How to Get Billions of Dollars for Nothing

Bill Gates – founder of Microsoft. The “on-again-off–again” the richest man in the world.

Today his mission is to make the world better. He’s no longer in charge of daily operations at Microsoft, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t busy.

Over the last few years Gates has been looking into humanity issues. He’s done research, sought donations and has given presentations around the world.

In this Ted Talk, Gates discusses state budgets and spending in the USA.

First Impressions of Bill Gates, The Speaker

Bill Gates does not have the best presentation skills.

Early in this presentation he stumbles on some words. There are a few “ahs” and “ums”. But if you’ve been following here on Executive Speaking you know that those things don’t really have an affect unless they are extreme.

It’s also difficult on the surface to first accept Bill Gates.

He’s worth billions. Chances are the people in the audience assume he’s on a different level in intellect and hierarchy than they are, but Gates overcomes this first impression, which we’ll discuss later.

Another first impression of Gates is that he’s a nerd. It’s not a nice term, but it’s human nature to judge people based on our experiences. A common assumption is that Gates is like the science nerd we knew from our young days in school.

The nerd label is another impression Gates has to overcome.

The point here is that when we all first get in front of audiences there are first impressions. Some are better than others, but we all have to overcome them.

Make Your Point Early

Gates does something great at the very beginning of his presentation.

First, he lightens the mood by saying he’s going to talk about a boring topic: State Budgets.

But from there he says that it’s an important topic. He feels it’s something to care about. He believes in what he’s talking about and that makes others want to believe too.

Bill makes the point that state budgets are broken. That leads you to believe he will provide reason for this and a way to fix it.

It’s Not About You

Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.

People aren’t going to feel bad for him even if he is speaking about a good cause. He’s not going to convince people to do something for him.

Gates knows this.

To make his presentation persuasive, he makes the topic of the presentation the future and the world adults will leave for the next generation.

That’s something everyone in the audience can get behind.

When giving a presentation remember that it’s not about you. Make it about something the people in the audience cares about: themselves, their kids, society, etc.

Visuals Need to Be Simple

Gates uses some interesting pie charts. He shows how the spending and income form a deficit for all the states in total in the USA.

Charts are fine, but they are tricky to use.

In Gates’ case the charts work just okay. There is a little confusion understanding the deficit part.

Presentations happen relatively quickly. The audience doesn’t have time to examine complex charts.

If you’re going to use charts make it simple otherwise they’ll have no impact and might even hurt the presentation overall.

Respect The Audience

It would be easy for Gates to come off as “above” his audience. He’s one of the most successful people in the world. The temptation has to be there.

But throughout the presentation Gates respects the intellect of his audience. He doesn’t mention numbers or make points with a condescending tone. He talks as if he’s simply the messenger of the information. He knows the audience will understand.

This is important.

While you want to keep your visuals and other items simple you need to respect the audience. It’s a mental preparation before each of your presentations.

Find a Common Enemy

Gates does something when he’s explaining the problem with state budgets that is a classic persuasion technique.

He finds a common enemy.

Remember, Gates is different from those in the audience. He has more money. He has experienced more success in some ways.

But in other ways he’s the same.

Gates shares that the common enemy for both himself and the audience is the state governments. Specifically it’s the politicians and the system.

That is something the audience can get behind. Hate or dislike can bring people together in pursuit of a common goal.

It’s not something you have to use all the time, but it does motivate people and get them to be a great team.

Present The Problems First

For more than half the presentation Gates presents the problem: State Budgets.

The budgets are getting out of control and the wrong things are getting cut: Education.

He makes his case well. He uses charts and numbers and the audience is on board.

Gates probably goes a little overboard with the selling of the issue. After a few minutes you’re on board with what the problem is.

It’s probably good to offer too much evidence of the problem than too little, but finding the balance is key.

From here Gates can go into the solution.

Presenting The Solution and Getting People On Board

Nearly eight minutes into the presentation Gates gets into the solution.

He talks about technology and knowledge. He uses and example of his own website and how he’ll use it to get the information out there for people to see.

That’s important because people want to know that you’re going to be part of this effort. It’s hard to get people to do things. It’s harder when you aren’t going to put forth effort yourself.

Offer Something Unique and Different

What Gates is presenting is really nothing new. People in the USA have been hearing about deficits for a decade. They’ve also heard the usual solutions.

Gates does something interesting with his proposed solution.

He suggests focusing on the courageous politicians that are calling out bad accounting principles.

Instead of focusing only on the negative, Gates focuses on a positive. This is different than what people are used to hearing.

This technique is an attention getter. It’s an example of good presentation skills.

When you’re presenting an issue at your organisation it’s important to offer solutions that make sense, but that are also refreshingly different.

You can take the same solution and make it positive instead of negative the ways Gates did with the politicians.

People like positive things. They don’t always want to hear about the negative things in the world. We get sick of it after a while and we tune it out.

Be positive. Be different.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is contagious.

At the very end of the presentation Gates is optimistic. For the entire presentation he’s been negative. Again, he probably focuses too much on the problem and not enough on the solution.

Be optimistic without distorting reality.

You’ll persuade more people if you’re optimistic about the topic you’re discussing. You can always take an idea or a concept and make it seem realistic while also being positive.

Final Thoughts

Bill Gates does not have the best presentation skills. He struggles with being monotone and there are first impressions about him that make it difficult when he’s presenting. He has probably had presentation skills training yet he still has his struggles like anyone else.

He overcomes this with a pretty good structure, though. In this example he was able to present an issue he cared about and get people interested.

That was his goal and he accomplished it.

You can do the same thing in your organisation.

It’s all about selling your ideas and leading the team to success.

Start with practice and presentation skills training.

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