By Carmine Gallo As an entrepreneur, you have an extraordinary story to tell. But whether you're pitching or promoting a service, product, company, or cause, how you craft and deliver your message could mean the difference between making the sale or being shown the door. Some people are simply better than others at articulating their message.
As a former anchor and correspondent for several media outlets, including CNN (TWX), Fox (NWS), and CBS (VIA), I've interviewed hundreds of business leaders over my 15-year career. It didn't take me long to realize that few people can make their messages memorable. Those who did were invited back, time and again. Today, as a corporate presentation coach, I work with everyone from Corporate America's top executives appearing on CNBC (GE) to pre-IPO entrepreneurs preparing for a road show, from scientists to salespeople, from marketing professionals to pop stars.
RAISING THE BAR. My work takes me across the country and exposes me to spokespeople in a variety of industries. But the goals are always the same: To articulate a message that meets the demands of contemporary audiences, who want their speakers to be passionate, inspiring, brief, captivating, and clear.
As the majority of us are accustomed to PowerPoint shows, 24-hour cable news, and MTV-style videos, our perception of great corporate speakers has changed. The great spokespeople of our time have raised the bar on what it means to be a business communicator -- and you're being compared to them.
When CNBC interviews Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs, you're being compared to him. When C-SPAN brings British Prime Minister Tony Blair into our living rooms every week, you're being compared to him. When Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers delivers a dazzling PowerPoint show, you're being compared to him. They've mastered 10 techniques that set them apart -- techniques that I uncovered while researching my new book, 10 Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators.
PITCHING WITH OOMPH. But enough talk about "the secrets." Let's get started. Extraordinary entrepreneurs and business professionals credit their communication skills for much of their success, and each is fueled by a passionate commitment to their service, product, company, or cause. Passion separates the world's top pitchmen from the vast majority of mediocre presenters. Without passion, you will fail to motivate, inspire, and electrify your audiences.
Starbucks (SBUX) Chairman Howard Schultz didn't build one of the most admired brands in the world because he blends the right mix of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. While interviewing Schultz for 10 Simple Secrets, I quickly realized he doesn't leave his passion at the office. While many of us like coffee, even love it, Schultz is passionate about it. Really passionate.
During a now-famous trip to Italy, on a piazza in Milan, Schultz's life was forever changed. The Italians were passionate about their coffee, he excitedly told his wife. Schultz brought that passion back to America and transformed a small Seattle coffee-bean store into an American institution. His zeal convinced investors to buy into his concept of bringing Italian-style cafés to America -- and without it, we never would have been introduced to mocha frappuccinos!
CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. "You either have a tremendous love for what you do, and passion for it, or you don't," Schultz told me. "So whether I'm talking to a barista, a customer, or investor, I really communicate how I feel about our company, our mission, and our values. I've said this for 20 years -- it's our collective passion that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace, because we love what we do, and we're inspired to do it better. When you're around people who share a collective passion around a common purpose, there's no telling what you can do."
Contemporary audiences -- not to mention employees -- are hungry for people who show an unbridled passion for what they do. At its core, passion simply means this: Reaching the hearts of your listeners by identifying a deep emotional connection to your story and sharing that enthusiasm with your audience.
For Schultz, it's the story of how his father was laid up after an accident with no insurance or safety net. He reminds employees that the same thing won't happen to them. It forms the backbone of the Starbucks Bean Stock program, whereby even part-time workers get full health benefits. His stirring defense of the program convinced a skeptical board to implement it, even when they thought it might cost too much. It actually wound up saving the company money, as it dramatically reduced turnover.
EMOTIONAL RAPPORT. At this point, some of you might be saying, "My passion is to get rich." Fine. But I'm urging you to dig deeper. You see, I've personally met and interviewed several entrepreneurs who have joined the billionaires club. I've watched them address staff, customers, and investors. Not once did they ever discuss how much joy they get out of being wealthy. Instead, they build an emotional rapport with their listeners by sharing their connection to the topic -- their passion -- through personal stories, anecdotes, and examples.
Now ask yourself, "What's my connection to my message?" If you're a financial planner, is it to help your customers avoid the painful debt you saw your parents fall into? It is for Suze Orman, who tapped into that passion to fuel her success as an author and television host. If you sell networking hardware, is your passion fueled by the desire to change the way the world lives, works, plays, and learns? It is for Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, whose passionate vision of the future has earned him a spot as one of the most admired chief executives in corporate America.
If you manage a coffee shop or restaurant, is your passion to create a welcoming "third place" between home and work for your customers to enjoy? It is for Howard Schultz, whose passion has literally changed the daily habits of millions of people around the world. So whether you're addressing an audience of 1 or 1,000, reveal your passion by identifying and sharing your personal connection to your company message. It will set you apart as a speaker. Gallo is a Pleasanton, Calif.-based corporate presentation coach and former Emmy-award winning television journalist. He is the author of the new book, 10 Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators. Visit him online at www.carminegallo.com