How video affected Prime Minister’s Questions

History was made at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday when Boris Johnson took part by video link. We were interested in how this would affect the dynamic of the exchanges, particularly with the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer.  We noticed an interesting change in status between the two speakers.  As audience members, we felt additional gravitas was afforded to Boris thanks to appearing on video call.

Why was this the case? Firstly, PMQs is usually a circus of whoops and jeers when a politician is speaking. This was still true whilst Keir Starmer was talking as he was physically in parliament and the background heckling was alive and well albeit with fewer MPs to do the shouting. This was contrasted when the camera shot switched to Boris on video where he was bathed in silence. Subconsciously, his communication carried more weight because of this.

Similarly, Boris was talking right into the camera lens, making good eye contact. It creates the impression that he is talking directly to you and comes across as more sincere. This contrasted with Starmer who was being filmed in parliament, often from above, so he rarely looked into the camera. He looked down and read his notes often which created a disconnect with the audience. This departure from the level playing field of all politicians being filmed in the same location does create a different impact on authority.

It is likely that we will enter a period where business meetings are often a hybrid of in person and video participants. The dynamics will be different to PMQs but we need to be aware of how the medium of our communications affects meetings and this will be a topic we return to over the coming months.

For more information on looking and sounding confident and authoritative at online meetings, have a look at our Online Masterclass: How to make a great impression at online meetings!

By | November 19th, 2020|Authority, Online meetings, Online video, Public speaking, Q&As, Video|0 Comments

The top 3 traps leading to ‘death by powerpoint’

Most people have suffered from terrible Powerpoint presentations at work. Unfortunately, in the UK government briefing are now bringing bad Powerpoints into our sitting rooms. It is unfortunate that when the message is so important the medium can let us down.

We thought it might help to share a few of our team’s thoughts on making our Powerpoints support our message rather than distract from it. If we can all raise our game maybe we can do our bit to make bad Powerpoints the exception rather than the norm. Below are the most common pitfalls in using Powerpoint slides. In our next Blog we will talk about what we can do to make them better.

The example that prompted this blog were the slides the Government used on 31st October 2020: overcrowded, tiny writing, complex data and far too much going on. It’s something we come across a lot when working with clients on their presentation skills. Presenters who would otherwise be engaging to listen to, get overshadowed by the Powerpoint slides they feel obliged to use. The audience doesn’t know whether to listen or read the slides and so often ends up doing neither. We want to create positive emotions in our audience, but baffling or illegible slides create the opposite effect – they feel frustrated / confused / wonder if they’re being stupid.

Here are the main traps we see people falling into regarding the use of Powerpoint in presentations:

Trap Number 1: Using the Powerpoint presentation as a script

As Seth Godin reminds us, ‘slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them’.

Your slides should not be your script. That’s not to say you don’t need to plan out your content in detail. However, do this on cue cards or in the ‘notes’ section of Powerpoint.

Trap Number 2: Using what should be a Handout as the Powerpoint presentation

We know that often our clients are using material that was put together by the marketing team. These playbooks are usually created to be stand-alone documents – i.e. to be read by the client rather than be read to the client.

To use these to give presentations is a mistake.

Instead, pull out the absolute key points only from the collateral. Challenge yourself to ask – what one thing from this page would I want to client to really understand? Try to keep one point per slide. Use only a few words on the slide. YOU are there to deliver the actual content, not the slides.

Trap Number 3: Using the Powerpoint presentation as a data dump

Sometimes people try to include every piece of evidence that has led you to draw your conclusion on slides. This is certainly what the government did on Oct 31st. However, you can really lose your audience by doing this. They are trying to make sense of what they’re seeing so they don’t actually listen to your message.

It is much better to skip to the findings from your analysis.  You can always provide the raw data in a handout or have it ready in an appendix in case someone does ask for it. Simplicity on your slides is golden. It doesn’t diminish the hard work you’ve put in. It allows people to get straight to the key points.

To conclude

Those are the most common pitfalls we see. In our next blog we will talk about what is the purpose of slides along with some simple design principles. As ever, we would be delighted to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

By | November 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The most frequently asked question about online meetings is….

It’s fascinating to observe how the questions we get asked at workshops are evolving as a result of this transformative year. Having recently completed a series of presenting with impact and client skills workshops at a leading investment research firm, there was one question that came up time and again:

 

Can you ask a client to turn their video on?

 

The question is completely understandable. It is hugely helpful to be able to see your audience. It’s important for rapport and to gauge how your message is being received. Plus if you yourself have your camera on and are willing to be seen, surely it’s only polite for the other party to be there? You wouldn’t hide yourself if you were at a face to face meeting.

There are also all the assumptions you make when the other party hasn’t turned on their video. Maybe they are not that interested in what you have to say? Or they might have you on in the background whilst they complete a few emails? Or they might still be sat in their pyjamas?

Here’s our best response to the question but we’d equally love to hear others’ views on this.

Whilst you can’t force anyone to turn their cameras on, you can signpost early in the interaction that a ‘videos on’ meeting is what’s expected. Refer to the meeting as a video call for example. You could even include a note on the invite that a video meeting is what’s preferred. E.g. let’s attend with videos turned on where possible as it would be great to meet face to face.

If the attendee turns up with their video off then it’s probably too late to ask them to turn it on. You don’t want to cause anyone to panic if they haven’t really prepared themselves to be visible.

This is of course our take on the matter. Get in touch and let us know your own experience and thoughts!

By | November 5th, 2020|Online meetings, Online video, Perception, Presentation skills, Video, Voice|0 Comments

Is there anything more infuriating than not being heard?

Some communications lessons from the first US Presidential Debate

We are always keen observers of communications in politics and US politics in particular. Although the first US Presidential debate seems a long time ago given events since then, we wanted to capture some of the lessons we learned last week.

If you stayed up to watch it or watched the highlights the next day what was your reaction? For some it was disbelief, for others fury or hilarity? I personally found myself writhing around in sheer discomfort – especially watching the 7 minute ‘highlights’!

Regardless of your politics, any human being would have had an emotional response in some way to what they witnessed. We’ve been analysing the communication between the two candidates and the lack of respect shown between the two is remarkable. The debate went off the rails, the rules of debate were broken and there was weak moderation to bring it back on track. The result – an unbearable mess to watch.

Here are just a few sins made against the fundamental practice of humane communication:

  • The incessant interrupting and speaking over one another – Trump interrupted Biden 73 times!
  • Personal attacks and shaming –Trump berating Biden’s education and intelligence, Biden calling Trump a liar, a clown and the worst president America has ever seen.
  • The moderator being outright ignored in his interventions.
  • Shutting each other down – ‘will you shut up man?’

These aggressive tactics are a far cry from Michelle Obama’s ‘when they go low, we go high’ doctrine.

One reason that it was so painful to watch is that it tapped into an innate human need to be heard, to be understood, to be acknowledged as a fellow person. It was obvious that Joe Biden in particular was denied that right. It tapped into our inbuilt sense of empathy at injustice. We were able to relate to that feeling from our own experiences when we might have been ignored or berated in public which is what creates that emotional and physical reaction.

It is striking that the communication between two adults pitching to lead the most powerful country in the world could invoke such a primitive response in people. Given President Trump’s illness we don’t know what will happen with future debates. Whatever happens, let’s hope that the human right to be heard is not forgotten.

Online Meetings Can Be Daunting

It can be daunting to have to speak up at online meetings when you are confronted with a sea of faces.

At MSB Executive, we recognise the variety in our clients’ communication styles. Most noticeably at online meetings, you can spot the extroverts and introverts. It is said that extroverts ‘speak to think’ and introverts ‘think to speak’. One is not better than the other but at meetings extroverts can be more comfortable speaking up.

Top Tips for an Inclusive and Successful Call

 Be respectful of each other’s communication styles. Notice if someone looks uncomfortable when being forced to speak up. Smile, be encouraging visually and give them space to answer. Hold the space for them so that no-one else jumps in.

Think about using the chat function to encourage questions or comments throughout a call. You could also use functionality such as Zoom polls to quickly gather opinions on calls.

For those who find themselves overwhelmed having to speak up suddenly, a good tip is to switch your screen view if you can. For example, on Zoom you can switch between ‘Gallery’ and ‘Speaker’ view. Speaker is better if you want to see less faces on your screen. You can either talk to yourself on screen or pick one friendly face and imagine you are just talking to them.

If you want more tools and tips on making an impact at online meetings, check out our online Masterclass ‘How to Make a Great Impression at Online Meetings’

 

The Power of the Pause

At MSB we often talk about the importance of pauses. They are great for adding impact and helping your audience process information. Pauses are a great replacement for filler sounds and words.

We generally say you can pause for longer than you think. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes this to the extreme with a 21-second pause.

By | June 30th, 2020|Authenticity, Leadership, Public speaking, Storytelling|0 Comments

A Perspective On Zoom Fatigue

As the majority of our meetings continue to be hosted online, the rise of ‘Zoom fatigue’ has become a natural occurrence. In this short video, Martyn Barmby, the Founder of MSB Executive, explains the reasons for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and some tips to avoid it.

By | June 11th, 2020|Online meetings, Online video|0 Comments

Empathetic Communication From Leaders In The Time Of Covid

We often look at how our leaders communicate to see what we can learn. Sometimes we share examples of outstanding communication as well as times they get it wrong.

 At the moment, what our leaders are doing and saying is affecting our lives in an extraordinary way. This means we all have strong opinions about the actions that are being taken and how they are explained to us.

 From the many briefings and Q&A sessions going on around the globe, we have been repeatedly struck by one lesson. That is the importance of empathy.

 This is often an underrated quality in speakers. Unfortunately, some leaders confuse it with showing weakness and vulnerability in a way that will undermine respect. We do not believe this is true in ‘ordinary’ times and it is certainly not true in a crisis.

 For anyone who underestimates empathy as something ‘fluffy’ or untrustworthy, they are on shaky ground. From Aristotle’s Rhetoric onwards it has been an essential part of persuasion.

 Two politicians who have unquestionably shown the power of empathy are Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Andrew Cuomo Mayor of New York.

 For Ardern, there are the memorable moments of empathy on a small-scale level including warning children the Easter bunny might not make it to every house . When empathy is combined with simple, powerful messages it hits home. Particularly effective was her comment: “We only have 102 cases – but so did Italy once.”

 For Andrew Cuomo, he wasn’t afraid to share his personal pain:

 “I haven’t seen my daughter in over two weeks. It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. And this concept of maybe I can’t get next to her because of this virus. There’s a distance between me and my daughter because of this virus. It saddens me to the core. And it frightens me to the core.”

 This gives him the right to talk about shared struggles and his belief about the ability of the people of New York to come through it.

 “Understand what we’re dealing with. Understand the pressures that we’re feeling, but we will get through this time. Be a little bit more sensitive. Understand the stress. Understand the fear. Be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative and we will get through this time.”

 Empathy is something we can all embrace and become stronger leaders.

Your Questions Answered On Making A Great Impression At Online Meetings

We were delighted to run a webinar for the CFA Society yesterday on how to make a great impression at online meetings. With nearly 100 people in attendance, it is clearly a hot topic.

There were some great questions and we thought if might be useful to share a couple for everyone.

If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Or check out our comprehensive masterclass ‘How To Make A Great Impression At Online Meetings’ which covers all the techniques you will need to make a positive impact!

Is it good to lean forwards towards the screen at online meetings?

There are some who advise leaning forwards throughout online meetings to make a good impression. While we agree there are benefits to leaning into the screen, our advice is to start in a ‘neutral position’. This is where you sit up tall in the centre of your chair and imagine that there is a helium balloon attached to the top of your head pulling your spine and neck long.

Leaning in is useful if you want to show enthusiasm when you are talking. Or if you want to make it clear you would like to say something. However, we would recommend you use this position sparingly. The risk is that it can be misinterpreted as though you are ‘pleading’ in some cases or ‘overbearing’ in others.

What is the best way to take notes during a meeting?

There is nothing worse than hearing ‘thunder typing’ when you are at an online meeting – someone noisily thwacking away at the keyboard. Even if that person is making notes and concentrating on the call, it can be very distracting. So at the very least, mute your screen when you are typing.

The other danger is that people can jump to conclusions that you are not concentrating on the call.  Old fashioned pen and paper works well. It is easier for others on the call to see you are taking notes if they can see a pen in your hand.

The key point is to make it clear that you are present on the call and are not working on anything else. Even if that means slipping it into the conversation that you’ve been taking notes!

How to achieve the perfect posture at online meetings

The correct posture is so important at online meetings to help us not only look calm and relaxed but also to ensure we breathe well. Our Head of Voice at MSB Executive; Steven Maddocks shares his invaluable insights on how to achieve the optimal posture at online meetings.

This video is part of our series to ensure impactful communication at online meetings.

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