Carlos Ghosn is world famous. In Japan, he's rockstar famous. He's most famous, of course, for the amazing turnaround of Nissan. That's a very a big thing. But to Carlos Ghosn, the little things are also crucial. In The Ghosn Factor, for example, Miguel Rivas-Micoud recounts how Ghosn made a special effort to painstakingly learn the proper way to use Japanese chopsticks, all while the pressures of the business challenges he faced were building. Says Rivas-Micoud:
"All he [Ghosn] could think about was how they were going to get the company back on its feet. Yet there in front of him on the desk were pictures with detailed instructions on the proper technique of using chopsticks."
The lesson for Ghosn was "...no matter what the problems are that you must face each day, you cannot forget the small things." Rivas-Micoud continues:
"Holding chopsticks correctly was necessary if Ghosn hoped to make a good impression on Japanese subordinates and colleagues. The lesson reminded Ghosn of the importance of the tiniest facets of managing a company. You can not ignore them, just as you cannot ignore the proper way of holding chopsticks."
Developing and refining your talents as a presenter is admittedly a small thing. But it is one of those things that will surely make a huge difference in your career.
Turn up the passion, end the confusion
Speaking at the New York International Auto Show last week, Ghosn, reportedly blasted the auto industry for being unimaginative and relying on "bland, safe, cookie-cutter designs." Ghosn, who is known for his solid speaking skills, said:
"Auto makers can either sell cars without passion and struggle with shrinking production, or they can sell cars with passion."
Ghosn is talking about the auto industry, but we could serve up a re-mix of his theme and apply his wisdom to the sorry state of business and conference presentations today as well. Here are four Ghosn-inspired items that would help presenters.
(1) Show more passion
If you want us to care, you better show that you care about your subject...deeply. You think business or science or technology are not passionate subjects? Nonsense. I saw the great Dr. Linus Pauling speak once at OSU in the '80s (he was an Oregon State alum). He was a very engaging and inspiring figure (and in his 70s I think). Dr. Richard Feyman, whom I've only seen on video, was also a passionate, and extremely engaging, articulate speaker. It's no wonder he was such a popular teacher.
(2) End cookie-cutter design
No one says you have to use PowerPoint or any other slideware for that matter. But if you do, I recommend avoiding, tired overused software templates which may get the audience saying to themselves -- even before you've had a chance to speak -- "Oh boy, here we go again. PowerPoint hell." Our content is not of the off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter variety, so why use overused templates that may imply otherwise?
(3) End confusion
Presenters should be in the business of making meaning. The audience wants data and evidence, but they also need context and the big picture. Most presentations could be less confusing if presenters simply remembered this: For your audience to understand anything, you do not need to tell them everything. You've got 20 minutes or an hour -- how can you avoid all obfuscation and confusion and leave the audience with something memorable and important? That is the question.
(4) Think benefits not technology
In a recent New York Times online interview, Ghosn talks about focusing on benefits rather than technology. "We don't push technology," Ghosn said. "We think more [in terms of] benefits than technology." We can think this way too about presentations when using the aid of modern technology, can we not? We have to always ask ourselves if there is a clear benefit to the audience for using a new piece of technology, say, a tablet PC rather than the a laptop. Just because it's cool and cutting edge does not mean it's the best choice for the moment. Besides, the technology we use should be invisible anyway. The audience doesn't need to know if we are using 35mm slides, a Mac, a PC, an iPod or displaying slides from Keynote, PowerPoint, or something else. The content of the message and our connection with the audience are all that matter.
Sample slides from a recent presentation I made on the importance of passion in the work place.
Brand Autopsy has a discussion on branding and Ghosn's recent comments. Interesting.