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Your Boss asks YOU to Present – Opportunity or Threat?

Recently I have met several people who have been given the opportunity to present on behalf of their boss, who was not available for some reason.

This opportunity can be viewed in several ways –

  • They are genuinely not available and need you to stand in for them.
  • They wish to provide you with an opportunity to grow and develop skills in this area.
  • They wish to test you in a pressurised situation.

You should view this situation as an opportunity to stretch, practice new skills and put yourself in the shop window for future opportunities and promotion.

“Good speakers impress, great speakers influence behaviour”
Mark Sandbourne, NSA President, 2004

What do you need to do to prepare?

Here are the basic pieces of information you need to know in order to prepare well:

  • Who is the audience and who in particular do you need to impress/influence?
  • What is the purpose of the presentation?

To inform the mind:

Impart some technical information regarding new software, company finances, health and safety issues etc. which will inform your audience leading to greater understanding.

Touch the heart:

Help your audience to emotionally attach to your suggestion/proposal.  Facts inform the mind, emotional attachment gets them to act.

Change the will:

Most presentations in some way or another are about getting people to change to your way of thinking. The businesses that change, evolve, innovate are the one that survive and thrive.

“Change is the law of life.
And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”

John F Kennedy

If your wish is to be a successful leader you need to develop presentation skills!

An ability to communicate well is critical if people are to understand and buy into your message.

Do you need some advice, or do you know people who need to develop this skill?

Please share my article with them.

An Elevator Pitch that Rocks! (The 5 Steps + Video)

Recently, I was contacted by a previous client who is now working for an American multinational company; he had an interesting and exciting request.

His company wanted each of the sales team to produce a one-minute video which they will include in emails etc. that they send to prospects and customers.

Using the word video in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19%.

So far straightforward you might say …

Why I was contacted was very evident when he sent me some sample videos they had produced internally with the help of one of their videography partners.

I have no doubt you are very familiar with this type of video, where the speaker talks not to the camera (you) but to some imagined prospect in the far distance.  All the participants looked stiff and uncomfortable and you would not be inclined to give them a call.

Here’s how I went about creating interesting and engaging videos for my new client.

Step 1:

I explained the three requirements a speaker should demonstrate if he or she is to be engaging.

1: Have EARNED right to speak on the subject

2: Be EAGER to speak on the subject

3: Be EXCITED to speak on the subject

All the team met the requirements, so we were over the first hurdle.

Step 2:

Decide on structure/template for the CONVERSATION.

I very deliberately use the word conversation here; prospects do not want to be pitched to, preached to or lectured to.

Elevator Pitch is the usual title given to a meeting where you get very little time to introduce someone to your business.

The story goes, you are at a conference and the person you were trying to meet all day gets into the same elevator as you on their way to the 47th floor.  What an opportunity to give them your pitch! (usually the whole 9 yards).

Based on my previous experience of elevator pitches, this person is very likely to press the emergency button and run from the elevator on the third floor.

Here is the outline of the conversation (pitch) I suggested my clients use:

1: Get attention

A headline that gets attention in the first 20 words or 7 seconds (this is what newspapers do):

’HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR’ – headline from New York Times.

2: Tell the prospect about the problem you can solve for them

(If you do not know what problems you solve, don’t bother them).

3: Introduce yourself

If you have got this person’s attention, they will now be more likely to listen and remember your name.

4: Tell them very briefly what you do!

(it’s an app, patented device, etc.)

5: Paint a word picture about how they or their organisation are BETTER

(e.g. reduced absenteeism, increased output, more environmentally friendly, win more proposals)

6: Agree next action

(date for next meeting, send a sample, demo product)

See one of my many Elevator Pitches here

Step 3:

I then worked with the team to create conversations that engage and excited them, a pre-requisite to doing the same for the prospects and customers.


These conversations should not turn into a script that has to be followed word for word, but rather a conversation outline that would keep the speaker on track.

Step 4:

I then provided some space and time for the speakers to get comfortable with the conversation he/she has created before we started filming.

Step 5:

The scary bit for the participant.

My input here was to help make a room full of bright lights & cameras as unintimidating as possible. I engaged with each speaker giving them an opportunity to rehearse their talk in this space and only then did we roll the camera and capture a talk that demonstrated the 3E’s: Excited, Eager, Earned the right.

I recently spoke on the same platform as senior people from LinkedIn and Facebook, and they say if you are not including video in your Social Media Marketing you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your business.

When marketers include a video in an email, the click-through rate increases by 200-300%

Do not keep putting off doing something about this, call today and let’s explore how I can help you and your team.

Why be Fearful of Speaking in Public

Why be Fearful of Speaking in Public?

When I’m out socially, whether it be playing golf or with friends over dinner and it comes up in conversation that I coach people to speak in public, I am continually surprised by the number of successful and confident people who still express a fear of speaking in public, be it to an audience of five or five hundred.

Why is this?

Let me tell you what I believe is the cause.

The education system in Ireland and Europe generally puts emphasis on academic qualifications and not enough emphasis on emotional intelligence skills, of which good communications is a critical component.  Whereas in America from an early age students are engaged in ‘show and tell’.

Also, I believe MBA programs in the States put more emphasis on presenting and pitching as part of the program.

I am not going to change the educational system single-handedly, but I am now coaching students and lecturers in all of the leading Universities in Ireland in my style of communication and presenting.

This I believe will lead to more confident and successful leaders in whatever career path they choose.

What I can change for the individuals and organisations who  engage me to work with their people, is how they are coached and prepared for important conversations with audiences.

You will note that I use the word conversation and not presentation!

I believe we should always regard the opportunity to speak to an audience as a conversation, not a presentation or pitch. This immediately reduces the pressure on the speaker as it’s not as intimidating to have a conversation as it is to deliver a presentation.

My way is to ban all of the following words when preparing people for important meetings:

Presentation: usually dull and boring.

(think of the last conference you attended)

Pitch: nobody wants to be sold to.

Sermon: one of the reasons churches are empty.

Lecture: who wants to be lectured to?

When speaking to an audience it should always be a conversation. This is how all the great stand-up comedians engage their audiences. You go home not remembering the words (jokes) but knowing that you feel uplifted and energised.

Is this not the purpose of most business conversations?

My guarantee to all my clients is that I will never criticise them or tell them what they have done wrong, yet every person will be better as a result of our working together.

The degree as to how much they will improve is greatly dependent on the amount of preparation and work they put into implementing the advice and coaching I give them.

When I explain my methodology to clients, they regularly tell me that they need constructive criticism in order to improve.

My response is that constructive criticism is criticism with the word constructive placed in front of it to soften the blow, it’s still CRITICISM.

As one of my clients commented recently you never feel


My coaching philosophy is as follows:

Never: criticise

Always: praise (sincerely)

Leading to an atmosphere where people want to engage and improve.

Note: if you wish to become an effective LEADER the above principles also apply.

To compliment this article I’m linking to a 30 minute humorous video to the Sales Institute of Ireland which expands on and explains my philosophy in more detail.

What is the most common mistake Entrepreneurs make when pitching their business?

I listen to hundreds of pitches every year, so I would like to think I can quickly identify the key messages an entrepreneur would like to get across to a customer, or investor.

Over the last three weeks I have coached FinTech start-ups, Female Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurs in the 50+ age bracket, a broad spectrum, I think you’ll agree.

Let me tell you what I believe is the most common mistake all entrepreneurs make when pitching their business ideas!

The fundamental error that entrepreneurs make when pitching is spending too much time talking about their product. They are so enamoured by the product they have developed, they want to tell their audience about every feature.

They believe the question they must answer is:

What do they do?

But initially, nobody is interested in what you do!

The question that needs answering is:

How does your idea/product make your audience’s business or life better?

My number one challenge when working with business people, be they start-ups or an established business, is getting them to articulate clearly how their business idea benefits their prospective client.

When you answer this question clearly and simply, you are much more likely to succeed with engagement and win new business.

Here’s an analogy to explain my idea:

When you get into your car to drive to an important meeting, you do not need to know how the engine works.  But you must be confident that the car will get you there.

Here is Aristo’s strap line:

“I capture your business story and give you the confidence to tell it or sell it”

(Note – there is no mention of how I do that).

In conversation with my prospective clients I focus on how improved communication/pitching skills will win them the next big contract, or investor funding.

To conclude this article, here’s two questions you need to ask yourself before meeting the prospect.

  1. Who are you meeting?

You cannot prepare a presentation/conversation for a faceless person.

(To edit an old cliché, “generic presentations are not worth the paper they are written on”).

  1. How can you make this person better?

You may be pitching to a large organisation, but invariably it’s one or two key individuals who will have the final say.

Are you confident that you can clearly and simply demonstrate to these people how their business will be better as a result of engaging with you?

Clients of mine tell me they find my outside perspective on how they could better tell their story incredibly useful. It’s easy to forget that internal stories don’t always translate well outside the company.

If you feel you need help in delivering your message, why not get in touch and explore how I may be of assistance?

Here is some great advice on how to Lead People!











Often people believe that they are not leaders. They think people like Barack Obama and Angela Merkel are, but that they themselves are not!

In reality each time we speak or attend a meeting, we have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

On one of my training programmes I asked my colleague to tell a story of where he personally had seen leadership demonstrated?  Initially he had difficulty, because we are always looking for something on a grand scale, looking to the momentous event!

I said to him, think of someone in your life who has influenced you?  Someone who has changed the way you think and act, because that’s leadership.

He then told me a story about when he was a young apprentice in the Air Corps carrying out a repair, when he was observed by his manager, who saw he was doing it incorrectly.

This man did not rush over and tell him how he was doing it wrong, he simply came over and said, Harry “let me show you how we do that here”.

He said for the time he was there serving his apprenticeship, this man often came to him and the other apprentices and said “let me show you how we do this here”.

Clearly, the leadership that man demonstrated was passed on to Harry, as he become a senior manager in the Aviation industry.

Harry’s advice to my group was: if you wish to change and lead people, the secret is not to find fault but to seek willing co-operation.

As a leader, it’s not good enough to talk about the values of your organisation be they Honesty, Integrity, Creativity etc.


If you feel you need help in delivering your message or leading your team, why not get in touch and explore how I may be of assistance?

Failed First Dates & Failed Business Meetings share a lot in Common!

Failed First Dates & Failed Business Meeting share a lot in Common!

Here is a situation …

You have the opportunity to speak to a really important prospect, a person you’ve been trying to arrange a meeting with for ages.  Now, mostly by good networking and a little luck, you are in the same room and anxious to make a good impression.

So how should you do that? 

Start the meeting by asking questions that engage the prospect in a conversation?

However, what I usually hear when I start preparing clients for important meeting with prospects, goes something like this …

“We’re the biggest, the best, the most environmentally friendly, we support equality, we’re the most technologically advanced, we focus on our clients’ needs etc.”

These are all claims about your organisation and nothing about the prospect! (BORING)

Does this sound familiar?

I believe business meetings can often be like bad first dates!

A bad first date is where the person on the other side of the dinner table spends the whole evening telling you how great they are!

When this happens, are you likely to go on another date with this person?  I doubt it.

You should think of your prospect meeting as a date you would like to go well.

How do you plan/prepare in order to enjoy a positive outcome?

Step one:

How much do you know about your prospect(s)?

Do as much research as possible about the organisation and the individuals attending the meeting.

Step two:

Prepare open-ended questions to engage your audience in a conversation about their issues.

This part of the meeting should be allocated a significant amount of the available time. You will find out during this conversation, how you can help address identified problems, allowing you to tailor your offer around a prospect’s needs.

I have no doubt a successful outcome for this type of meeting would involve sending a proposal to your potential customer.

A great proposal says to a prospect –

“I understand your problem better than anybody else and I have a tried and trusted solution”.

If you follow my advice and have a conversation, one that asks engaging questions of the prospect, it’s more likely to lead to a winning proposal.

My challenge to you is prepare four or five questions that will kick start a rewarding conversation with your prospect.

My clients often find this the most challenging and rewarding aspect of our work together.

If you would like some help in this area, please make contact and we can explore what questions would work best for you and your organisation?

Please CLICK here to see over 100 Client testimonials

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