Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

Hip Hop Rapper Advice for PM Abe

Vince Staples, American Hip Hop Rapper, was recently quoted in a Financial Times interview, "You have to paint the picture because everyone doesn’t come from the same background".  Having just attended the Japan Summit 2015 at the Okura Hotel Ball Room run by the Economist and sitting there listening to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Minister for National Strategic Zones Shigeru Ishiba and Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira Amari, I was struck by the lack of picture painting and storytelling in their presentations.
By the way, Abe has improved since I last saw him live.  Whether it was some coaching before the Olympic bid or thereafter, the man is much better.  More animated, using bigger gestures, more eye contact, using those see through glass prompters to help engage the audience rather than looking down at a page of notes. He had humour, pauses for clarity and some voice modulation.  Hey Japan, take note, it is possible to be better at public speaking!
I can’t give a similar praiseworthy account for his arch rival Shigeru ishiba.  Sprawled in his seat, eyes looking up and away in the distance at some obscure spot of the venue wall, he spoke in a voice dripping in disinterest, leavened with lethargy and boredom.  He absolutely proved Professor Albert Meharabian’s rule that when what you say (content) is incongruent with the way you say it (delivery), then 93% of the message is missed.  
I closed my eyes and tried to just concentrate on the words and actually the content was pretty good and considered.  If we took the transcript and showed it to people, I am sure they would be impressed.  But he totally murdered his message.  I doubt anyone in the room got many of the points he was making.
Minister Amari was polite, nice but boring.  He was boring because like Abe and Ishiba, he was dancing the two step data dump of information.  This is a problem in corporates as well, as the leader gets up kills the audience with detail, detail and more detail.  The idea that the purity or the quality of my information is superior and sufficient, is so grossly outdated and incorrect, you wonder how it could survive in this 24/7, totally connected, information overloaded world.  CFOs and other technical types, please take note – don’t bore us with your data.
Tell us a story, pleeease!  Bring the points being made to life by connecting them to some people and events you have encountered.  Our minds are well trained to absorb stories, because they are the first educational structure we encounter as young children.  The story should start with taking us to the place of the story, the location, the room, nominate the day, month or the season and introduce the people there, preferably people we already know, to make it real for us.  
By getting straight into the story we can draw our audience in.  We can now intertwine the context behind the point we want our audience to agree with.  By providing the background logic, cloaked in a story which is vivid, we can see it in our mind’s eye. We will have more success convincing others to follow us.  Having set the scene, we finish by outlining our proposition or proposal and tie the ribbon on top, by pin pointing the major benefit of doing what we suggest.  This is elegant and powerful.
Storytelling does suffer from misuse.  American politicians lead the world in this regard.  Like many things in America there is exaggeration.  If a story is good, then ten stories must be better.  That is why we hear politicians referencing various Joe Public individuals in their speeches, trying to connect with their audience.  Usually it comes cross as fake, duplicitous, over cooked and shady.  In business, we don’t want any of that inference, so we should use storytelling sparingly yet powerfully.  Less is more but none is bad.  Unite our disparate audience from multiple backgrounds by wrapping our key message in a story and if you do, what you say will be remembered, unlike Abe, ishiba and Amari.
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