Let me begin by stating that I am self-professed Jack Johnson fan. His music is able to transport me away from the daily grind to a state of relaxation, happiness, and hope. I don’t think I’m alone here as his music continues to transverse the globe capturing millions of fans along the way.
In listening to his music recently, I was struck by an idea relating to how this “master of chill” could teach the corporate world a thing or two about business presentation skills. In thinking about this a little more deeply, I came up with three distinct ways.
*Yeah, this metaphor using Jack Johnson and business presentation skills may be a bit abstract but bear with me. I’m confident that you’ll be able to connect it up and derive great value from this post!
1. Vocal Elements
As an ultra-successful musical artist, Jack would probably be one of the first to note how important the unique blend of his very own vocal elements–pitch, rhythm, and clarity–is to his performance quality and success.
His songs are not meant to be sung in one key. Songs need style and substance. He, like many artists, know that there has to be some degree of vocal variance to cognitively and emotionally affect people.
One way that musical performers like Jack do this, of course, is by playing with the pitch of their voice. Put in other words, they play with the highness and lowness of particular notes while singing. This variety helps to add feeling to the lyrical script of words within a song.
You know what? The very best speakers are also honed in on their own pitch when it comes to business presentation skills. Although great speakers do not usually sing, they very clearly use their voice and pitch as a tool.
Master presenters know that by playing with their pitch over the course of a talk, their ability to hold audience interest increases. Again, flat, monotone deliveries generate boredom and ultimately kill presentations.
Vocal variance as far as pitch goes in song or speaking cannot be entirely random, however. Songs, as we all know, have distinct patterns of sound and rhythm which generally loop around and repeats itself. There is a pattern of sorts to the sound.
Jack’s tune “Better Together” would not be what it is without a distinct rhythm and chorus. Those aspects help to establish melody that people can hum or sing along too. This rhythm gives structural familiarity which allows listeners to follow along and do other things like focussing on the meaning of the words.
Humans are not overly skilled at handling a heavy cognitive load all at once. David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan asserts the following, “Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources.”
If you are listening to a song or presentation that lacks structure, it will be very hard to focus on the meaning when the brain is trying to guess when and how the actual delivery of content will come about.
Great speakers are aware of this point too. They develop their own pace and rhythm of communication which allows listeners to easily follow along. Successful business presentation skills demand that speakers have vocal variety but are still able to operate smoothly without sudden or unexplained starts, stops, or pauses.
A lot of fans admire the simplicity of Jack’s music. The pace is easy enough to keep up with and the words themselves are heard without trouble. Vocally speaking, there is no mumbling, screaming or moaning.
I would argue that his consistency of approach towards vocal clarity and pace contributes to the creation of his laid-back and stress-free vibe. As far as I am aware, Jack has yet to experiment with death metal or some other drastically different musical genre which would require a completely different set of vocal qualities.
Now, relating this back to business presentation skills once again, it would not be unreasonable to state that being easily understood and heard is of paramount importance in the corporate sphere too.
In the business world, however, in most cases, you are not aiming to create the same easy-going feeling as in one of Johnson’s tunes but rather an image of professionalism and trust.
To do this, your speaking style must reflect the image you wish to create.
Mumbling, stumbling or barking one’s way through a talk will not develop that professional vibe you need to succeed. Clarity and the ease at which you allow audiences to follow along contributes to you being able to build trust and reliability with audiences.
To sum up this first section, those studying business presentation skills could definitely extract value from listening to any of Jack’s albums as far as his studying up on notions of pitch, rhythm and vocal clarity.
2. Elements of Story
Although I cannot definitively say, I have a strong belief that the most successful musical artists know of the power of storytelling. One of Johnson’s all-time fan favorite songs–Taylor–is a based around a rather sad narrative.
Many of his other melodies are built around moments in his life, as well as key figures such as family and friends. His stories about these experiences and people are often highly personalized.
Johnson knows how to deliver punch and meaning to his lyrical messages by using the power of story. How does he do it? Well, he pretty much does what you or I would do when spinning a story to someone.
In most cases, Johnson includes the major elements of a story (either metaphorically or literally), as defined by the father of story, Aristotle:
Aristotle’s Three Act Structure
Act 1: Introduces the characters, their relationships, and the world they live within. A major problem is also introduced that stands in the way of the protagonist.
Act 2: The protagonist attempts to deal with the problem but with mixed results. Usually, some outside help occurs.
Act 3: Following a climax of sorts, a resolution is delivered.
Why are Stories So Powerful?
In the world of music, business or even just everyday living, the power of story is well documented. They have the ability to magically whisk people away into a thought idea or shared feeling. Additionally, stories have been proven to boost both content interest and content retention levels. In fact, here at Passion FP, storytelling has been covered in a few separate posts.
What Elements Make a Story Powerful?
Outside of story structure playing a major part, the sharing of highly personalized anecdotes, detailed character and setting descriptions are typically leveraged to pull people into narratives.
One other key element which all effective stories utilize is something called the “relatability factor”. This simply refers to how relatable all of the above (anecdotes, characters, settings, descriptions) are to the audience. The more deeply connected the content is, the more powerful it can become in the mind of a listener.
Stories and Business
As far as business presentation skills go, the very best presenters are very much aware of these aforementioned points and work very hard to ensure they are included in their own stories. Much like listeners losing themselves in a song, audiences that are part of webinars, conferences or office meets can easily find themselves immersed if the presenter has storytelling game.
As a skilled storyteller works his or her magic, an audience’s resistance to new ideas is lowered drastically. And this translates into a whole bunch of goodness not limited to the following:
*audience buy-in to new ideas
*increases in proposal receptivity
*openness to sales pitches
Again, it is my assertion that talented musicians like Jack have figured out the power of story and so should you!
3. Power of Rehearsal
Several years ago, I found myself in Vancouver, Canada at a major outdoor concert venue waiting for one of my favorite bands of the time, “Ben Harper, and the Innocent Criminals” to take the stage. Before this could occur, we had to get through the no-name opening act.
I recall sipping my beer and staring at the stage while this guy in a pair of blue jeans, a beige t-shirt and flip flops cautiously walked up onto the stage. He carefully sat down on a lone stool holding an acoustic guitar. The audience was still chatting and hardly took notice. I, like many others, assumed this guy was just part of the sound check.
Then suddenly, a meek-sounding voice filtered across the speakers. That fellow was nervously sitting all alone on stage was Jack Johnson.
He apprehensively introduced himself noting how this was his first major tour. I recall wondering if it was his first show as well. His nerves were apparent. I also remember contemplating whether or not this guy would be able to pull this off. As a fan of music at a major event, you are not used to seeing such raw anxiety from artists that are part of a major bill.
A degree of unease and angst seemed to nestle itself within the amphitheater. The crowd quieted down to a hush. Then Jack broke out into one his early hits Bubble Toes. Soon after, he launched into another song and then another. By that point, the crowd was utterly enamored.
After every few songs, he would insert a few comments. The nerves would show themselves when speaking but when playing and singing, there were NO signs. He sounded as though he had been on tour for years.
To give some perspective on how well he crushed it that night, the lines to snap up his launch album were lengthy and steady throughout the evening–even while the main act played on. This lasted until every last album of his was sold and gone.
The Point of this story
Jack was clearly on edge that night. However, if you had missed his opening self-introduction and occasional comments in between songs, you’d have never known that this was a relatively new performer on a major tour. His performance was masterful.
After the show, there was no doubt in my mind that he had prepared well in advance for this moment. Despite nerves, his performance was near flawless.
That kind of a result, of course, does NOT come without a massive commitment to preparation and rehearsal.
Linking up this Metaphor
The business presentation skills connection should be pretty straightforward. You as an entrepreneur or career professional may not be opening up for a major rock band, but you may have a high-stakes webinar, keynote, conference speaking engagement or otherwise, that is meaningful to you, your business or career.
If that is the case, there is no substitute for preparation and rehearsal.
From my experiences, those who “wing it” typically end up delivering watered down results. This stunts career growth and business opportunities.
Put the time in to reap the reward of success. There are no ways around it but there are hacks to rehearsal. Click away to grab the FREE downloadable resource that accompanies this post. You’ll pick up valuable insights and tips as far as reviewing and working on the three main points covered.
Go ahead and grab it now to get started on “upping” your presentation game. Need some background music while you work? Use this Jack Johnson YouTube playlist link!
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