ready to purchase it. This is called CLOSING in sales, and you need to do that, if you are using the webinar for business. Afterwards, set up a quick Q&A slot: 15 min max. They can ask questions about anything: the content of the session or the product/service itself. Some will buy on the spot, others will need more time to think about it. Fair enough. For those who need more time, you will establish the third phase of the webinar:

The Follow-up

Both live in-person events and webinars need to pull the prospects along the sales funnel leading them to make a purchase. After the even,  you will hopefully have many converts, but they need to actually take the action of buying your offer. This third phase is essential: your reps could schedule a demo at their office to continue the conversation; you could set up an email marketing campaign highlighting the benefits of the product and expanding on what was not said during the webinar; you can send them more info via an ebook or brochure. However, don’t lose track of the participants of the webinar. Make sure they join your community (website, blog, Facebook fan page, etc). Otherwise, you will be just wasting your time as a business person.

There is a lot of info about webinars on the web and many tips on how to conduct them. The more you read about these sessions, the more confident you will become to start producing them. They are very effective. Don’t miss on this opportunity to close deals.

Au revoir.

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

 

How to Train Adults Effectively


You may have heard the term ANDRAGOGY. No, it’s not something you need to treat and there’s no need to be scary if you find out your husband is into it. It’s simply the word we use for “pedagogy” when the learners are not children.

Although there are many overlaps between the processes of teaching adults and children – they both love learning through playing, for example – there are some differences too. And those differences must be taken into consideration, if you are designing a course or training session for your employees, or other adult participants.

Some of the differences, established by Malcolm Knowles, an American Adult Educator of the XX century, are, for example, adults need to know why they are learning; adults wish to take responsibility for their learning, so they should contribute and take active part in the process; they have already a wealth of experience to build on and the new items to be learned (knowledge, skills, or attitude) will add to their baggage; the purpose of learning must be objective and perceived as relevant, which is, to help them with their lives or give them pleasure; they are more willing to learn things that meet a specific need or desire; they are more likely to be moved by intrinsic motivation (self-steem, for example) than extrinsic (rise in salary, promotion, relocation, etc).

Having established these basic differences, we must also add that both kids and adults have, individually, different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and some are more likely to use either the more analytical (left) or the more creative (right) side of the brain. These individual differences must also be taken into account when you design and develop a training course. I know, you must be thinking by now that, unless you are a teaching on a one-to-one basis, you can’t possibly cater for all these needs and idiosyncrasies. The good news is yes, you can. Let’s list here the basic steps you should take in putting together an effective training course for a group of adults. I will be using examples from a very successful course I created while I ran a consultancy service called Tutor in the mid-nineties, The course Pronunciation for Brazilian Teachers of English attracted hundreds of teachers every time it was offered at different venues and times all over the country. Sometimes these were open events, for which any teacher could sign up. Other times, these were tailor-made or adapted modules for specific schools as a service for their teachers.

Training adults effectively

Training adults effectively

Obviously, it’s not possible to cover all the details of a well-designed and implemented training course in the space of a blog post. This is not my intention. But I promise to come back to the topic periodically as you ask questions and comments on this overview of the mains steps I give you below:

1. Needs analysis: being a Brazilian teacher myself, I identified very early on that most teachers in the country had a huge gap in the knowledge and practice of pronunciation. They spoke English – some better than others – but very few had actually learned or knew explicitly about the different phonemes of the language or the mechanics of pronunciation. Many were not familiar with concepts such as stress and intonation either. Therefore, most of them, in their classes, tended to skip teaching the coursebook sections that dealt with these areas of the language. The famous English phonemic chart you can find on a number of websites, DVDs, or apps today was not so easy to access back then. So this was a big opportunity for me to start a business and help the teachers. On the other hand, when I gave tailor-made courses at specific schools, I had to unearth the real needs of the teachers and how much they already knew about the subject, so I could adapt the off-the-shelf course I’d already put together. In these cases, you do your research through oral interviews with prospective participants and supervisors, through written questionnaires, through focus groups or by watching some of the teachers at work.

2. Design: now that you know the participants’ needs, you must define how the course is going to be delivered: is it going to be presential, done via a webinar or blended? In addition to that, you need to determine and write down the learning objectives of the course. What is expected from the participants in terms of performance as they finish the training session? What is going to change?  Of course, the clearer you state these objectives, the more effectively you will create and apply the materials you are planning for the course. A typical objective would be, for example, by the time the teachers finish this first module of the course they should be able to recognize and reproduce (orally and in writing) all the individual symbols that represent the phonemes of the English language and use them in clear contexts (as in specific words). You will notice that the objective follows the popular formula S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

3.  Development: this is the hands-on phase of the process, when you are going to create all the different materials that will compose the course and help you impart the content of the sessions (deductive approach: lectures), or lead the students to discover parts of it by themselves (inductive approach, discovery), and finally practice and discuss the learning points. Remember you are creating a course for a number of individuals with different types of learning styles, tastes and ways to use the brain. So variety is the key. Always start with a relevant icebreaker or energizer to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and give the participants a chance to get to know each other from the beginning. Believe me: these warm-ups will make your job a lot easier later on. Especially if they are thematically linked to the topic of the course. Keep the pace fast (that’s the rhythm most participants are used to in today’s hectic world and keep alternating and using diversified activities: short lectures with the help of visuals such as slides (note: even during these lectures, make the process learner-centered by getting them to participate actively, through questions, for example, or comments); games;  guided note-taking (students fill in the gaps of sentences previously written in the handouts;  physical activities (involving movement), pair work, group work, debates, etc. I know, it can sound a bit overwhelming. But it’s doable. Remember: the longer the course the more variety it requires and you will have more time to apply different activities to suit as many different learning styles as possible. If the course is short, or broken down into modules, you will have to prioritize.

4. Implementation: this is the great moment you and your trainees have been expecting. You are putting all your preparation in practice. if you have the chance to run a small pilot with a group of volunteers before that, fine, but most trainers cannot afford the time to do that. Try and include during the ice-breaker, or before that,  a moment when the participants will be able to express their expectations regarding the training. Of course if you did the needs analysis well, there will be no surprises here. But maybe you’ll have to make small adjustments to fit their unexpected hopes. Flexibility is an important characteristic of good trainers. Try to exercise it. As the session progresses and you get more comfortable with he group, allow for more participation,  become more of a facilitator to the process, call them by their names (name tags or desk tents with their names written on them are a must), and carry on making adjustments whenever needed, especially regarding the time each activity lasts. You may have to shorten an upcoming task if the current one drags for too long. Create a detailed schedule for yourself so you can keep track of how much time each activity should take. In long courses, things may get out of hand if you don’t stick to this timetable. Do not forget to have breaks throughout the course. Most people are fueled by caffeine these days or they need to stretch their legs  and walk around after long hours sitting down.

5.  Closing: at the end, allow time for feedback and final questions. You can devise interesting activities for that too. Ask questions about what they think should be done as a follow-up to the session. Or explain the follow-up plan you have already designed: job aids, individual couching, accompanied visits to clients, lesson-monitoring for feedback, etc.

You will not have to start from scratch every time you design a course. I used some of the materials and activities I created for my initial course for years, with small adaptations now and then, to suit different contexts or to update them. But it’s good to understand and go through the whole creation process a few times to make it fresh.

Training is a field that is growing and more professionals will be needed. If you are interested in it, start educating yourself: read as much as you can on the topic, follow blogs, enroll in training sessions as a learner, and participate in conferences. It’s a very hard and demanding job, yet very exciting and varied. Good luck.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Six Tips on How to Give Outstanding Presentations


I have spent most of my professional life involved in giving presentations one way or another. They were of many different types: lessons – as I was a teacher for many years; product presentations – as a marketing manager for publishing houses; training sessions – for teachers and salespeople; motivation talks – for publishers as a freelance speaker. Therefore, I believe I have enough experience and expertise to impart some tips to beginners in this fascinating field of presentations, although I believe that even those with a bit more experience will also profit from the tips below, as one can always learn.

Honing your presentation skills

Honing your presentation skills

1. PowerPoint or Keynote: if you have these very similar softwares, don’t waste a lot of time brooding over which one to use. It does not really matter, they basically have the same functionality and they will only serve as a visual support for your presentation. Therefore, use the one you are more familiar with. Don’t forget there’s always the option of using neither. PowerPoint has been overused for almost two decades now, and some people cannot stand it any longer. Especially because many people use it as a teleprompter, rather than as a tool to show visuals that may highlight your point or make it clearer to your audience. Never – let me repeat this – never use PowerPoint as a teleprompter.  Now and then, write down your speech or presentation and just memorize it or deliver it with the help of some cue cards. Take a look at some TED talks to know what I mean. Your presentation will come across as much more energetic and interesting if you do this.

2. Start your presentation with a bang: this could be either a joke, an interesting quote or an activity that will involve your audience as a kind of warm-up. If you make them do something right at the beginning, it will take the pressure off of you before you start your brilliant delivery, and will also infuse them with energy and get their minds focused.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare: there’s no good spontaneous talk. You need to know what you are talking about, and rehearse how your message will be delivered. Don’t try to wing it. I had a boss once who would spring presentation assignments at me at very short notices. I had a hard time persuading her this would not reflect well on our team. It would make us look unprofessional. Yes, sometimes you need to enlighten people who are above you on the corporate food chain, otherwise the damage can be catastrophic. Take Steve Jobs for example: he would prepare relentlessly and worry about every minute detail of his presentations for maximum impact. He was right.  Also, remember there’s usually a question and answer slot a the end of most presentations, so make sure you know a lot more about the subject than the fraction of it you presented. A presentation should only reflect the tip of the iceberg of the speaker’s knowledge and understanding of the topic. Learn all you can about it before putting yourself in the position of an expert and speak from the podium.

4. Use slides frugally: if you choose to use PowerPoint or Keynote, do not use too many slides, or write too many words on each of them.  You can aways give the audience a handout with the summary of your presentation at the end. Slides are for occasional pictures, short phrases or inspiring quotes. Filling a slide with one hundred bullet points with a small font and read them out loud to your audience will not increase your popularity as a good speaker.

5. Tell stories: love of storytelling is universal. People from all cultures and all ages enjoy a good story. So make sure you tell them during your presentation. They can be personal anecdotes  (which are very effective, and lend your whole talk a more personal and intimate tone) or they could be stories you either made up or read in books, the Internet or newspapers. If you structure your presentation using the backbone of a story, you will be surprised at how much more effective it will be.

6. Involve your audience: nowadays most people have the attention span of a goldfish and will not sit quietly through a long and boring presentation. If they stay, you will notice most of them will be checking their smartphone screens for the latest Facebook update. On the other hand, there is no need to be a stand-up comedian to keep their attention. A simple trick is to involve them and make them participate actively throughout the session: ask questions, get them to give you their opinions, set up an electronic voting system.

I guess that is all for today. There are hundreds of books and posts on the Internet that can help you hone your presentation skills. I would strongly recommend you watch TED talks regularly – they are not only informative and fun, but they can also teach you techniques on how to speak in public well. If you were to choose ONE book on presentations to study, I would recommend Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. It is surely one of the best books on presentations I have ever read.

Would you like to share with us any additional tips on how to present well? Please leave your comments on the blog as you leave. Don’t forget to rate this post.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

5 Intriguing Business Lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos


If you haven’t had the chance to read Brad Stone’s THE EVERYTHING STORE: JEFF BEZOS AND THE AGE OF AMAZON, reach out for your Kindle and download it right now. It’s an exciting account of the creation and development of Amazon into one of the most unique companies in history and the life of his peculiar founder Jeff Bezos.

IJeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Jeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Amazon.com started as an online book retailer and grew to become a company where you can purchase virtually anything, from apparel, to art to web services. It originated the concept of cloud computing service and was the first company, through the Kindle,  to turn online reading into a reality for thousand of hundreds of people on the planet. In addition, it claims it will be launching rockets into outer space soon.

If Amazon puts the client first – and, as customers,  you and I can certainly attest to that – working for Bezos looks like it’s not a lot of fun. Amazon is supposed to have all the depressing and Orwellian political atmosphere and red tape of huge corporations combined with the lack of resources of a startup. Many of his ex-employees are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the ones who remain there live under constant pressure and fear of getting fired before the end of the day. Bezo’s explosive personality is not very different from that of another difficult boss – Steve Jobs. It is kind of sad to think Nature tends to offset their kind of genius and creativity with a terrifying temperament and underdeveloped interpersonal skills.

Despite these drawbacks, you may find below a number of interesting lessons and facts about Jeff Bezos and his company. They are all based on info I got from the book. You may either try to apply them in your own business or, at least,  enjoy these points as mere trivia:

1. Monitor your clients more than your competition. Of course Amazon has always kept a close eye on Walmart, Apple, Barnes and Noble,  and Google – their main competitors. But he has always been much more likely to create or optimize processes that, rather than simply emulate these companies breakthroughs in terms of profitability, would actually benefit the client. For him, the client experience has always come first. Short term profit has always been an afterthought.

2. Frugality. Bezos is obsessed with simplicity and adept of an ascetic life style (in this he was not very different from Jobs either, by the way). He has always kept his staff on a very tight budget, cutting all kinds of extra costs with the aim of investing in the clients’ experience. His mantra was low prices everyday (just like Walmart’s), and he would go out of his way to make this happen, keeping his margins to a minimum or even giving them up altogether, such was his confidence in a business model that, if trusted by the client, would payoff in the future. Bezos would carefully  consider the need of every extra expense or cost and try to connect it directly to a benefit to the client. Lack of resources, according to him, would spur creativity and imagination from his staff.

3. You may learn more from fiction than non-fictional books. His favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s  The Remains of the Day. I was very happy to hear about this, as I love reading novels and this is certainly one of my all-time favorites. However, I don’t really think you can learn the hard facts about being an entrepreneur from the likes of Philip Roth or Machado de Assis. Fiction in my opinion will help you deal with the human side of business, and will probably keep you from having to resort to antidepressants when you struggle to work under bosses like Bezos, get sabotaged by coworkers or even fired.  But,  in my humble opinion, only the actual experience and the study of technical reading material will help you grow in your career. The most interesting thing about this aspect of Bezos’s personality  is  that his love for books boosted the launch of the Kindle, whereas Steve Job’s passion for music  – especially Bob Dylan’s and the Beatles’s – was a strong inspiration in his creation of iTunes. Do what you love and you are more likely to succeed.

4. Think very long term. Entrepreneurs need to persist in seeding. The payoff never comes immediately. Especially now, in this fast-paced, ever-changing technological landscape. Appreciate the little victories you achieve every day and fight on. Celebrate every little step towards a moving target you don’t even know if you will ever reach.

5. Be ruthless in the negotiation with your competition. For Jeff Bezos “win-win” was an unamazon way of thinking. You need to score an advantage over your opponents. Think football during these times of World Cup.  A draw is not acceptable. Do not even be afraid of disrupting your own business model in your pursuit to win. Do everything to destroy it and create something new instead. If you don’t do it, others will. Cannibalization is OK.

You may not agree with every tip Bezos has to offer, but remember where he got to by using them. Of course, you should always take successful entrepreneurs’s  and  gurus’ advice with a grain of salt, for, as Malcolm Gladwell explains in his brilliant book OUTLIERS, there is always a lot more to success than meets the eye. A set of special conditions not available to all is always present in the these Cinderella’s stories of ash to riches, so look out for them.

What is your formula for success? Please share it with us (if we are not competing with you).

NOTE: If you are interested in TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, you might want to check out our successful series of eBooks available from AMAZON.COM (KINDLE STORE). Just click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with art

Teaching English with art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette