It’s five o’clock on a Friday. After a long day of pitching your vision and your latest innovations to prospects, the only thing standing between you and the weekend is … one more meeting. It’s your tenth or eleventh “performance” of the day, but for the potential customer who’s waiting for you, this is “opening night.” How do you make yet another strong first impression? How do you make this show as good, as exciting, as BIG as all the ones you gave before it?
These three tips will help you earn rave reviews and keep your last performance of the day as sharp as your first:
1. “Play the hits” like they’re new to you.
Billy Joel hasn’t recorded a new pop song in 25 years. And yet his current residency packs Madison Square Garden every single month. His recipe for success is simple: he’s selling something that millions of people love; and he’s a superstar performer who, night after night, plays his hits with as much passion and conviction as if he was playing them for the first time.
Whether you’re pitching a prospect, meeting your board of directors, or speaking at a conference, a good CEO is never “off.” No matter how many times you’ve given this particular presentation, you need to be as invested in it as you were the first time you gave it. No matter how big or small your audience, you have to connect with every person by telling them a story about your business that they’ll want to be a part of.
If you feel energy lagging or nerves piling up before showtime, find a way to shift yourself back into high gear. Some people like to take a moment of silence or meditate to gather themselves. I personally like to be amped up before I address a big group: black coffee, day or night, and a quick set of push-ups to get the blood flowing. In fact, I know some very successful people who do quick wake-me-up exercises even if they’re just prepping for an important phone call.
Whatever gets you “stage ready” and in the best possible mindset to make a killer first impression should be part of your presentation routine – and an important part at that.
2. Refine and repeat.
As LaQuita Cleare discussed at our 2018 CEO Summit, all CEOs need effective communication skills. Employees and customers want a BIG vision that gets them excited. Direct reports need a clear set of tasks and goals set from the top down. And in the event of an emergency, your company will need a cool head and a calm public face to take decisive action.
Like any other skill, the more you practice communicating, the better you’ll get at it, and the less frequent those “off days” will be. If your business ambitions include the lecture circuit, TV, web video, or podcasting, I highly recommend working with a professional coach. But on the ground floor of your business, a great first step to better communication won’t even require you to get up in front of crowd. Instead, simply make a habit of scripting your big presentations and pitches more thoroughly.
Many CEOs resist scripting because they worry they’ll sound too robotic, or that the company’s communications will sound like corporate group speak. And while that’s a genuine concern, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen the ugly alternative: a speaker on stage, staring at a list of vague bullet points he’s forgotten how to connect in the heat of the moment.
Another benefit of scripting is how it can create a consistency in your company’s messaging that will trickle down through the entire organization. The big talking points in a keynote address you give might become bullet points in a weekly meeting among your sales staff. Those bullet points might help fine-tune the pitch in your sales calls. Eventually your employees become so fluent in the language of your vision that even their riffs and improvisations on your script sound on-brand. That across-the-board consistency will make a strong first impression to prospects and reinforce your brand value to repeat customers as well.
3. Take care of yourself.
News flash: you’re human. Humans need to unplug for food, exercise, leisure, and sleep. That includes CEOs.
You may be used to juggling a dozen high-level responsibilities on low sleep and low fuel. But too many CEOs wear their excess overtime and power naps like a badge of honor. Keep grinding your gears too hard, and eventually the whole machine falls apart. And in my experience, all that self-care you’ve been neglecting tends to catch up to you at the worst possible time. A major prospect you’ve been circling for months isn’t going to be impressed by how tough you are if you sleepwalk through your pitch. Your bad first impression is going to send his business elsewhere.
There’s a reason that so many successful CEOs are fanatical about their daily routines: they can help to focus your energy on the tasks ahead, improve your work-life balance, and power you down efficiently so that you’re ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.
Going all out all the time is bad for you, and what’s bad for you is bad for your business. Know your limits and set a schedule that enforces them so that you’re ready to deliver a positive first impression the next time the spotlight’s on you.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 170 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s from over 20 countries on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.