by Connie Dieken

What Every Communicator Can Learn From ... Michael Jackson

Did you read the headlines? "Jackson Kids Steal the Show!" the news articles proclaimed, calling the appearance of Michael Jackson's two eldest children the most memorable moment of the 52nd annual Grammy Awards Show.

What does this have to do with communication skills, you ask? Everything. In a room filled with big egos, these two young people nailed the three things that you must do as a 21st century communicator: they got attention, got to the point, and got results - and so can you. These skills are crucial whether you're presenting your ideas to big egos, big wallets, or big knuckleheads.

This post is not about Michael Jackson's kids on stage. Believe it or not, it's about what you can learn from Michael's approach to presentation skills that can transform and elevate your presentations forever. Turns out, Michael Jackson was not just a performer, he was the ultimate presenter. He was every bit as good or even better than the much-heralded Steve Jobs at presenting ideas that people respond to.

I was struck by what businesspeople can learn by watching the newly released video chronicling Michael's stage preparations for his planned final shows in London, "This is It." Here are 3 quick lessons:

1. The best presentations are built around your relationship with the audience

At the end of the film, you’ll see Michael and the crew gather in a large circle on stage. Director Kenny Ortega asks Michael to share a few words. Listen closely – what Michael says is the the stamp of a true presentation genius. He tells the crew that a successful show is not based upon the dance moves, or the special effects, or even on him. It’s a presenter's relationship with the audience that matters most. Success is attained by the way you make people feel while they’re in your presence. Lesson: don’t get caught up in worrying about yourself or your slides during a presentation. Zero in on your relationship with the audience. Make their experience the king of the show and you'll earn positive responses.

2. When you elevate others, everyone wins (including you)

Watch how Michael brings out the best in others. He stays gracious and kindhearted as he coaches the musicians, singers, and dancers during the rehearsals. He's 100% clear on what he wants from others, yet he doesn't come across as all high and mighty or a taskmaster. As a result, Michael Jackson draws the best possible performance out of everyone around him. Lesson: Stay relaxed, gracious, and humble at your presentations. Don't let anxiety or pressure get the best of you. The most effective presenters are thoughtful, inspiring leaders who play well in the sandbox.

3. Who's the one communicator you should listen to most?

Why there were so many hours of rehearsal footage filmed prior to the concert run? Michael Jackson studied the “dailies." He knew that he was in the connecting business, so he wanted to see how his "presentations" would come across to audiences from the stage, even before the seats were filled. Chances are you hate to see yourself on tape. Heck, I avoided watching tapes of myself during many years in the broadcast TV business. But, ironically, as an executive coach I finally discovered the true power of videotaped assessments - they allow you to see the real you. As Michael Jackson clearly understood, there's one communicator that you should listen to as much as possible - and that's you. Study videotapes to hone your presentation's content, your true voice, and your executive presence and you'll earn a positive response from every audience.


Topics: Presentation Skills :: Audience Engagement