Embracing Marketing Mistakes

How to "suck less" at public speaking at conferences - Rich Mulholland

May 14, 2024 Prohibition PR Season 1 Episode 33
How to "suck less" at public speaking at conferences - Rich Mulholland
Embracing Marketing Mistakes
More Info
Embracing Marketing Mistakes
How to "suck less" at public speaking at conferences - Rich Mulholland
May 14, 2024 Season 1 Episode 33
Prohibition PR

Have you ever wondered if the secret to captivating an audience is hidden in the art of jiu-jitsu? Join us as Richard Mulholland, a wizard in public speaking, reveals how to bridge the gap between speaker and listener with expert storytelling techniques. From his initial plunge from the music industry into the marketing world, Richard shares the insights that have made him a sought-after communication strategist. His tales of closing an office and moving his family to the Isle of Man blend professional evolution with personal adventure, offering a unique perspective on adapting to the changing tides of business and life.

Step into the public speaking arena with a fresh set of tools as we dissect the anatomy of a powerful presentation. Richard, the founder of Missing Link, exposes the common misconception that flashy visuals are the backbone of a successful talk. Instead, he advocates for crafting a narrative that challenges and engages your audience, prioritizing their interests to leave a lasting impact. Discover how this approach can elevate your stage presence, refine your personal brand, and grow your business in unexpected ways.

The digital domain demands a new level of engagement, and this episode equips you with strategies to capture and maintain your virtual audience's attention. Richard walks us through the importance of dynamic delivery and visual storytelling in online presentations, sharing anecdotes about the trials and triumphs of adapting to a remote work environment. As we wrap up, the show extends an invitation for listener participation, encouraging a shared journey through the peaks and valleys of the marketing landscape. Don't miss this opportunity to transform the way you present, engage, and connect—Richard Mulholland is here to guide you every step of the way.

Follow Rich: LinkedIn

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

Follow Chris Norton:
X
TikTok
LinkedIn

Follow Will Ockenden:
X
LinkedIn

Follow The Show:
X
TikTok
YouTube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered if the secret to captivating an audience is hidden in the art of jiu-jitsu? Join us as Richard Mulholland, a wizard in public speaking, reveals how to bridge the gap between speaker and listener with expert storytelling techniques. From his initial plunge from the music industry into the marketing world, Richard shares the insights that have made him a sought-after communication strategist. His tales of closing an office and moving his family to the Isle of Man blend professional evolution with personal adventure, offering a unique perspective on adapting to the changing tides of business and life.

Step into the public speaking arena with a fresh set of tools as we dissect the anatomy of a powerful presentation. Richard, the founder of Missing Link, exposes the common misconception that flashy visuals are the backbone of a successful talk. Instead, he advocates for crafting a narrative that challenges and engages your audience, prioritizing their interests to leave a lasting impact. Discover how this approach can elevate your stage presence, refine your personal brand, and grow your business in unexpected ways.

The digital domain demands a new level of engagement, and this episode equips you with strategies to capture and maintain your virtual audience's attention. Richard walks us through the importance of dynamic delivery and visual storytelling in online presentations, sharing anecdotes about the trials and triumphs of adapting to a remote work environment. As we wrap up, the show extends an invitation for listener participation, encouraging a shared journey through the peaks and valleys of the marketing landscape. Don't miss this opportunity to transform the way you present, engage, and connect—Richard Mulholland is here to guide you every step of the way.

Follow Rich: LinkedIn

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

Follow Chris Norton:
X
TikTok
LinkedIn

Follow Will Ockenden:
X
LinkedIn

Follow The Show:
X
TikTok
YouTube

Chris Norton:

Welcome to Socially Unacceptable. From F***ups to Fame, the marketing podcast that celebrates the professional mishaps, mistakes and misjudgments, while delivering valuable marketing and life lessons in the time it takes you to eat your lunch.

Rich Mulholland:

That's not true in online presenting. In online presenting, you're not just trying to hold their attention, you're now trying to interrupt their distraction.

Chris Norton:

Do you believe in full office, hybrid office or totally remote?

Rich Mulholland:

I would start with a clubhouse. I would start with a place where people could come at certain times in order to work together. I think there's a fundamental flaw in the way we think about co-working. What we have to do is we have to figure out why do we get people to care? So the first step in a presentation is you have to fill your audience's gas tank their give a shit tank and the way you do that is you open with clarity and curiosity, and a counter narrative is a fantastic way to get people to think.

Chris Norton:

OK, I know what we're talking about, but Hi everybody, welcome back to Socially Unacceptable. This week we've got a very special guest all the way from South Africa close brackets not South Africa, actually the Isle of man, because he moved last month Richard Mulholland. Richard is the founder of Missing Link and this is how he describes himself helping presenters suck less since 1997, online or in person and Richard tells a fascinating story about how to present more effectively internally, online and in a keynote speech. He's got some interesting metaphors that he goes through and some fascinating stories, and he even takes us through the time when he decided to close his office and what that meant for his business. So sit back, relax and have a listen about how you can present in any scenario. Hi everybody, welcome to Socially Unacceptable. Today's guest is Rich Mulholland, joining us all the way from sunny South Africa. Is that right, rich?

Rich Mulholland:

No, from rainy Douglas Castle Town in the Isle of man.

Chris Norton:

Oh, really. Oh, I'll do that again.

Rich Mulholland:

But I can be South African if you want.

Chris Norton:

But he said Cape Town, south africa, on my brief, okay uh, that as of a month ago oh, so new that's uh.

Will Ockenden:

Is that a breaking exclusive on the show yeah, yeah, I missed your weather oh god, that's an interesting story within itself.

Chris Norton:

why have you? Why have you moved from cape town, which is one of my favorite places on the planet, to, uh, the isle of man, which is very different in terms of climate?

Rich Mulholland:

Yes, cape Town is absolutely, and remains, one of my favorite places on the planet. But the short answer is we wanted adventure, we wanted to do something different and we want to have some degree of future proofing for my kids.

Will Ockenden:

Ok, shall we start by you telling us a little bit about your background? So you've probably got a slightly more unusual and convoluted route to becoming a kind of a marketer or a thought leader than a lot of people. So do you want to tell us about how, where you started and where you are now? I think that's quite an interesting story.

Rich Mulholland:

Yeah, so I'll go through. You guys stop and interrupt me at any given point. I started out after school. I knew that I wanted to start a business. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I fell into by a complete fluke.

Rich Mulholland:

Uh, depeche mode came to south africa and I wanted to work on them. I wanted to. At the time, you know, when I was growing up, I really loved the band and I wanted to go and, you know, do anything. And I said to my dad, who had contacts in the industry. I said, listen, I will lick the stage clean for free. Just, you know, whatever it takes, I want to work on this, on this, on this tour. That would have been 1993.

Rich Mulholland:

So I went out and my dad, who worked in audio, uh, he said to me do you want to be part of the sound crew? I thought, oh, let me try something different. So I went to lighting and I became a stagehand. I very quickly. Uh, the next week aha came and I I got involved in that one as well. And then brian adams came and I was quite lucky that I negotiated.

Rich Mulholland:

Usually when you were a stagehand you only worked at one gig, and so I negotiated that I would give my full fee, uh, to the truck driver if I could sneak into his truck and drive from location to location. I just wanted to make myself, you know, a force, and so the truck driver said yes, and then the best thing that ever happened to me happened was that the truck broke down. So the truck broke down, and luckily I was able to go and contact the rest of the crew and get onto them, and I was there to try and help repack the truck. When we got a replacement, I arrived at the Cape Town event as a bit of a conquering hero and was promptly offered a job by the owner of the lightning company, and so I started off there. That was. That was point number one. I don't know if you want me to stop there or if you want to carry on well, okay, I'm fast forward a little bit.

Will Ockenden:

So music industry what happened next and how did you end up where you were, where you are today?

Rich Mulholland:

the biggest problem with the music industry in south africa is people don't go to concerts when it's cold. Now, I'm originally from scotland. If we didn't go to concerts when the weather was shit, there would be no concerts ever. And uh, so I I kind of in the season I'd go and I did scaffolding work and I worked in broadcast. But I was frustrated. So I went back to my boss and at the time we were the largest single supplier of staging gear on the planet outside of the band U2. And I went to him and said this is ridiculous, that we don't have work in winter. I said the two markets that I saw that did winter work the one was the corporate markets and the other was the ravers, because if you were off your face and drugs you didn't feel the cold. So I, I built a division that kind of went and serviced both of those.

Rich Mulholland:

But I very quickly discovered a a truth, and the truth was when we did the conference work, I would go to these, these ceos, and I'd say to them you know, we're going to make you look amazing, like a rock star, blah, blah, for your conference. And you think these people wouldn't care about that. But of course they did, and so they would say yes. And what we very quickly realized is it didn't matter how much lights and sound and staging and av they had if their presentations or as a speaker, if they were bad, it was bad. And on the flip side, you get these ones that said I don't need anything fancy, just get me a microphone and maybe a screen. And then they had the audience enthralled for hours.

Rich Mulholland:

And I was 22 years old, I thought I'm the cure for the wrong disease, and for six months I was a moonlighter and I started a small little business on the side called Missing Link. So we would sell the conferences and then Missing Link would go in and we would help do the presentations and within six months we had five employees. I realized that this was something that we needed to do, and that was 27 years ago. And here we are.

Chris Norton:

So now if you've got somebody who's like working in marketing, who's got a decent job, they're in house, they work for a multi million pound organization, they're comfortable in their role and they get asked to speak at a conference and they've been to conferences, but they just don't know how to tell an interesting story. What's the sort of advice that you give to someone? How do you start that process?

Rich Mulholland:

Well, the first thing to realize is that a marketer that can communicate and this sounds like a moot point, but it's not a marketer that can communicate effectively always has an unfair advantage over a marketer that can't. So once we get people to understand that, we realize that when they do get invited to speak in an industry event, if you can, as a marketer, get invited to speak in an industry event, it is really an opportunity for you to shine. The bad news is that a lot of people think that they have to have these incredible skills in order to do it. The good news is you don't. The good news is you just have to understand the narrative structures to make for a good talk. And it is so easy to learn that that if you have a good you've all seen I mean, you guys have been to lots of conferences you get these.

Rich Mulholland:

Some people are the blowhards. They get onto stage and they are amazing. They are loud and charismatic and amazing, and at the end of it you think that was brilliant, but I have no idea what that person said. And then you get those other speakers and they're not refined, they're not eloquent, and yet you find yourself leaning in the whole time listening to them and you're willing to do the mental work because it's so interesting and it blows your mind. Those are speakers that follow a system. So the marketer that understands the narrative structures that will make for a persuasive presentation will always be able to learn the skills that they require later. The first job is to put your hand up to get those gigs. That is, without a doubt, the first day. Those gigs that is, without a doubt, the first day if I was a youngster. When I speak to youngsters, the first thing is I would always say to them is if there's an opportunity for you to stand and speak, take it and then figure out what you're going to say later it's great advice.

Will Ockenden:

So speaking at an event is a big deal for a lot of a lot of people, particularly if you're starting your career. So how do they prepare? You know what's? What's the kind of essential preparation they need to do to to smash it on stage the most important thing.

Rich Mulholland:

So we work with a lot of professional speakers as well, and a lot of people will come to me and say to me, I've got a great story that I want to tell. And I have to break the bad news to them and say but nobody cares about your story, right, they care about it, for I am literally in the minds of your audience, who are listening right now in their movie. I'm an extra, you are extras and I'm extras of yours, right? I'm so unimportant. My personal story is so unimportant to them insofar as it hasn't yet interrupted what they perceive their future story to be okay. So my job is to to figure, not to tell my story, but to tell them the key point, my core hypothesis.

Rich Mulholland:

So the first thing I always say to people when they want to talk is I ask them what is your counter-narrative? And the reason I start with that is that everybody has an opinion. I always look if you're saying, if somebody comes to me and says to me I want to chat about the importance of personal purpose, I'll be like well, why? You know we've all we've. We've seen that movie. You know simon sinek has done that a hundred times.

Rich Mulholland:

But if somebody came to me and said to me I believe that we've been thinking about purpose completely the wrong way. In fact, I think the personal purpose is a flaw, an absolute flaw, and we should not be thinking about it at all. Incidentallyidentally, that is what I believe, but that's another point. But there we've got a counter-narrative and there we've got a point of curiosity. What we have to do is we have to figure out why do we get people to care? So the first step in a presentation is you have to fill your audience's gas tank, their give-a-shit tank, and the way you do that is you open, with clarity and curiosity, and a counter-narrative is a fantastic way to get people to think. Okay, I know what we're talking about, but you just begged a question, and the number one thing that I would push for anybody who wanted to present would be what is the idea that exists inside your audience's mind that you're willing to challenge?

Will Ockenden:

And you should go out there. You should boldly establish your position and that will hook in the audience and immediately I like that phrase they feel they give a shit tank. So that's your first job, is it To really kind of hook them in?

Rich Mulholland:

If you want to go into detail later I'll take you through. There's a four-step narrative structure that we believe that everybody should follow. Whether it's you're pitching your marketing idea to a client, right, if you're an agency and you're pitching to a client we do a lot of uh pitch work for agencies this structure makes perfect. This is the structure that makes sense because it starts by filling their gas tank and then what do we do?

Rich Mulholland:

okay. So let's go through that. And well, let me first go back to the other question, which was uh, chris asked about the duration. The idea is and this is because and the reason I wanted to address that here is it's very, very important to the tank size. So let's say I wanted to chat to you.

Rich Mulholland:

Let's say, um, you, you were offering a you know a talk to me on the top 10 mistakes people moving to a new country make. That makes them have a bad time Immediately. Boom right, my gas tank is full. I've moved with my family two weeks, three days ago, and now I've got a very, very big tank and so I'm willing to listen to you lecture for an hour until that tank goes empty, because you're going to share with me that knowledge. So that might be an hour-long keynote. Let's say, on the flip side, you said to me I want to chat to you about two cool techniques that you can use to amplify your digital marketing campaign. I have a staff member that does that. That might not be my job, I'm interested, but you might get a 10-minute tank from me for that. So the key thing to do is to figure out how important your topic is, how much you imagine your audience would need to hear it, and that's all dependent on how far you fill it at the beginning of the speech. Your job, your talk duration should always be less than your tank size.

Rich Mulholland:

And think about this, guys, because I'm sure you've been there a hundred times. You've had the speaker that you really enjoyed, but then by the end of it you're like, oh, like, oh god, is this guy never going to shut up? And it's like too much of a good thing. It's like it's like a dessert that's too large. On the flip side, you've had these other speakers that they come onto stage and then they walk off and you're like, honestly, I could have listened to that person speak the whole day. And the idea is the the second person left your gas tank a little bit full. There's still curiosity. You're still on the hook. The other person literally drained it. So the the answer to the question and I apologize, is a convoluted answer, but the answer to the question is less time than you want to take what you think you need and try finish 10 minutes below before that, or, you know, if it's a shorter talk, 10 before that so that underlines the importance of understanding your audience, doesn't it?

Will Ockenden:

Which is a theme we've covered before. So if you are speaking at a conference, you really need to get a sense of who the audience is, what their challenges are, what their level of sophistication is. All that side of it becomes really important, doesn't it?

Rich Mulholland:

Yeah, but it's impossible. So it's one of the counter narratives we would challenge. People say to me, uh, you know. People always say, uh, when I'm I'm a member of the presentation guild and various other organizations like this, and people say, know your audience?

Rich Mulholland:

I say, oh, amazing, how? Because I've spoken in 43 countries around the world. Like, how am I supposed to do that? You know, I can know a few things about them. I can understand the context in which they were gathered. So what?

Rich Mulholland:

The commonplace, the shared context is, uh, I was just doing an event for or I just briefed an hour ago for an event for an organization called ypo. These are all uh, ceos and business owners, uh, of organizations that do a turnover of 10 million dollars and plus, and that's all I know about them. But one of them might be an absolute conservative CEO of a bank and the other might be an absolute gung-ho entrepreneur who's just started a business and is going gangbusters. They're not the same person. So I have to create the commonplace. My job is to define the common areas that they care about so that I make them my audience.

Rich Mulholland:

One of the mistakes that speakers make is they try to they figure out. Oh, I'm speaking to a group of bankers. So then, oh, I'm doing a talk to bankers. G'day ladies and gentlemen, hello, hi, my name is Richard Mulholland and it's wonderful to be here today. But, like every banker, they went to university and had crazy parties, and you know, in fact, the higher up you go up the corporate cycle, the more crazy their conferences get. After 10 pm, that's a good quote.

Rich Mulholland:

This is a universal truth. They are all, and everybody treats them like they're conservative, but they're all batshit crazy. So what I try to do is to create that commonplace up front for my audience. And I'm getting into too many, I don't want to mix my metaphors, but if we get to it we'll talk about the idea of the dragon, and the dragon is the problem you're uniquely placed to solve. And job number two is to help your audience solve the problem. Job number one is to make sure they see it. Most times you get on stage, your audience doesn't think they need to hear what you're talking about. The beginning of your talk is to make them care.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, create the curiosity and keep them curious right till the end. That's what we're saying when the guests Clarity, curiosity, absolutely. Okay.

Will Ockenden:

How important are stage skills then? When you see top chief execs or top speakers on stage, you see people cracking jokes, walking around, engaging with individual members of the audience.

Chris Norton:

You see them walking around, are they crazy?

Will Ockenden:

Great, great. I know you could try it sometime. Chris, that side of kind of stage skills is that important. You know great body language, those kind of those kind of things, or where does that rank in the hierarchy of important factors?

Rich Mulholland:

stagecraft is what you're saying lower, lower than you'd think, and what I mean by that is uh, if somebody sends you an email and they make terrible mistakes in that email, you might notice, like shit man, they've not capitalized proper nouns and they're spelling badly, that's glaringly bad. But if they send you an absolutely acceptable email with decent language, you're not thinking, oh my God, it's Hemingway here, but it's okay, you don't notice. People have been oversold, based on the Moravian myth, the idea that all of these body language things must be great, just as a starting point, don't be bad, okay. So if you're not sure, if you are, and in fact, nothing is worse for me than and I respect the organization toastmasters, but you know this, this over overcooked. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. There are three things that we want to say to you today.

Rich Mulholland:

Exit stage, left Ladies. I'm like, oh, come on, settle down. And everything is a big gesture and a flair. You're like, oh, bro, you're trying too hard. It's like an actor acting like a professional speaker. Audiences have these authenticity detectors and they can spot it a mile away.

Rich Mulholland:

So if you are not comfortable yet, find a position that you're comfortable in. It could even be behind the lectern and deliver a talk to. People want to listen to and make sure your content is fantastic. As you get more comfortable with your content, then you know venture off, maybe engage with the audience a bit. If you ever see me speak, I have a I pace when I'm in story and I pause when I'm making a point. So I train my audience that anytime I stop and stand and face them, they know the good stuff's coming and then I'll usually segue and click over to a slide. That's a big, big one, right as I'm doing that. But public speaking is a sport that you can only practice in public, so don't overthink this. If you're doing your first talk, only thing you should care about is your comfort uh, your content, because all comfort on stage comes from you believing in your content. Everything else is in service of that.

Will Ockenden:

So you must have seen some disasters on stage in in your years um you know coaching people. Have you seen any chief execs completely bottle it or do anything absolutely horrific? That's just had you wincing without naming any names, of course, why not?

Rich Mulholland:

yeah, many times in fact. There's nothing better than seeing a speaker bomb when they're before you, right every time. If I'm about to go on stage and the guy before me bombs, I'm like oh yes, does that not?

Chris Norton:

does that not scare you, though, that somebody's getting ripped into if they're presenting, and then you're going next? You think, shit, I've got to go out there now they're not getting ripped into, they're just.

Rich Mulholland:

You can just see the you know let's. Let's be honest. I work in corporate presentations. For goodness sake, right. I go speak at marching conferences and events and things like this. We're not. We're not in the united nations, although we do do political work. I certainly don't speak at political conferences and the stakes are high. But for me, I know that I've come on to be the professional speaker and I'm going to bring a level up and I would never worry because I'm confident enough in what I'm going to do.

Rich Mulholland:

It's the same as imagine you, you have a meal that every time you make it's absolutely amazing and the person who cooks the starter you're on the main course the person who cooks the starter does a terrible job. If they do a bad job with the starter, it doesn't make you worry about the quality of your main. It's their bad starter that was bad. Now here's the best news, like the best news for me, for all of us, is that the acceptable standard for presenting is so unbelievably low. That's good news for me, except yeah, yeah, like. If the acceptable standard for swimming was the same as the acceptable standard for speaking in public, you would drown.

Chris Norton:

Like that's a good quote as well, yeah so I mean that's that's true.

Will Ockenden:

I mean you do sometimes go to conferences and and some of the speakers just aren't comfortable. I mean they get through it, but it's a bit awkward and a bit clumsy to work.

Chris Norton:

You're right, you've got different levels of speaker, you've got your keynotes and they're usually pretty good and quite well trained the weather you know, and I do. I do think sometimes because one of the questions I've got is on the amount of content you have in your content. So the best speakers that I've seen don't hardly use any words in on their slides, um, and they've got an interesting story to tell and it's quite motivational and they, yeah, they tie it all together, like you say, with a narrative, um, whereas the people that just get up there and go and slide number two and then, as you can see from slide number two over here on the right, it's like, oh God, I'm back at university. So I get your point. You're more the first one, right, you're more the telling the story, tying the narrative together. Is that fair?

Rich Mulholland:

Yes, and actually I believe that 90% of people should be more that way. We confuse every time that PowerPoint is there that that means it's a presentation. What PowerPoint generally acts as in most business meetings is a document that we've put, that we've knocked over sideways and we've projected onto a screen. So we were working through. I see you both have notes there. Let's pretend that I have the notes as well, Instead of us all looking at our notes together.

Rich Mulholland:

What I'm going to do, just to make it a bit easier, I'm going to put a camera above those notes and I'm going to project them on the screen so we can all see them there. That's what most presentations are. They're collective document reviews. We call those docu decks. Those are fine to have text on them, and sometimes if I'm sitting with a client taking through a detailed plan of how their conference is going to look or their campaign is going to look if it was a marketer obviously we do need to go through those things, but actually we're just reviewing a document together, but the moment you're on a stage is very, very different and the amount of information that you can actually effectively deliver is significantly less.

Rich Mulholland:

So let's start with an agreed definition of what a presentation is and then we can decide if we share this. I'll take you through why I think our structure could really help people. For me, a presentation is very simple. It is the delivery of a message in order to evoke an emotion that will achieve a desired result. The message is in service of the emotion and it's the emotion that will drive the action or the result. Where are we in an agreement of that, or do you have any questions around it?

Will Ockenden:

Sounds sensible.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, you're using emotion to drive a result, okay.

Rich Mulholland:

Right, because human beings are, you know, we, we, we like to tell ourselves that we're rational animals, but we're not. We're emotional animals that verify past decisions with, uh, rationality. So we, we do post-hoc rationalization we make. And this is this is why marketing is so powerful, because it appeals to the emotional of the individual. They go and buy that purchase and later on, in the time it takes Amazon to deliver it, they've justified why it's a good idea. So, with that being said, there's actually not so much you're trying to do. All you're trying to do with your talk is get an audience to take a specific action or a series of actions, and, in fact, a keynote can't get people to commit to do something for six months, but it can get them to do a first action that will make them want to be on the path to being better. So, for me, a structure is very, very simple At the beginning of a talk. Maybe now I'll take you through the four basic steps and we can go into detail later on.

Rich Mulholland:

Step number one is you have to give your audience a reason to believe, a reason to care. Step number one give your audience a reason to believe, a reason to care. Step number one give your audience a reason to care. That's fill their gas tank. They give a shit tank Once they care and this is very emotional. In classical rhetoric we would call this pathos You've really, really appealed to them that they want something. Then step number two is to give them a reason to believe. Now, why should they trust me and or my research with regards to the thing I've just told them they should care about?

Rich Mulholland:

Once you've got to that, we're going to step number three, which is tell them what they need to know. And for us, we would always say basically, pick three things. We care about this topic. That personal purpose is a bad thing. We've been sold on the river by personal purpose. The research I've done on this topic is X. Here are the three things I need you to think about A, B and C, and here's the last step.

Rich Mulholland:

Tell them what they need to do is the single thing I need you to do as a result of being a human who now knows this. Give them a reason to care, give them a reason to believe. Tell them what they need to know. Tell them what they need to do Now. Throughout that, I'm only making a very few small points, but we're on stage for 45 minutes or 20 minutes, so the rest of the time I am smuggling that information in wrapped in a narrative and a story, and we can break down what stories really are and how we can sometimes use them too often. But that's where the job of stories comes in. If you emotionally tie into it, you just need an image to remember it. You don't need text. However, sometimes I use text on my slides when I specifically want somebody to have that information at hand and they take a photograph of it and away they go yeah interesting.

Will Ockenden:

So why don't you define what you mean by story? I think storytelling is is a term marketers bandy around endlessly, isn't it? So what do we mean by incorporating a story? I think storytelling is, is is a term marketers bandy around endlessly, isn't it? So what do we mean by incorporating a story into a presentation?

Rich Mulholland:

okay, so let's, let's think about what we're trying to do with the story here, right? Uh, for me it's very simple. I don't know if either of you guys do jiu-jitsu yeah, hi, yeah okay, so I do jiu-jitsu. I'm like uh, uh, you know, like I'm an evangelist and one of the things I'm quite a short guy and one of the things I'm quite a short guy and one of the things in jiu-jitsu is a distance management.

Rich Mulholland:

So if I'm up against a person who's really, really, really tall, well, I want to make sure that I can close the distance on them quickly and get into my fighting location. If I'm against somebody shorter, I might want to keep them at a distance until I'm ready to attack. This would be true for jiu-jitsu, it would be true for most martial arts generally. You know, distance management is important. All a story is all a story is in the commercial sense is a tool for effective distance management. That's it. Commercial sense is a tool for effective distance management. That's it. So let's imagine we wanted to talk about a subject and we were talking about effective ways to run more effective agencies for argument's sake, right? Well, I've got a problem here is that we all it's hard to read the label from inside the bottle and everybody in the audience, they know what it takes to run an effective agency. So I need to distance. So I'm going to say I'm going to tell you about a story about a very, very different kind of company, a company that actually works in the agriculture industry. I want to explain to you some of the unique challenges they have and blah blah. I take you through that story. Then, when you get through that story, you're like, oh wow, that makes, oh my, that makes perfect sense. And then I say, okay, grab, pull. Why is this any different to where we are today? Yes, we're not in agriculture, but we do. We have customers that need this. Yes, do we have this? Do we have that? Do we have that? Absolutely so. Why then is it x? And the audience is like, wow. Now the audience has to do the heavy lifting to explain to themselves why that's not the case, because they already agree it in an area that they're emotionally uninvested from. The flip side is. I might want to have to explain something to you that's very complex. So I want to chat to you guys about the importance of, um, yeah, neurolinguistic programming, or let's even go something bigger.

Rich Mulholland:

I saw J Craig Fenter, the guy who mapped the human genome, speak at TED and he wants to explain about mapping the human genome, and the problem is that he can go into all this detail but if you're not a brain doctor, you wouldn't understand it. So he has to turn around and say, okay, you're too far away. Let me try and help you with this. I want you to imagine you're driving down a freeway and you're driving and there's lots of cars coming towards you, but there's also all these off ramps.

Rich Mulholland:

And I want you to imagine when you turn off this off ramp and then he would go through and explain something and then you're like, oh my god, so this is the off ramps and that's that. He's brought you closer. And then he said, well, pushes away. That's all it is. In mapping the human genome, we have to connect the cars with the things with that. So that's the most important thing to understand about storytelling is the story is not in service of itself, it is to do. It is there to fulfill a distance management purpose is that?

Will Ockenden:

yeah, yeah, that's interesting, that's a yeah, that's a really interesting take on it. That's that's, that's, um, and that take on it. That makes sense.

Chris Norton:

So how do people work with you then? So does someone come to you and say, let's say, you know the PRCA, drop me. Or Will a message and say, as the host of Socially Inacceptable, can you come down and speak at the PRCA conference? You've got to do a 20-minute keynote and we go, okay, we'll do that Shit. What are we going to talk about? Um, is that when somebody comes to you and you help working with them, or or how, how does your process work?

Rich Mulholland:

yes, um, I mean, I guess I would take a broader view than that, because I wouldn't want you to wait to react. I would argue, I would say to you up front say, well, hold on a second. As marketers we need to employ or some you know we need to never, or some you know we need to never trust a skinny chef, and if you're an individual trying to market yourself, the best thing that you can do is to put yourself out there, and the way to do that is to actually have a stage marketing strategy as part of what it is you do, because every time I it's crazy, right? I've run my business for 27 years and I'm going to. It sounds like silly and braggy. It's not meant to be. This is just a reality of our business.

Rich Mulholland:

But I've spoken, as I mentioned, in 43 countries on six continents. Now I get paid to speak, but I'm not. I don't do talks in order to get paid for my talk. I do talks in order to get paid from my talk. The speaking fee that I get is nice, but that's not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because in that talk, at the end of that talk, my audience now think about the problem that they have in a fundamentally different way and they're going to engage with us to say, okay, I need some of this and that's where we go downstream.

Rich Mulholland:

So if you came to me, I would say to you well, hold on a second, let's try to think about what is your overarching strategy for how you can use public speaking and presenting in such a way to really really put yourself out there and build your own brand and profile. For that I would direct you to our storage stage speaking program. But you might come to us and say to us I've got a really, really big pitch. We're trying to win X account, the incumbent is so-and-so. We believe our unfair advantage is X. Can you help us put together the pitch? And then we would just work as the outsiders trying to help you read the label from outside the bottle.

Will Ockenden:

And should everybody be doing this, every kind of corporation, I mean? If you look at kind of traditional thought leadership programs, you get chief executives doing media interviews or senior people doing media interviews, being very active on social media. I think a lot of people don't look at real-world events in this way, do they? Is this? Is this another kind of tactic all companies should be doing?

Rich Mulholland:

well. So I start with the core premise. The difference between a leader and a manager is their ability to communicate. A manager is somebody who has you know, I am your manager, I can ask you to do something and you have to do it because I'm managing.

Rich Mulholland:

A leader is somebody who says something and other people say I want to do that, I want to follow this person, and if you, you know, we Google a list of managers, you're going to find a bunch of people with, like, cheesy handshakes and stuff like this, in bad suits. But if you Google a list of leaders, you'll find a bunch of people standing behind a lectern or a podium with their fist in the air. And so I believe that, at some level, every organization should have a spokesperson, somebody who is out there evangelizing their core hypothesis, their UPS, the unique problem only they can solve. That's what all of us should be trying to do. We should be trying to convince them. We shouldn't be trying to build our brand. We should be trying to build the brand of the dragon, that we are unique in helping our audience slay.

Chris Norton:

And that's the thing. Everybody's sat here at home now thinking, or in the gym, or wherever they're listening to this podcast, thinking what's the dragon that I've got that I need solving, aren't they?

Rich Mulholland:

Well, right. So your customer is facing a problem. One of the biggest mistakes that I think most people make is they do a really, really good job of selling the category. So let's say I come from South Africa, let's say I sold air conditioning units. I could turn around and say to you well, it's really bloody hot. Aren't you upset that it's so hot? And don't you wish that you could sleep better at night and have a nice cool breeze blowing over you? And I'd be like, yes, I do so.

Rich Mulholland:

You needed, you know, richard's air conditioner. The problem is you now agree that you need an air conditioner, but now it's a five-horse race me along with four other air conditioning suppliers. But what if I turned around and said to you have you ever been to a hotel? I know that you need the air conditioner and you want to cool down. We get that. But have you ever been to a hotel room and they've got that air conditioning on?

Rich Mulholland:

You wake up in the middle of the night and your throat feels so dry and your eyes feel dry just from that cold air blowing on you. And also, have you ever been working in an environment and that air conditioner noise is just going over loud and loud and loud. Well, what we've done is we've actually used two proprietary technologies. One, we use a special form of blimping to create an extremely silent air conditioner so it doesn't disturb your sleep at all. In fact, we've worked with audio engineers to make sure the noise is white noise that actually allows you to sleep better. And the second thing we've done is we've created a humidifier that we built into the air conditioning so that actually, instead of drying out your throat, it actually helps to, you know, make you feel I don't want to say the word moist, but you know, here we are.

Rich Mulholland:

But now, now, what happens is we're no longer caring about cold air. That's what everybody does. We're caring, we don't care about that. What you now care about, your gas tank is full for dry eyes and noise. So now it's a two-horse race me versus the rest of the other four. I didn't sell you my air conditioner. I sold you the problem that my air conditioner is the only one that can solve. If you believe you live in a world in which you have that problem, you now need me.

Chris Norton:

I mean I'm all in for some air conditioning.

Will Ockenden:

Yeah, we need some air conditioning, we need some air conditioning.

Rich Mulholland:

You've. I mean, I'm all in for some air conditioning. We need some air con. You've convinced me.

Chris Norton:

Your air con sounds amazing with vanilla scent so we asked everybody on this show what's the biggest fuck up they've got in their career and what have they learnt from it. So what have you got Rich being a brilliant, brilliant storyteller and presenter, I'm sure you've got no fuck ups, right.

Rich Mulholland:

Oh yeah, absolutely none. It's actually been a breeze. Life is so easy. Yeah, I mean, the problem is, of course, that there's too many to list.

Rich Mulholland:

One of the biggest problems, one of the biggest mistakes I've made and let me bring it back to what I was going to say to you but because I am quite an eloquent storyteller, I don't just sell audience, I sell myself. So one of the biggest challenges facing people who are good at telling stories and persuading other people is that they actually are often very, very eloquent and simultaneously incorrect. Are often very, very eloquent and simultaneously incorrect. But because I'm able to frame my argument in such a way that it's convincing to other people, I end up convincing myself, and I've made some really, really silly mistakes. A big one for us was after lockdown. So during lockdown, we have a presentation company. We did terribly. We went to revenue zero straight away, but actually by the end of the year, by August, we'd had our best month in 18 months with no live events, and September was our best month, and at the time, I think it was our 24-year history, and the reason was that everybody who thought they were great at presenting agreed that they were terrible at presenting online. Overnight, we started picking up lots and lots of international customers and we bet the farm on the fact that we could do all business online, everything. But then what happened? And I was so convinced of this and I was appearing on podcasts and shows and advocating the idea that we should never go back to the office again, never do any of these things, and had convinced myself so much. But then what happened is, slowly but surely, people did want to start interacting again. They did go back to things. I was still doing lots of online keynotes, as opposed to traveling halfway around the world to do them and in fact, we never reopened our office, which I mean. We had such a. We had such a cool thing going we gave away free sex toys to all the ladies and they could take them in the. It was proving the O in Prezzo in our ladies' toilets. We had a shooting range. We had so much going on and we kept it all closed because we thought that we were smarter and better than that and it was such a fuck up. I had no idea.

Rich Mulholland:

When you do a branding exercise and, let's be honest, that's all of our office was right. Our office was a campaign People always thought oh, you're doing it for your staff. The novelty of cool offices wears off for people working in those offices. After a month you know then it's just work, it's actually for the other people. But sometimes what happens is you create a brand position in the market. But sometimes what happens is you create a brand position in the market, you take it so much for granted that you forget that it is effective. You then move away from that brand position and only then do you see the fallout of it, which was our word of mouth engine. Effectively ended. That word of mouth engine people going home and talking about their experience at our office overnight ended. And then we had to start doing much more reaching out to people and selling. It was insane. It cost us an absolute fortune. In fact I would argue it nearly cost us the business.

Will Ockenden:

Why did you not reopen the office or had that ship sailed?

Rich Mulholland:

So two things. One, we gave our staff the chance to work from a distributed location, so we had even people in the same city worked hours away from each other. You know very, very far. We had staff in joburg, in cape town, for a while, in durban we have in milton keynes I'm out in isle of man. Where is the core? Second of all, people become quite um used to, you know, getting up late and working there, and so it became hard to convince. And third of all, by the become quite used to, you know, getting up late and working there, and so it became hard to convince. And third of all, by the time it got to the point where we needed to rebuild another big, massively exciting conversation where the location for our clients and staff to come to. By this point I didn't have the margin and profits to make it. So now I was stuck in this catch 22 that we had to start from a product level again and build up yeah, that sounds challenging.

Chris Norton:

I think we've all been through the covid pandemic scenario, where we we've met a lot of people that have had problems from that period, from online entrepreneurs that have lost millions as well. So, yeah, I mean it was, it was a tough period, but you did well to come out of there, focusing on online presentations. I think that's a nice to use the 2020 term pivot, wasn't it?

Rich Mulholland:

Yeah, it was a very real need. Everybody knew that they weren't good at presenting that way. The challenge is knowing when to. I guess that every time you pivot, sometimes it's just a swinging door and you need to understand that the door you didn't pass through it, the door is still going to swing back and I didn't really anticipate that fast enough as a leader and I made some mistakes that probably had too many late nights. You know I definitely caused too much stress and late nights for my management team.

Chris Norton:

So if you had, if you started again today, rich from from the ground up, would you start with an office? Do you believe in full office, hybrid office or, yeah, totally remote?

Rich Mulholland:

I would start with a clubhouse. I would start with a place where people could come at certain times in order to work together. I think there's a fundamental flaw in the way we think about co-working. So the promise made by co-working spaces like WeWork is and you've all been pitched this right Come together and there's going to be this amazing sense of community and you're all going to chat and we're all going to become friends and help grow each other's businesses, and none of it happens.

Rich Mulholland:

In fact, it's like going to the library. You arrive there, you put in your earbuds and you have a Zoom call with your library voice Hi, yeah, thanks so much. Um, yes, fantastic, really exciting, and everyone behaves. There's no music and there's no vibe. They're selling you all of this, or some of the space, a small little corner of space all of the time. You know what I want. I want all of the space.

Rich Mulholland:

Some of the time, I want to find, I want to create a space. Let's say, we build a core space in Johannesburg and it's going to be the best office and it's going to be good for like 20 to 30 people and it's going to have a really, really good environment and it's going to have lighting and TVs and screens and a whole bunch of really really good podcast studio, a YouTube studio, all kinds of things that you would want in an office, and on a monday if you walk in that door, the screens say missing link. The colors are in our colors, the playlist is our spotify playlist, the videos playing uh, punk rock and skateboards and the that we like. But then the next day when somebody else walks in, it says their company name on it and their things and I think that I don't understand why we've not been thinking about co-working this way. We should be.

Rich Mulholland:

I should be able to go to four other design company or agency owners and saying you want your staff together for one or two days a week and we all want to work in a cool space. But why have this empty space and why overcapitalize? Why don't we collectively build one amazing space that, with a flick of a switch, can change and be ours for the days that we're working in it? That's the days I plan the client meetings at the office. That's the day as I do my surprise and delight or my lunch and learns. That's what I want to do.

Chris Norton:

That's my vision. It sounds like you're going to launch swap space in april 2024.

Will Ockenden:

To me, or not, unless someone else gets there first. Now that you've given that great idea, welcome to swap space.

Chris Norton:

That's the you've just. You've just created a whole new concept.

Rich Mulholland:

I think guys let's not fuck around. Somebody registered that domain, right now we're doing this yeah, this was not. This was actually a. This was actually just a brainstorm around a new business plan yeah I love it. Swap space. I mean that should be the name space.

Chris Norton:

It's cool. Now, there we go you.

Will Ockenden:

You mentioned you know I mean this idea of Teams and Zoom, and everyone still does. You know, we still pitch on Teams, we have client meetings. What mistakes are people still making when it comes to communication, when doing it remotely in that way? What do you see all the time?

Rich Mulholland:

Well, there's a few problems, right. The first problem is we've got to rejigger thinking when we present online. I did a talk actually yesterday, um, for a company online as I turn to people in the audience. When I'm presenting to an audience in person, right, it's all I'm trying to do is to hold your attention, and every now and then you're going to kind of like go into submarine mode where you're looking at me but actually you're thinking about you know dinner and you can see that. You can see people that like, uh, I've just got every now and then we call them typewriter moments, like when you typing, and then every now and then you go to the wing and get them back again.

Rich Mulholland:

That's not true in online presenting. In online presenting, you're not just trying to hold their attention, you're now trying to interrupt their distraction. The assumption in online presentation unless it's a group of people sitting in one boardroom right in front of you, the assumption, if they're all watching in Zoom or Teams is that at some point, somebody and this is all you see from your side somebody going, and then they'll do this, and then every now and then they'll do this at the wrong moment and you're like okay, bro, come back and you can see the light flickering in their eyes. Yeah, so how do we fix that? Well, there's a few things Bizarrely, and it's going to sound counterintuitive. We recommend doubling the amount of visual aids when presenting online, because the moments of change and then you must use terms you've got to give people reasons to come back. It's going to sound so stupid, but I promise you, when you try to work, guys, as I'm about to describe and show you in this next visual, if you're listening, if you're, because for the most of the time in an online presentation, we're acting like it's a podcast, we're doing something else and we're listening.

Rich Mulholland:

If I say this next visual is about to sum up something that you need to know immediately, you're like, oh, let me pop back and see what that next visual is. And then you turn around and say, as this image I'm showing you right now so well shows and I'm going to put this up for you to take a screenshot of, because you need to hear this blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and. And then boom, and then you control it back again and there's, there's ways that you can do it. Let me just see if I can also make a quick. Uh, maybe, oh no, I can't change my camera while I'm hot, but we also use different tools in order to have my content will share the screen with me. I will not share its screen with it, so I will not share a powerpoint deck. I will actually make sure that my content appears either here, full screen in front of me, or not there at all. So I am doing.

Rich Mulholland:

When you're presenting online, you're also the stage manager and you need to understand how you want to utilize that stage better. It's an easy, easy place to impress people, because everybody else does this. This is every other online presentation. Please welcome Richard Mulholland. Hi everyone, hi everyone, thank you so much.

Chris Norton:

Um, okay, I just want to just share my slides here um.

Chris Norton:

Can you guys see my?

Rich Mulholland:

slides. You see my slides? Yes, we can see your slides. For goodness sake. Like this, you only have to be mildly less shit and everyone thinks you're amazing so the bar is low and it doesn't take a lot to do you stand up as well?

Chris Norton:

do you stand up when you're doing the online stuff? Because I get the feeling you do 100.

Rich Mulholland:

So the only reason I'm not standing up now I stand up for any stage performance, which and I, I believe, for you know, I talk about stage marketing. This is stage marketing. You have a stage and an audience and I am doing a presentation. I'm that it forms the same category. So I would normally always be standing up. The only reason why and I don't know if I'm able to show you, but I I moved into this office yesterday, uh, this particular office, and I'm basically sitting on borrowed desks and things and I put things together. Uh, I don't have my standing desk arrived yet, but, uh, I would always stand when I present. In fact, this is our number one principle stand and deliver.

Chris Norton:

Adam and Antz were right, great tip, great tip.

Will Ockenden:

Yeah, there's some real value in this session. I think it's kind of ebbed and flowed, but there's some real value for our listeners, I think. And I think most people will be listening to this, thinking God, I'm going to do things a bit differently tomorrow, particularly the kind of yeah yeah, absolutely where can people get in contact with you?

Chris Norton:

if they want to, you know, hire you for your services if they want to find me directly.

Rich Mulholland:

The short url I use is getrichaf, which I quite like. Uh, I already got me into trouble. I was speaking in um bahrain and they were like, why Afghanistan? And I was like, oh no, no, it means as fuck. But getrichaf will take you to richmulhollandcom, and then ineedmissinglinkcom will take you to our company site. And, as a small little additional tip, I realized this I did lots of podcasts and our company my surname is hard to spell m-u-l-h-o-l-l-a-n-d.

Rich Mulholland:

Like no one understands where the l's go, so get nextaf. That's easy for people to remember. And then we had our company url, which is so bad and now we're stuck with it and and it was because we got the twitter handle it's m-s-n-g-l-n-kcom. No one will ever get that right in the history of ever. My wife has to ask me what it is every single time and she just can't remember it. So we had to create if you appear in lots of podcasts we create, make a better, easier to remember URL. And that's why we got ineedmissinglinkcom, because it's very easy. That is a complete aside, but it was missing. Linkcom, because it's very easy. That is a complete aside, but it was worth mentioning no, it's good, I like it pro tip good story

Chris Norton:

yeah, it's a fuck up at the end, which is a hidden one I liked it.

Will Ockenden:

It's a nightmare that url. There's so much potential for misspelling isn't there?

Rich Mulholland:

it's, yeah, it's so bad, and we, just because the person somebody sniped missinglink from us which would us, which would have been the dream.

Chris Norton:

Well, thanks for coming on the show, Richard. That was great. I mean some fascinating insights. I might be in touch when I get a keynote speak, the next one that I've got to do. So yeah, I might be in touch, because it was a fascinating little framework there you've got.

Will Ockenden:

Yeah, that's brilliant. And one question we always ask everybody, Rich, is if we could have anybody else on the show, who would you recommend?

Rich Mulholland:

A friend of mine. I think he's one of the smartest marketers in the world. And he's not a marketer His name is Robbie Brosin. He's the founder of the restaurant chain Nando's. He's an incredible, incredible, incredible guy and when he talks about the journey of how Nando's and how they did and how they built it, it's really, really, really fascinating. It's one of the largest family I mean, it's a family-owned business still and where it came from, and he attributes marketing bravery and genius to being a massive part of this success. And it's interesting because one of the very, very amazing things that's relevant to me now building a new version of our business in the uk is that they recognized the very cheeky, very quirky, almost unpolitically correct way they launched nando's in south africa was very, very different for what they needed to launch in the uk, where almost had this kind of premium feel to and things like that. Uh, so, as robbie is such a wonderful guy and, um, if, if you can get him, he would be a fantastic guest on your show wow, he would be.

Will Ockenden:

He would be a great guest.

Chris Norton:

That was a good tip.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, thank you for that thank you for listening to socially unacceptable. Please remember to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a five-star review. Don't forget to follow us on social media on instagram, tiktok and linkedin at prohibition pr and twitter at socially ua. We would love to hear some of your career fuck-ups. We can share them on the show. For more information on the show, search prohibition pr in your search engine and click on podcasts. Until next time, please keep pushing the boundaries and embracing the socially unacceptable.

Marketing Podcast
Mastering Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
Mastering Public Speaking Techniques
Importance of Storytelling in Marketing
Rich's big Fuck Up
Challenges of Remote Work and Communication
Optimizing Online Presentation for Engagement
Guest Recommendation for Socially Unacceptable Podcast