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McPhilimy In Action

McPhilimy Associates works with leaders and experts in a wide range of industries and arenas. Here is just one example of the McPhilimy approach in action.

CEO becomes audience-focused speaker

Situation
“Icebreakers are for morons.”  So said Sam, the CEO of a major Chicago-based consulting firm.  Disinterested and unenthused, Sam further stated that he refused to lead an icebreaker exercise at the top of the upcoming half-day day conference his firm was conducting.  The conference was on a cutting-edge topic in one of the firm’s industry areas and Sam is recognized as a thought leader in the field.  The firm had invited a star-studded roster of decision makers and influencers to participate in the half-day event.  Sam was slated to open the conference with a welcome greeting and a one-hour talk on some of the key issues.

Despite the urgings of his colleagues and advisors, Sam resisted doing even an icebreaker of the smallest sort, such as turn to your neighbor and say, “hello.”  Sam’s upper management team was begging him to do something, anything to 1) appear more enthusiastic and friendly and 2) foster a needed sense of warmth amongst the participants.  Sam’s team had seen him in action before – he was dry, cranky and almost arrogant at times.  Known as one of the most brilliant minds in the industry, and as CEO of one of the largest consulting firms, he was an obvious choice to open the session, but his colleagues worried that his downbeat style would kill the energy of those assembling. 

Solution
Enter McPhilimy Associates. Cheryl McPhilimy knew that Sam had a habit of speaking WAY over the heads of his audience.  “He’s a former academic,” said his colleague.  “And it shows.”

McPhilimy conducted two intensive sessions with Sam to get to the heart of his dry speaking style and help him develop some new, more audience-centered ways of presenting.  What emerged was Sam’s irrational but very understandable concern of being perceived as a lightweight.  McPhilimy helped Sam uncover, among other discoveries, that he wasn’t a lightweight at all.  In fact, he’d spend his career trying so hard to be taken seriously he’d developed a reputation and style of not a lightweight, but a heavyweight, too much of a heavyweight.  Most folks found him too far over their heads.  They couldn’t stay with him and ultimately tuned out.  He spoke quickly, in mile-long, content-thick sentences, never checking in to determine whether his audience was with him.

McPhilimy worked with Sam on:

  • Connecting with an audience, not speaking AT them
  • Staying mindful of the WIIFM, the “what’s in it for me?” of the audience at every juncture.
  • Slowing down and using the pause as a powerful tool.
  • Putting complex concepts into everyday terms.
  • Utilizing positive body language, especially appropriate eye contact.

And finally, McPhilimy helped Sam see that an icebreaker wouldn’t make him look moronic.  It would actually be a valuable tool in taking some pressure off him, would give the crowd an opportunity to relax and get comfortable, and would set a friendlier more collegial tone for the rest of the session.  McPhilimy worked with Sam to script an icebreaker that was not too long and rehearsed it with him until it felt natural and organic.

Results
Sam delivered his presentation, including the icebreaker, and used a host of techniques he’d learned from McPhilimy at the conference.  The feedback was real-time and positive, of a sort Sam had never before experienced.  He was thrilled with his performance, and the buzz in the hallways during the break was all about Sam’s opening address:  “Can you believe how good he was?”  “What happened, he used to be so boring?” “That was really inspiring.”

Sam’s management team was delighted.  They reinforced to Sam that by being a more audience-focused speaker he was making a real difference in their ability to forge partnerships and alliances with the attendees.  Sam understood for the first time that his presentation skills as a CEO could make a real difference to his firm’s bottom line and ultimate success.

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