This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Don Berk, Top International Communications Consultant and Speaker Coach. Don provides his tips on speaking, stage fright, graphics and media, collaborative style, Q&A plus career lessons.
Don Berk is a communications consultant with an outstanding track record lecturing, coaching, writing, consulting, and implementing spoken, graphic, and multimedia communication strategies. His clients include world-class companies in information technology, pharmaceutical, health, consumer packaged goods, publishing, and other industries. He also leads communication seminars and workshops, and coaches business speakers and other public figures. Don is often called on to kick off initiatives, facilitate groups, plan off-sites, and bring people together to work toward a common goal regardless of their individual agendas.
Don honed his skills as founder, writer, producer, and director of his own video production companies in New York and Connecticut, where he created videos for such companies as IBM, GE, the Red Cross, Deloitte & Touche, Young & Rubicam, PaineWebber, Procter & Gamble, Amgen, Centocor, and the US Army, among others. The common thread in all these videos was the engaging on-camera performances of each company's spokespersons. He refined his coaching skills during seven years as creative director at Gartner, the world's leading IT research and advisory firm, and during more recent stints directing communications for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Don currently consults with a variety of companies.
Outside work, Don serves as councilperson for Doylestown Borough in Pennsylvania, chairs both its Personnel and Environment & Recreation Committees, is liaison to the local Environment Advisory Council, and is president-elect of the Bucks County Boroughs Association. Don is a committed fund raiser for various causes, is a ride leader with the Central Bucks Bicycle Club, and was a nationally ranked squash player. He received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Franklin & Marshall College and his M.A. in painting and video from New York University.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Don, can you discuss your prior roles and the key lessons that you wish to pass on?
"....I've taken the 'scenic route', I've had a lot of prior roles...Lessons:...Honour the process....Be open....Be in the moment, be very present....See the person....Listen and find consensus...."
In your prior roles, what were the most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
"....I didn't really understand it at the time but later I came to understand that there are five kinds of decision makers: charismatics, skeptics, thinkers, followers, and controllers....Now when I present something I always look to see what motivates that decision maker so that I can give him or her what they need...."
What was the key disruptive force driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
"....Doubt about career direction....You don't have blinders on, trust your instincts, don't let yourself be what other people think you should be, because each of us is a work in progress...."
In each of your current roles, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
"....Coaching speakers, the biggest challenge is probably the overcoming the fear (and we all know about the fear of public speaking), but there's also even the fear of learning to speak well....I have to make it fun and get them to enjoy themselves because it opens them up to learning as well. The goal is to make the speaker's message matter. Overcoming that fear is a challenge but not a hard one...."
What are the most important traits of an effective speaker?
"....Attitude....Once you're relaxed and enjoying yourself, the audience is going to follow suit and they will be open to receiving what you are saying...."
How should one handle Stage Fright?
"....Stage Fright is not all bad....I work with the people in four ways to control that. The first way is physical (deep breathing)....The second way is intellectual (remind yourself why are you the speaker)....Third way is emotional....These are guidelines - they have to work for you....One more thing that I find works very effectively is to list your assets...."
What are the best ways to use Graphics and Media in a presentation?
"....75% of our information comes to us visually, so a graphic is going to help an audience to remember things....One of the guidelines here is 'less is more' because the audience is going to read what is put up on the screen....Never use 3 dimensions to illustrate 2 dimensions because it obscures your point....Media - the first rule there is be relevant...."
Can you comment on using a collaborative style in speaking?
"....Two sides to collaboration. You can collaborate with the audience. That involves asking questions of the audience or have them ask questions of you. That is good at keeping the audience involved in your presentation.....Collaborate with a presenting partner. The most important rule is when your partner is speaking, you want to be still and pay attention because physical movement is going to trump sound every time...."
What is the best way to handle Q&A?
"....I think it is much easier to talk with an audience than to talk to an audience. It helps the audience pay attention as well....Speak to the whole audience, not just to the person asking the question...."
With your extensive experience working with the top leaders globally and driving their success, what is your advice for "handling time constraints"?
"....The guideline is practice. Practice with a watch, know where you should be at all times so you have a sense of how flow is going....Use great material, you have to keep it timely....If you are still running late, be prepared to skim over some materials that may be obvious or easily understood. (This would go into the construction of the presentation)....It's very important to be able to start and end on time. Don't feel you have to put in everything that you know. You want to leave them wanting more...."
You choose the areas--provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....The biggest trend that we are going to see is more and more interactivity....Visuals are going to become more sophisticated and more interactive....Holographic instead of video on stage...."
Which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....'5 Paths to Persuasion: The Art of Selling your Message' by Miller and Williams....Watch and study the speakers who you admire and who resonate with you...."
Don shares his views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession and how it could improve the IT industry. [http://www.IPThree.org].
From his many roles Don has great opportunities to engage with people from all over the world. He shares several interesting (amazing, unexpected, amusing) stories from his many experiences.
If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....'What is the most important part of the presentation?'....'How do you keep it from being another boring lecture, what do you do to spice things up?'...."