“How to Present Like a Boss” is a six-part series profiling top business executives who have a knack for presenting. Throughout the series, I will break down each executive’s presenter type, and what their strengths and weaknesses are in front of an audience. First up is Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, whose presenter type is a Counselor.
A bestubbled man, dressed in his trademark dark suit and open neck shirt, strides up and down the stage. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, is about to do something that we all do from time to time—give a presentation.
CEOs typically do this well. For the rest of us, presenting is a key tool we must learn to use effectively if we want to get ahead. Jeff Weiner is a masterful architect when it comes to structuring speeches. By studying Weiner, a successful business leader, and his speaking style we can learn a lot about how to make our own presentations more effective.
The Building Blocks of Weiner’s Style
Presentations are made up of three building blocks:
Words — the language we use
Structure — the organization, flow, and narrative
Pictures — both actual and mental images
Weiner uses all three of these building blocks well. He is a presenter type we call a counselor. Everyone has his or her own particular style of speaking—a presenter type. There are six different types of presenter. If you understand which presenter type you are—and where your strengths and weaknesses lie—you will find it easier to improve your skills. And by studying famous presenters, you can get a better understanding of what different presenter types look like on stage.
Jeff Weiner is a classic counselor-type presenter. As the name suggests, counselors are naturally good speakers, skilled at making structured arguments. Let’s take a look at the structure of this keynote he gave in 2012 in Las Vegas.
Weiner’s speech has a logical structure. It starts with a hook—a way to get the audience to lean forward in their seats and anticipate what’s coming. Then the meat of the presentation—a way to easily organize the presentation so that the audience knows where they are, and can follow along. Finally, Weiner builds to a payoff — a call to action that invites the audience to participate.
Take a look at this prezi to see my analysis of this presentation, or continue reading below to learn how Weiner achieves this structure.
The hook starts, very cleverly, with the audience.
[00:35] “it’s hard not to look out at this audience and think back to just a couple of years ago, where several hundred of you met… and you see the growth. It really mirrors our audience, our customer base, the way we’ve been changing the game in recruiting together.”
By involving the audience in his presentation from the beginning, Weiner captures their attention and gets them engaged.
Part two of Weiner’s hook is an iconic picture of Steve Jobs.
[01.24] “I’d like to start with an image. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case, I think there is only a few things that come to mind. Visionary founder. Product Genius. And perhaps, above all else, a single word, Talent.”
Weiner further hooks his audience by asking them to share in a thought, one that everyone in the room can rally around: Steve Jobs represents talent, we represent talent.
The meat of Weiner’s keynote is built around three “value propositions” that drive LinkedIn—Identity, Insights, and Everywhere. This structure—three values, the products that match it, and evidence to support his argument—makes it easy for the audience to follow his logic.
The keynote ends, as all good presentations do, with a payoff—a closing remark that delivers on the promise of the hook, and moves the audience to action. In this case, Weiner dives back to his point about talent.
[23.56] “We’re just providing the platform. A platform that enables YOU to truly change the industry. YOU the visionaries. YOU with the conviction to work every day to evangelize what recruiting should be, what it could be and then making it happen… you’re not just changing the game in recruiting, you’re changing the way the world works.”
What can you learn from this counselor?
Weiner does a lot of things well. He uses complex words but tones them down with more colloquial expressions (i.e. “folks like you…”).
He uses structure well, but also takes the time to engage his audience, not just deliver a monologue. One example is his rhetorical question at [05:34]—“When was the last time you updated your resume when you weren’t looking for a job?”
Weiner also matches words to pictures well and keeps both in sync with his structure. The sequence beginning at [04:54] demonstrates his ability to time his talk track and slides nicely.
What could he do better?
The structure is there — it’s the supporting words and pictures that are problematic. He’s fond of using large words and a well-structured argument. Using an everyman vocabulary and a story is more likely to inspire. He—and all counselors—could benefit from supplementing their rich vocabularies with more human and emotive words andswapping out the technical and functional ones. He could engage the audience more by sprinkling in more verbal seasoning—like the “no pressure Steve” comment, the only time during his speech when the audience chuckled.
By mixing in powerful and provocative visuals, for instance, pictures of the people he mentions in closing (the recent film school graduate who closed financing for her first film, the small business founder in Ireland who generates millions of dollars of business through the LinkedIn network), Weiner could create a more inspirational connection with his audience.
Find out what type of presenter you are. Think about how you use words, structureand pictures to capture and relate your ideas. As Weiner says, we are the talent, and presentations can be a great tool to showcase our abilities.
Gavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.