Last week CNN's Richard Quest was in town filming for the December episode of the CNN Business Traveller show to air in mid December. I was invited to join Richard along with a Canadian expat executive and one of his Japanese staff for the filming of an interview over lunch downtown. It was fun and a real pleasure to have lunch with Richard and swap stories (his are better). If I had any lingering illusions that the life of an international TV news anchor was all "fun and glamour" those have been completely
dispelled now. What Richard does is a lot of work. The entire process of filming the lunch took about two hours, and while Richard and the CNN crew were very friendly and even funny, the filming was a very serious, focused affair.
I have admired Richard's unique abilities as a TV presenter for years. In my book, he's one of the best. Richard's voice, style, and delivery does not appeal to everyone, but it appeals to me. Frankly, if no one hates your style (or your product, brand, company, etc.) then probably no one is a big fan either. There is a high price to pay for being average. In any event, I could not let this opportunity go by with out asking this world-famous presenter his tips on making a live business presentation or speech. So, during some of the breaks in filming I asked Richard what he would say to a group of business people hoping to improve their presentation skills. He was very keen to give me a thoughtful answer and went on in detail for quite some time in spite of the hectic schedule. Sure, nothing he said is necessarily new to you or me, but it means a lot to hear it coming from someone of his experience and talent. Below is a summary of some of the tips he shared with me in our conversation.
• It's a performance. Like it or not, he said, if you are giving a speech or a presentation, you are performing. Of course, people like Richard are at an advantage compared to the rest of us, he admitted, since he does this for a living. Still, it is useful for all presenters to remember that they are, for that moment when they have the floor at least, performers.
• You've got to grab 'em by the grapes...
Richard was adamant, animated, and colorful about this tip. Forget the thank yous and small talk at the beginning, you can work that in later he said. At the start you immediately have to grab them and bring them in. Many people he said start their presentations off weakly, meekly. Open with a bang and remember to end your talk by tying the big finish back in with that dynamic opening.
• Engage your audience. Ask questions, look them in the eye, get them involved.
• Slow down, you are in control. This is your show, your stage. Use your voice to emphasize certain crucial points. Don't just rush through talking points, etc.
• Pay close attention to your audience. Have some empathy for your audience. If they are not getting it or if it becomes clear that you have prepared too much or the wrong material, then switch gears, cut it short, whatever the situation calls for. Good presenters can read the nonverbal cues and act accordingly.
• Tell stories, give plenty of examples. You don't have to make 14 points. Make a single big point. Most people try to include too much information not too little.
Again, this is nothing you have not heard presentation experts recommend before. Still, it was good to hear it, not from a presentations coach or consultant, but simply from someone in the field who has made quite a name for himself in broadcasting based largely on solid speaking skills, among his other talents. And in case you were wondering, yes Richard really does talk like that even over lunch when the cameras are off, although his presence and intensity increase just a notch when the cameras are rolling. I think Richard is a great guy and certainly one of the most dynamic and popular anchors on CNN. I'm honored to have had the chance to spend some time with him while he was in Osaka.
• You can watch a sample video segment from Richards show from the CNN Business Traveller website. Look under "On The Show" on the right side of the page.
• Richard Quest's blog.