CEO Magazine interviews Cam Barber on Messaging and Public Speaking

“The Power of Messaging”

Communicate your business message in the most memorable way by learning the tools of effective public speaking.
By Skye Hoklas, CEO Magazine, September 2015.

CEO Magazine_SEP15_Cam_Barber_The Power of Messaging

Public speaking is the process or act of performing a presentation or speech to a live audience in order to inform, influence, or entertain. For some, it strikes fear; for others, it’s done with ease. Knowing the tips and tools to effectively convey a business message to staff, stakeholders, suppliers, and customers can be hugely advantageous for C-level executives.

According to a Louis Harris study, “Less than a third of employees say that management provides clear goals and directions”. However, in a Forum Corporation survey of Fortune 500 executives, 82 per cent believe that “everyone who needs to know” understands their corporate strategy. Evidently, leaders might think that everyone comprehends their ideas, but this isn’t always the case.

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“Remember, it’s the content of your talk that has the value, and your job as a speaker is to sort that content and bring it to life.”

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Cam Barber, CEO of Vivid Learning, dedicates his time to helping others learn the tools they need to be effective public speakers. As the founder of Vivid Method—a technique that flips the traditional presentation approach on its head—he has empowered CEOs, celebrities, and other public figures to feel comfortable on stage and deliver their message in the most impressive way. With a high-profile clientele including the coach of Hawthorn Football Club, the CEO of Boost Juice, the head of development at Sensis, and the co-founder of Seek Ltd raving about his work, it’s clear that Cam is onto something worth talking about.

“All leaders need to be great at public speaking, and the key skill there is messaging,” he says. “Great leaders are always associated with memorable messages. This is no coincidence. It’s the impact of their messages that determines whether they are seen as great leaders. This is true for world leaders like Gandhi and Bill Clinton, corporate leaders like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, sporting leaders like Steve Waugh and Alastair Clarkson, as well as military leaders like David Morrison.”

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“Great leaders are always associated with memorable messages. This is no coincidence.”

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According to Cam, there are many high-level executives who fail to get their messages across when they speak: their presentations are either too vague or become lost in the details. He believes that everyone has the potential to be effective as a public speaker as long as they are equipped with the right tools to bring to life the content they are talking about. “You don’t have to learn acting skills or master 100 techniques to be a great speaker,” he says. “The first step is to clarify and deliver a vivid message.”

This is where the Vivid Method comes in—a simple three-step strategy that reverses the typical oratory approach away from delivery skills. “Much of the traditional approach is driven by the idea that your body language is more important than your words, so your ‘performance’ must be primary,” Cam explains. “There are statistics that seem to support this idea, but it’s wrong. Your body language flows naturally from the clarity about your ideas and the certainty you have in your speaking style.

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“The harder we tried to follow the ‘optimum’ style and apply the performance ‘rules’, the more uncomfortable we became.”

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“I developed the Vivid Method after attending a course many years ago. I came away feeling more nervous and more self-conscious. And I wasn’t the only one. The harder we tried to follow the ‘optimum’ style and apply the performance ‘rules’, the more uncomfortable we became and the harder it was to relax and see things clearly. It suggested there is a single ‘right’ way of presenting and that any deviation from this ‘optimum’ is wrong.

“Then I looked at great speakers and noticed they were all different. There were many variations in style and they all worked fine. Soon we found that the message priority and natural style helped dissolve speaking anxiety. From that foundation, it’s easier to structure ideas and add great explanations to bring ideas to life.

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“Then I looked at great speakers and noticed they were all different.”

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“Thousands of people now swear by the Vivid Method, including CEOs, AFL presidents and coaches, sales directors, TV presenters, scientists, politicians, and more. They are getting more support from their teams and building a valuable personal brand as a result of their improved public speaking.”

Cam’s Vivid Method can be a great tool for business executives to learn how they can best get their message across. The concept is focused on ‘ideas versus execution’, and leaders can succeed when they get the thoughts out of their heads and into the minds of others. A good example of someone who did this well was Apple founder Steve Jobs, who wrote his own speeches and launched new products on stage. “He was a truly great public speaker,” Cam notes. “However, if you just copied his speaking style, you wouldn’t find his secret. Sure, he spoke with certainty, but he had a relatively slow rate of speech and an undramatic style.

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“The concept is focused on ‘ideas versus execution’, and leaders can succeed when they get the thoughts out of their heads and into the minds of others.”

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“His amazing talent was cutting through the noise and crafting transferable messages—messages that journalists, IT gurus, and even consumers would repeat. For example, the iPod launch—“A thousand songs in your pocket”, and the Stanford Speech—“Stay hungry, stay foolish”. Remember, it’s the content of your talk that has the value, and your job as a speaker is to sort that content and bring it to life.”

As part of the Vivid Method, Cam suggests finding a speech outline or presentation structure that works for you. “This will save a huge amount of time in sorting your thoughts and structuring your information for the greatest impact,” he says.

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“Be careful about listening to the annoying voice in your head that says, ‘You haven’t got time to slow down and breathe comfortably: they’re all looking at you—hurry up!’

Ignore this voice if it shows up. You have plenty of time.”

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Another tip is to realise that nerves are completely normal and to not let them get to you. Instead, pause for a second and redirect your breathing comfortably to regulate the mind and body. “Some leaders are reluctant to talk about public speaking anxiety because they feel that they shouldn’t get nervous anymore, given their knowledge and experience,” Cam says. “The pressure of the spotlight activates our stress response. Most of the physical symptoms of public speaking anxiety are the measurable result of adrenaline, which is released in an attempt to help us, to give us energy. The symptoms themselves are not a problem; it’s the way we think about those symptoms that increases anxiety, or dissolves it.”

Cam’s final piece of advice is to slow down. “Be careful about listening to the annoying voice in your head that says, ‘You haven’t got time to slow down and breathe comfortably: they’re all looking at you—hurry up!’ Ignore this voice if it shows up. You have plenty of time.”

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If you’d like to develop persuasive communication skills, consider:

Want to be a great speaker? Get the kindle ebook from amazon.com: What’s Your Message?: Public Speaking with Twice the Impact, Using Half the Effort

 

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