United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

The damage is done.

United’s brand and reputation have been irreparably harmed for a generation, at minimum.

Once upon a time I was a #United frequent flyer. I think I have over 400k lifetime miles on the airline. I’m not 100% certain of that number because I haven’t flown United since last summer, and I just don’t feel like checking my UA frequent flyer account. And for this #Chicago born and raised traveler, I can’t say I was totally surprised to learn about what had happened with one of their passengers. Shocked, angry, disgusted… yep. Surprised? Not really.

The world now knows what far too many ORD flyers have known about United for years: the airline is – to say the least – operationally challenged. The way it has served its customers has been deteriorating for years and I’d given up on United, flying them only when absolutely necessary.

Then this incident in Chicago happened.

No doubt you’ve heard about the firestorm that has engulfed United Airlines this past week. But this post isn’t a rehash of the events that transpired this past Sunday. It’s an article that examines one specific element within the sequence of events that got the airline to where it finds itself today. One particular business aspect of the rotten customer experience that United executives and investors surely wish they could get back. It’s one that was controllable, would have made economic sense, and one that United CEO Oscar Munoz would go back in time to retrieve if given the opportunity. But that ship sailed on Sunday, and now it’s too late.

I’m talking about the $800 (USD) ceiling that was the cutoff between the final offer from the airline to entice volunteers to stay the night in Chicago and the start of the passenger selection and eviction process which led to the physical incident with Dr. David Dao. The compensatory offers from the airline to the passengers on that Chicago to Louisville flight should’ve increased. Eventually some passengers would’ve taken a higher amount to give up their seats. Even if they had to get to their final destination, a few may have (or should have) put on their thinking caps and ran the numbers: $800 (or more) minus a one-day car rental to Louisville – minus gas – equals profit for themselves. Even if that profit came in the form of a voucher for future United travel. The drive from Chicago-O’Hare to Louisville is only five hours, and I’ve driven it many, many times. It’s a piece of cake. But I digress…

The point is that United played it cheap with its passenger offers, and it’ll cost the airline exponentially more than the small amount of extra funds it would’ve taken to get one of its Louisville-bound customers to accept an offer for their seat. Sad part about it is United isn’t alone in playing it cheap. Far from it. They have plenty of company across all industries in the form of other organizations which think it’s either perfectly acceptable to gamble with certain business situations, not invest in critical areas of their business, remain ignorant or stubborn in their corporate arrogance, and conduct business as usual with their heads in the clouds.

Until it’s too late.

From a #sales, #marketing, #technology, and #socialmedia perspective, here’s how:

1. Professional Development

Employees are continuously asked to write, present, and communicate. Market, sell, and service customers. To organize and run meetings, lead teams, resolve problems, and perform at a high level. But when it comes to provide professional business coaching for any of the above, most companies fall short or offer their employees nothing at all. Yet employees are thrown into situations when they’re either not equipped for success or nothing has been done to maintain and upgrade their skills. And for those who claim that employees should have certain professional skills when they’re hired and that they don’t need to provide additional support… I’m certain Michael Jordan knew how to play basketball before joining the Chicago Bulls. Tiger Woods knew how to play golf before and after he won his first Masters tournament. Yet they always had coaches to improve their games. They were at the top of their games and still needed coaching and practice. All companies should do the same for their employees. (And no, those once-a-year two day cookie cutter training sessions don’t suffice.)

When is it too late? Every time a speaker is ill-prepared for a presentation, a rep isn’t prepped for a customer interaction, a webinar unfolds with a lackluster approach, a time-wasting team meeting is held, a company’s brand and reputation are damaged.

2. Trade Show Sponsorships and Exhibits

A juicy Silver-level sponsorship at the next industry event is secured. Not platinum, nor Gold, but it includes a 10’ x 10’ booth location in a decent, but not great, area within the exhibit hall. But beyond the initial sponsorship investment, not much is done by the sponsoring company to succeed at the event. A homemade booth, constructed by a combination of sales, marketing, and office staff who should be doing something far more productive occupies the exhibit space. Poor exhibit messaging, no staff preparation, and five-figures of investment flushed down the toilet. And the sponsoring company wonders why the attendee world didn’t come running to their exhibit? Corporate damage at an event, complete.

When is it too late? Most likely weeks or months before an events starts, but certainly one minute after the exhibit hall doors open.

3. Live from… Trade Shows, Conferences, and Events

The ongoing frustration with inept speakers giving bad, text-and-tech heavy presentations has been a cross-industry plague for decades. Today, lousy presenters aren’t confined to the ballroom. Everybody walks the convention hall and its exhibit hall floor with a video camera and mobile TV studio in their pockets. Show attendees will put your naive employees on live television on a moment’s notice – with disastrous results. I’ve seen it happen and that content lasts forever. If each and every one of your event-bound staff are not fully prepared for how they will be seen and heard on-camera, a company is gambling with its brand and reputation.

When is it too late? As soon as somebody hits that camera button on their smartphone or tablet and streams live, from your booth, demo, or event session.

4. Voice, Video, and Media

Some companies place little value in the voice of their corporate content. I’m talking about the actual voice that is used to voiceover company productions that can range from ebooks, to demos, to radio and TV commercials, to event videos. More, some companies place little value in the video and voice of their corporate content. About that, I’m talking about the notion that turning on a smartphone camera is all it takes to produce compelling, thought-provoking, lead generating content that will attract and hold an audience. And what about simply transferring bad presentations into streaming media, thinking that will do the trick?

When is it too late? The moment somebody sees and hears your employees or multimedia content and realizes your prep and production values are garbage. Then hits the off button and tells two friends, who tell two friends…

5. Technology, Across-the-Board

Still running your Commodore 64 corporate laptops on IE7? Using software that’s outdated, not integrated, not maintained, nor supported? Still too cheap to consider the tech tools that can actually make your team more efficient and much more effective in their pursuit of identifying new customers, enabling sales, servicing customers, and winning new business?

The year is 2017, not 2009. The recession is long over and it’s the employees holding the job market cards, not the companies. The time for employees to accept less-than-minimal tech support from companies because of tough economic times and fear of job acquisition or loss is over.

When is it too late? The moment a company starts losing the competitive recruiting and turnover battle for talent.

It’s possible to extensively extend this list and go even further. Chances are that you’re aware of many situations where a company is being cheap at its own risk. Some executives turn away from the business suggestions and pleas from its employees, customers, and partners in order to short-sightedly save a buck or two. Some succeed at getting away with it. Others get away with it until something goes wrong, but then it’s too late and very costly.

Unfortunately, there are those who will only take action when something goes terribly wrong.

United investors and executives had every opportunity to listen and handle their business differently, but they chose another path – no matter what the slick on-board pre-departure videos produced over the years said. Their public relations failed. Their corporate #communications failed. Their #customer relations failed. And yes, they were cheap and arrogant about the whole damn thing.

Play it cheap, and gamble with your own business at your own risk.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Forget Enabling Sales. Or Anything Else. Enable Your Presentation Skills First.

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

It’s about time somebody credibly demonstrated the importance of personal #presentation skills and put it on full display for the global business world to see. During this week’s premier of his new television show The Partner on #CNBC, entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis did just that.

For the past several years, Mr. Lemonis has been the host and business expert on another CNBC show named The Profit. On that show, Marcus documents his attempts to help failing businesses across the USA. Most of the companies featured on The Profit are on the smaller-to-medium size: local and regional organizations across industries that have gone astray with failing business models. More often than not, Marcus ends up investing in the failing businesses featured on his show, and assumes full control of all turnaround efforts. On occasion, Marcus walks away from difficult or reluctant owners, and businesses with seemingly little chance of survival. But to date, he has invested tens of millions of dollars in dozens of businesses across the country. As a result of his investments and increased demands on his time, Marcus Lemonis is in need of executive help. Thus, the search for, and a new TV show named, The Partner.

This week’s premier featured 10 candidates brought to downtown Chicago to start the process of competing for the opportunity to become Mr. Lemonis’ new business partner. 10 outstanding candidates with impressive, executive-level job titles from all walks of life. (On a personal note, the first episode show was set at The Drake hotel, blocks from where I studied for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and minutes from where I’ve lived for most of the past 25 years. Very familiar home territory.)

Each Partner candidate had been successful in the professional world, brought stellar credentials to the show, survived the audition process, and had a great story to tell. Problem was, most couldn’t effectively stand and deliver their story or their messages when it mattered the most: under pressure, on the first show, in the first round, in a surprise business #communication situation many were clearly not equipped to handle.

The setup was this: each candidate was told that they were to be given two-and-a-half minutes to present their case as to why they were the best person for the job. Next, Mr. Lemonis told the candidates he was going to set up for the presentations in a nearby conference room. One-by-one, the candidates made their way to the meeting room expecting a traditional job interview setting. It was anything but.

Unknown to the candidates, a surprise awaited them. Marcus had intentionally filled the meeting room with a large group of business people. There were well-dressed professionals sitting around the conference room table and standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the room behind the table. I estimate the meeting room size was 15’ x 25’ – maybe 375-400 square feet. The number of people in the room was 30-40. Several brights lights from the back of the room illuminated the candidates as they each stood alone in front of the room, and at least one TV camera in the back was visible. The object was to (professionally) intimidate each candidate.

I watched as the candidates opened the conference room door. The solo reactions were priceless. From the footage shown, two or three of the candidates did an okay-to-decent job of handling the impromptu task. Most did not.

It bears repeating. All 10 candidates were stellar, executive-level candidates and have something to offer any business or professional organization. All very good people. But when it came to the first business communication challenge on the show, in this competition, most of candidates fell short of expectations. In fact, some of results were disastrous.

Here’s what I saw: one candidate walked in the room, then out, and quickly back in. Another appeared shocked. Few smiled, or even gave the impression that they were enjoying the moment. In the individual attempts to tell the group why they were the best candidate, many didn’t organize their thoughts and stumbled over their words. One looked away and employed a low vocal volume. Still another complained about the bright lights, and when asked what she would do if she was at an event representing the company in a similar meeting situation, her response was “I don’t know.” (She didn’t advance to the next round.)

It also bears mentioning that the candidates didn’t have the use of PowerPoint slides for these presentations. No slides. No props. No smartphones, computers, or laptops. Just the candidates themselves, standing at the front of the room facing the crowd, the lights, the camera, and the hiring manager – the decision maker – Marcus Lemonis.

I’m certain each had great personal and professional content, but only a fraction of the group had any skill or proven process to communicate it.

And for those who haven’t taken the time to properly enable themselves to use their own content to be effective in such a challenging situation, how could they (or anybody else for that matter) who takes a similar lackluster approach to presentation skills and personal business presence be expected to properly enable sales? Or marketing? Or customer service? Or any area of any business?

I smirk at the current deluge of ‘content, content, content’ without those who order or produce such content understanding how it’s effectively used by those in sales, marketing, service, and front-line executives when they face prospects, clients, partners, and investors in highly-competitive situations. After all, it’s not just the content, nor its delivery model that will win the day. It’s a professional’s ability to stand, deliver, and be heard first – then the quality of the content, second.

One issue is that of straightforward sales enablement. So many alleged sales enablers claim they provide meaningful content to salespeople, via innovative technology, in order to produce increased corporate revenues. But if these ‘enablers’ can’t handle a situation where they have to stand and deliver their own impromptu story to a business group, how can they call themselves sales enablers? Maybe they should enable themselves first with the personal communication skills they need to present their ideas to any audience put in front of them. Then they’ll have a genuine understanding of enabling others to be successful in front any audience, in any given situation, planned or unplanned. It’s only at that time that content – or more content – can be introduced.

Another presentation and enablement issue goes up to the executive ranks. In nearly 30 years of watching executive presentations given by CEOs, VPs, Directors, etc. I can safely say far too many of the presentations are sub-par. Below expectations. Hard to watch. Not engaging. Inexcusable. Good people, great content. Rotten presentation skills. To make matters worse, audiences are now treated to video and audio versions of sleep-inducing presentations, ebooks, and all sorts of amateurish multimedia content that clog social media feeds.

If executives won’t enable themselves to possess outstanding presentation skills, how can they assess any form of personal communication, sales effort, or team enablement via content production alone? If they can’t stand, deliver, and present themselves without the crutches of modern-day slide decks and electronics, how will they really know what works and what doesn’t in front of an audience? And what presentation support or professional development in this situation should their employees expect? (None.)

Just because somebody has a spiffy sounding executive title doesn’t mean they can effectively present. And if that’s the case, don’t talk to me about enabling anybody else. Enable yourself, first.

The ability to pass the tough presentation test put forth on The Partner requires more than a one-off, two-day generic presentation skills course taught once a year at corporate headquarters for the fortunate dozen who are able to attend. It takes continual communication practice to individually prepare for the presentation challenges of executive meetings, sales pursuits, webinars, on-camera appearances, media interviews, conference sessions, industry speeches, trade show duties, product briefings, and traditional conference calls. Lest we forget that everybody has a camera in their pocket and can live stream from any one of your corporate activities on a moment’s notice, whether or not you’re prepared, ready, willing, and able.

I know first hand that many companies won’t take the time or spend the money to effectively develop this area of employee communication performance. First, you have to know what you’re doing in this area, and today’s marketers (digital and otherwise) simply don’t know what to do. Nor do human resources departments lost in the 1980s. Some think the responsibility of presentation coaching falls to product marketing. That’s even worse. Before you know it, employees look outside the organization for presentation help, on their own time and on their own dime, because their employer has nothing to offer in this respect.

Yet we now see just how important this facet of the individual professional game is.

More, for all you Digital Marketers out there… or those that emphasize digital this, and digital that, as the opening for what’s important to lead generation, sales, and marketing, and your business in general, please take note. The candidates were not asked to keyword their way into the interview. Nor were they asked to demonstrate how well they use their Facebook skills. Not yet, anyway. They weren’t asked to Snapchat, Tweet, or show they’re chops on LinkedIn. The opening challenge wasn’t an exercise in SEO and SEM or compiling a text-heavy incomprehensible slide deck. It’s was a test to immediately put their personal communication and business presentation skills on the line, and do so in the a surprise, intimidating environment. Damn right. Pull your collective noses out of your mobile screens and pay attention to the business world around you and what it takes to personally communicate with your target audience – and your sales team.

Finally, some may ask what I would’ve done in a similar situation.

If given 2:30 to present, I would have prepared two short, scripted statements: one opening and one closing. Those statements would work, no matter the size of the audience. I would have physically prepared by breathing, relaxing, and preparing my voice. Again, these tactics work no matter the size of the audience. I’d have water available. Upon entering the room, I would have smiled. I’d smile, and stay in control and in charge of the situation. If possible, I’d introduce myself to as many in the room as possible before starting. I’d organize my thoughts, and do an amped-up voice check so that the very last person in the back of room can hear me – loudly and clearly. I’d gain my balance, establish my stance, pick the first person to look in the eyes and deliver my opening statement.

And I would only start speaking when I’m ready to start. Not one moment sooner.

I’d finish with a call to action, and with a statement with what I want the audience to do.

If you want more ideas about preparing for a planned presentation, webinar, or on-camera appearance, you’ll find them here.

But what I want you to do now is watch the premiere episode of The Partner on CNBC’s website, and share your thoughts on Marcus Lemonis’ presentation challenge.

Then consider what you’ll do to prepare yourself to meet the communication challenges of similar presentation situations. Only then should we talk about comprehensive team sales enablement – and the proper incorporation and usage of content.

Again, that’s only after are personal presentation skills are up to a sufficient level of performance and you’ve demonstrated the ability to pass any presentation test.

I’m looking forward to the next episodes of The Partner, and I hope Mr. Lemonis stays the course with emphasizing outstanding presentation skills from all of his #executive candidates, and the business leaders working within his portfolio of companies.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

56 Years Later: Richard Nixon’s TV Debate Lessons Still Need to be Learned

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Welcome to age of streaming media. Of video, and its importance to personal and corporate branding, credibility, marketing, and sales. Welcome to the age where there’s a television camera in every pocket.

56 years ago to this day, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy squared-off in a downtown Chicago television studio for a U.S. presidential debate that still has much to teach us. If only more executives, sales people, marketers, subject matter experts, and all those in public-facing positions were willing to watch, listen, and learn the lessons of Richard Nixon’s debate performance in 1960.

The Kennedy/Nixon debate was a first for American presidential politics. Nixon went on television that night with a five o’clock shadow. He didn’t shave and looked tired. Kennedy, the opposite. JFK cleaned up well, smiled for the cameras, and appeared presidential. While those listening to the debate on radio thought Nixon won, those watching TV thought Kennedy won.

Appearance 1, Content 0.

Richard Nixon lost the presidential election in 1960, but even he couldn’t have imagined that the lessons learned from his debate’s black-and-white television broadcast 56 years ago would have such relevancy in our high-definition, mobile, go-live anytime, anywhere, streaming media world of today.

Problem is, these lessons still go largely ignored:

The President of the United States takes personal communication seriously, and so should you.

You and I have sat through more boring, text-heavy, content data dumps in mind-numbing presentations that we’ve lost track of the messages, and their meaning. This includes convention speeches, conference sessions, webinars, conference calls, online videos, demos, and sales pitches. But many business leaders don’t pay attention to their personal communication skills. Too busy to spend their time, not important enough to invest. Plus, their communication skills are good enough. Just ask them.

Name somebody more important or busier than the president, and we can discuss this one.

How you look and how you sound during a presentation, or an on-camera appearance, is more important than your content.

Yes, content is important. But we’re judged on how we look and how we sound. If you’re not prepared on both of those fronts, your content will suffer. In 1960, Nixon’s beard made him look tired. During a presidential debate in 1992, George H.W. Bush looked at his watch – if only for a moment. But he camera caught it, and so did the audience. The impression was that President Bush had to be somewhere else and didn’t want to be at the debate. He lost that debate, and his bid to get re-elected. If you look or sound tired, distracted, or uninterested the audience will notice – even if you have great content.

Richard Nixon got feedback, you probably won’t.

One benefit then-Vice President Nixon had was feedback. Nixon learned very quickly that the way he looked on-camera had a negative impact on the way he was perceived by the audience. Chances are that your audiences aren’t nearly as large as the one that watched the Kennedy/Nixon debate. Moreover, your audiences are probably composed of your friends, family, colleagues, partners, sponsors, and producers who will either say nothing (out of fear) or tell you what you want to hear because they either want your participation or money. Bottom line is that if you turn in a mediocre, lackluster, or bad performance you probably won’t hear about it. And that’s much worse than getting the honest feedback Nixon got about his debate performance. Ask for honest feedback before and after a performance, and act on it.

The Camera Sees Everything.

The audience also sees everything.
The audience also hears everything.
You should care about those things.

Had a bad day before going on-camera? Nobody wants to hear it.
Got little sleep? Save it.
It’s late in the day and your plane was delayed? … so?
It’s been a long day on the trade show floor and your clothes were winkled, your hair was a mess, your voice was shot, and it was hot inside the convention hall? Tough.

All that matters is how you look and sound to the audience. The audience doesn’t care about anything that may have happened prior to your going on-camera, or on-stage. If you choose to step in front of the camera for any reason, take the responsibility for your communication skills and be prepared.

By the way, most of what you’re doing in front of the camera is being recorded. Once that happens, it’s too late. Digital recordings generally last forever, and you probably won’t be in control of the content.

A Video Camera in Every Pocket

Today, you can use any smartphone and hold a presidential debate anywhere. Same for any corporate on-camera activity. Difference between presidential candidates and business people is that the candidates will prepare before going on-camera, while many executives won’t. Time after time I’ve witnessed videos from good people at trade shows and corporate meetings that have produced disastrous results. The world of streaming video and social media demands that we’re prepared to go on-camera anytime, anywhere, whether we like it or not.

The weekend build-up before tonight’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It surpasses any Super Bowl pre-game coverage I can remember, and the ratings for tonight’s event will be historic. If there ever was a time I could sell advertising time for any media outlet covering the debate, today would be that day.

The lessons learned from the Kennedy/Nixon debate have always been a part of my marketing, media, and broadcast background. And there’s a reason why we’re seeing so much of it in advance of tonight’s Trump/Clinton debate. Televised debates were new in 1960. Back then, few knew how to use video to their advantage. Most did not. The same lessons apply today to those downplaying or blatantly ignoring the importance of personal communication preparedness in our world of social media, streaming video, and presentation readiness.

The candidates are preparing to go on-camera for tonight’s debate because the American presidency depends on it, as does their vision for the future of the country. They would never make the same mistakes Richard Nixon made in 1960 before going on-camera, but you see those mistakes made with regularity in today’s business world.

Richard Nixon’s lessons in going on-camera still need to be learned, 56 years later.

 

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com