My best friend is getting married in a few weeks, and I have the honor of being the best man. This is a first for me, so naturally, I am a bit nervous about the customary best man's speech. Now, I am no stranger to public speaking. It is actually something that I enjoy doing. That said, this is still a first for me.
For inspiration, I picked up The King's Speech from my local Redbox. It was a great movie and definitely worthy of the numerous awards and praise. Unfortunately, it did not give me much in ways of advice or inspiration for my upcoming best man's speech. In the end, the takeaway seemed to be: If you can overcome your inner fears, that were likely cemented in the depths of your mind when you were tormented by your older brother, mean nanny and overbearing father (who happened to be the King of England), then through the help of a friendly, yet firm, therapist, a lot of practice and some soothing classical music, you can overcome your fears of public speaking and successfully deliver one of the most significant speeches in history!
Fortunately, I was the oldest brother, was a product of daycare, and have a father that has been extremely supportive (who also happened to be a king ? of the lecture halls and research, a.k.a. a professor).
Unfortunately, I do not have a friendly therapist or much time for practice. In addition, I will need to give my speech in public versus being broadcasted from a private room with tapestry hanging from the walls and ceiling and soothing classical music playing in the background. In short, I had to search elsewhere for advice and inspiration.
As luck would have it this week, a colleague and friend of mine sent me a great article, titled "The Art of the Business Narrative," by Art Kleiner. The article profiled a book by Hollywood producer, director and entrepreneur Peter Guber titled, "Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph With the Hidden Power of Story," about the importance of storytelling when it comes to strategy. Guber's past successes include Batman, Flashdance, The Color Purple and Rain Man.
Some good takeaways from Kleiner's article include:
-- Understand the explicit purpose of the story you are telling. In business, this is typically to convey the value proposition of your proposal.
-- Know your audience--"Start by building relationships with your audience--your customers, your employees, whoever it is. Study who they are and what they care about. Then craft your story as if you are telling it to one person," Guber wrote.
-- Be transparent and explicit about your intentions from the start. "If there is a secret agenda, the other person will immediately pick up it and conclude that you are hiding something," Guber said.
-- Facts and figures are important, but you have to make your proposition memorable, to the point where people can both remember your story and repeat it to others
Storytelling is a tool that we us a lot in business. As we develop strategy or evaluate opportunities, we regularly ask ourselves, "So what's the story"--not to be cute, but rather as a test of both our logic and our ability to convince others to buy in and go along with us in whatever the given pursuit is.
We also use it as we evaluate uncertainties that face our business and strategies (a.k.a. risk management). For example, we regularly ask ourselves, "What are the different ways this important variable could play out, and what would the implications be from and enterprise value perspective."
It is almost like we are taking everything that we know about a given situation and using it to write a "choose-your-own-adventure" storybook, with different choices (decisions) and different outcomes on key uncertain variables. Our job is to then plot the value-optimizing path through the book.
Once we have done this, we should then be able to clearly articulate our story to our executives, our board, our employees and our shareholders, to earn their buy-in and confidence so they all can do their part in supporting our pursuit.
Guber's insights, much more so than The Kings Speech, gave me some inspiration and guidance for my best man's speech. It is now clear to me what I need to do and how I should go about constructing this important speech. At the core, I will be weaving together a series of short stories to share with my best friend, his beautiful bride, and 100 of their closest family and friends, leaving them with a proud and memorable story of how Aaron is such a good, caring and loving person. And how he will be an incredible husband to Kimberly.
He will take her to be his wife,
To have and to hold from this day forward,
For better or for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward until death do them part.
Please join me in raising our glasses to toast Aaron and Kimberly, wishing them a life full of stories about happiness, joy and, most importantly, love!
DAVID M. WONG is director of cross-asset strategy and planning at CME Group, the world's largest and most diverse derivatives exchange.
June 27, 2011
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