By David Lim, Chief Motivation Officer
“There were five powerful lessons about presenting and influencing that I took back, and worth sharing here”
On a recent visit to Western Australia, I took a tour of the Perth Mint. The mint used to mint the coins in circulation in the old days but is now largely a tourist destination, and a purveyor of special edition minted coins and souvenirs for collectors. There were five powerful lessons about presenting and influencing that I took back, and worth sharing here. If you want to present and engage your audience or people, you can learn a lot from the visitor ‘experience’ that the Perth Mint provided.
1) Tell a compelling story starting with a mystery and a challenge
The experience begins in a shaded corner outside main building of the handsome, mansion-like façade of the mint. Chris Carlyle, a staff member began by relating the story of how gold was first discovered in Western Australia, and the ensuing gold rush. The stories rolled off his tongue, as he painted an exciting and humorous picture of 19th century Australia. Adventure, risk, social class, prejudice and endeavour were great themes that marked this part of the tour. He pointed out why the main entrance to the mint had double arches (one for the workmen and the other for the ‘genteel’ people); and other facts about the early days of the mint
2) Add massive interest
Once ushered into another chamber, we were shown the largest cold coin ever minted – a one tonne solid gold coin measuring a hand thick and nearly a metre across. Again, the power of not only gold, but the physical formation of was key on holding our attention. The point here is that once we have an audience’s attention (which takes a bit of effort at times), make sure what comes up next in terms of content and delivery adds super-interest to hold their attention. This is what a motivational speaker of any kind should be doing!
3) Using simple and elaborate props
At the start of the tour, Chris used no microphone but availed himself of some misshapen pieces of gold-coloured plastic and foam. These were replicas of the actual record –breaking nuggets that were found; some weighing in excess of 10 kilos each. The use of props is a powerful way to draw attention during a presentation. The late actor Marlon Brando did it on occasion, and that included twirling an object while speaking on-camera. The late Steve Jobs would build tension as he talked about Apple’s latest innovation, and then reveal the ‘prop’ (which would be the actual Apple product). By extracting the iPod mini from the tiny coin pocket in his jeans to an ooh-ing and aah-ing audience to sliding out the first generation, razor thin Macbook Air from a brown paper envelope; the use of props can be used effectively to draw attention to your message
4) Never rush a good point
At the climax of the presentation, we sat in what was once the smelting room of the mint. Here, a graphite and claypot that was heated red hot held a kilo or so of pure molten gold. We were told of the environment, the risks involved in pouring molten metal and the safety equipment to be used. The lights were turned down, and as the pot was picked up with tongs and expertly tilted to pour the golden liquid into the mold. The actual movement took about 15 seconds. So the learning point is here – during a presentation, where should we speed things up and where should we take our time? A classic example of poor presentation skills could include a segment where the audience laughs at the right point, but the speaker, rushes to continue with his or her content; thereby cutting the laughter short. This is sometimes called “stepping on your line”. Laughter is hard enough to generate in a corporate presentation. Don’t waste it by rushing the moment.
5) Let the audience feel that they are part of the journey
No great presentation is complete without the audience feeling they were part of the journey, rather than mere observers. To that extent, once the hot bar of gold was cooled down in cold water in a matter of minutes, we were allowed to touch it – under the beady eye of a security officer; part of the pouring molten gold session protocol. Later, on the route through the exhibition rooms to the exit; you could see new coins being minted, checked and packed, as well as lift a heavy bar of gold by sticking your arm through a hole in an armoured glass window where a 10 kilo bar of gold sat. How do we replicate such moments? At a corporate conference a couple of months ago,I was invited to be the day’s motivational speaker. Each attendee received an aluminium snap link, or carabiner. The aim of having this conference gift was based on how the attendees were all metaphorically linked together. I used several pieces in my presentation to illustrate how that a snap link is at its strongest when it is closed, but can’t connect with another unless it’s open. We have to take risks, and be vulnerable when we open ourselves to new ideas and other people. Great prop, great analogy.
We often search for great examples of presentation skills, but fail to realize many examples actually are around us, though manifested in different ways. The Perth Mint isn’t paying me to write this, but a tour of the mint if you visit Perth is well worth its weight in gold.
David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Guide, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at contact@davidlimspeaks to subscribe to his leadership e-newsletter or inquire about his organisational solutions