Browse Category: Corporate Narratives

AGM speech

What to put in the AGM speech plus 15 Questions for Shareholders to ask

Getting the Board and the CEO ready for the AGM

AGM speeches are not what they were. Volatility almost everywhere and in most sectors; tightened or non-existent credit; reduced or reducing asset valuations; uncertain domestic and international markets; a financial cliff; a probing press; picky customers.

Delivering the AGM speech used to be much more fun. Shares used to increase in value, dividends went up, the champagne was being chilled. Those were the days…

So what needs to go in the AGM speech in 2013?

Shareholders and commentators need to hear evidence that the company and its leaderships fully understands and can articulate its past, present and projected financial performance.  Boards will be questioned on growth prospects, costs, debt, capital management, human resources and the general financial future of the company.

The AGM should give comfort, build confidence, indicate direction, demonstrate control and reassure and build stock valuations. The AGM speech, and the Question and Answer sessions that follow, often represent the most important day in the calendar. If the Chief Exec and other Board members perform badly, it can be bad for the company. It is always bad for those who perform badly.

15 Basic Questions for shareholders to ask at the AGM

Most issues should be addressed during the AGM speech, reducing the pressure questions. These are some basic questions or themes for shareholders to ask/raise. Board members need to know their stuff and be prepared. 

  1. Current financial position? Clear, truthful and easily digestible figures.
  2. Has the Board checked its figures – how was it done, show how it was robust?
  3. How has the Board minimised/limited/managed possible exchange rate fluctuations?
  4.  Does the Board’s plan for the future need working capital – how will it raise it?
  5. Has the Board identified under-performing assets, operations or divisions? What are they doing about them? Keep, fix, sell? Strategic importance?
  6. Inventory levels and annual turnarounds? Comparisons with industry averages/competitors?
  7. Outline credit management, debt chasing, early warning alarms.
  8. Recently checked reliability and expected trends of bank guarantees and credit limits. Implications and remedial action? How recent?
  9. Accuracy of current asset valuations? Remedial action?
  10. Have last years investment plans been reviewed where/if the financials, liquidity, debt, valuations etc have changed?
  11. Relationship with bankers/lenders, the media, analysts, rating agencies etc?
  12. Any scary covenants close to being breached – how are they monitored?
  13. Debt risk management: explain and demonstrate? Issues arising? Actions taken?
  14. Review/consolidation/support of supply chain?
  15. Any planned redundancies? Costs? Sufficient? Measures to retain key staff? New pension legislation – impact and cost implications?

If you have an AGM coming up, I can help you prepare for your AGM speech and for the Q and A session.

Keynote Speaker at the European Speechwriters Network London Conference

Speechwriter becomes a speaker for a day

I am delighted to be speaking at the Spring Leadership and Communications Conference in May this year at the Institute for Government. This conference is based on Public Speaking in Public Life and I am looking forward to listening to the other speakers who include someone who has trained TED speakers, a former UK Ambassador, a Professor of Politics and a Cicero Award Winner.

The conference has been organised by Brian Jenner, founder of the UK Speech Writers Guild. 

This is an excerpt from the eventbrite booking form:

Who Should Attend?
Previous conferences have attracted speechwriters from the European Commission, the CBI, Orange, Deloitte, the United Nations, the European Investment Bank, Coca Cola as well as the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

The Benefits
Acquire techniques used in the White House, European institutions and UK Parliament
Get insights into rhetoric from top writers
Listen to outstanding public speakers
Have your own work analysed in interactive sessions with top trainers
Meet fellow professionals from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world

Questions you really should ask BEFORE you do a Powerpoint presentation

Most Powerpoint presentations are rubbish.

Powerpoint is generally used by beginners, the unprepared or the lazy. It can be good (some TED talks) but it hampers good and great presentations more than it helps – unless Nancy Duarte is helping you. (You should follow her btw – she is, without doubt, the best at visual storytelling @nancyduarte)

10 Powerpoint sins

Most people who use powerpoint commit some or all of the following sins. This list is not exhaustive – there are more!

  1. Reading the slide
  2. More than one message per slide
  3. Not using brilliant amazing graphics that add to your content
  4. Turning your back to the audience
  5. Using too many bullet points. Or bullet points at all.
  6. Falling in love with crappy transitions that do NOT help with the message
  7. Using a tiny font that is TOTALLY legible on your computer but tiny on stage
  8. Inserting music into the slide which is either nothing to do with the message or inaudible because you don’t have the sound technology on the stage. Music files also make the Powerpoint slide file HUGE and hard to email.
  9. Telling the audience that they will get the slide afterwards – so the audience doesn’t need to listen or pay attention.
  10.  Setting up the Powerpoint in front of the victims and not before they shuffle in.

Questions to ask before you even open Powerpoint.

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. What is the best way to achieve that?
  3. What are the 3 points/messages I want to make?
  4. Have I got the time to produce a high quality Powerpoint presentation with great graphics?
  5. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  6. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  7. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?
  8. Do I really need to use Powerpoint?

And for those who disagree with my points  5, 6, 7. Did you ever pitch (and win) a big deal, propose (successfully) or inspire an audience with Powerpoint? All of these things are best done without Powerpoint.

Do I hate Powerpoint? No – I hate bad presentations and pitches. It can be a great medium for presenting information, research and data – if used correctly and if the right amount of effort is put into the preparation.

 

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Presentation Coaching

Presentation Coaching – We Are All Amateurs and Armchair Experts

“I bet he didn’t get any presentation coaching.”

X Factor was the first big show to turn us all into armchair experts. Then followed all the other instant celebrity shows. When I visited the amazing Olympics in London, brilliant explanatory videos and introductions to each “show” taught us spectators how to be instant and superficially, knowledgeable critics who knew exactly what to watch out for.

We have all seen presentations. Some of us have occasionally even seen ones that are passable or good. We all instinctively know what makes a cringeworthy or ineffective presentation. Boring facts, reading from a list-laden Powerpoint presentation, showing the audience your back, having technology issues, not knowing your stuff, lack of eye contact. The list goes on and on.

It is easy to say what is wrong with a presentation. It is not so easy to coach presenters so that they give less bad, better or even good presentations. Reading a book or a blog is all very well.

But what usually happens when your palms are sweating and your face feels flushed and the audience are rolling their eyes? You feel blind, primitive fear. You want to run out of the room, tell your boss that you are sorry for losing the client before you even know that you have.

The last thing on your mind is the content and the words in the presentation folder or blog or book that you read last week. You may know exactly where the book or the folder is – even what shelf they are on. But you cannot, for the life of you, remember what those pearls of wisdom in them are. Let alone apply them to your current awful situation.

Books make you more aware, on an intellectual level, of what to do and not to do in presentations. Presentation coaching makes you more able to give good presentations.

P.S. I offer presentation coaching! 

Public Speaking Tips: Take Your Job Seriously, Not Yourself!

Public Speaking Tips: Take your job seriously, not yourself!

Public speaking tips are usually about getting things right. But what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Lets face it – we all screw up from time to time. Sometimes we win by winning, sometimes by screwing up less than the competition.

When I was a tennis coach, Ian Barclay (who was Pat Cash’s coach) was coaching a group of us in Johannesburg. One of his standard pieces of advice was “Winning is easy – all you have to do is get the ball over the net one (just one) time more than the other guy.”

So what should you do when it does all go wrong?

Admit it, keep the mood of the audience with you, smile and enjoy the moment. Stay confident and calm and in control. You may even turn your imperfection, your humanity into a plus. Do not take yourself seriously!!! (Of course having a sense of humour helps!).

It is the people who take themselves seriously, or worse too seriously, who quickly become the butt of jokes. People love laughing at the pompous and the self important. Be likeable and be human. When the technology fails, or you forget what you are saying or your place in your speech – you will need all the friends you can get.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

Giving a speech is important – otherwise why do it? So of course you should take the time to write it, book in more time to practice it and give your speech time to bake in your head. Then reality intervenes and messes it all up! So for all those speechwriters and speechmakers who are put on the spot at short notice and the others (very stern look in your direction because I have obviously never been in your shoes!) too lazy to prepare.

  1. Do you want to inform or persuade? What must you achieve? What defines success?
  2. If you want to persuade, compare the current with your vision of the future. Use “we”.
  3. Use fresh examples and metaphors. Avoid those with lost meaning. Speak as you would to a friend.
  4. Use short sentences and words. Max 15 words per sentence and 2 syllables per word.
  5. Narrow your message to 3 key themes. They won’t remember more anyway.
  6. Identify and repeat the words that summarise your message.
  7. Never speak for more than 20 minutes. 5 is better. 3 even better.
  8. Speak slowly and confidently. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belt buckle. Stand up straight and smile.

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