Episode 125: Rich Mulholland – Surprise and Delight: Hacking the Expectation Engine
Missing Link Founder Rich Mulholland joins the LinkedIn Whisperer Brynne Tillman to talk about how presenters can engage and activate their audiences.
Hear Rich talk about what making sales social means to him and how he has applied that definition to how he handles his clients so a pathway is paved for another customer.
Learn what bad presenters do wrong and what you can do instead to get that ovation. Rich also shares the mechanics behind the peak-end theory, where it’s not just about the content but also the delivery of your presentation. He also discusses the differences between presenting to a live audience and presenting on Zoom, as well as the importance of properly managing human attention.
Visit Rich’s website at getrich.af or learn more about his company at ineedmissinglink.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his Youtube channel getrich.af/YouTube for lessons and training. Lastly, add Rich to your LinkedIn network, his favorite among all social networks, through this link here.
Rich Mulholland 0:00
To make sales social, you have to be so impossible, so repeatable, that people want to talk about you after you’re gone. And our entire business has been built on that, you know, we had we bought a stretch limousine with flames down the side of it and we pick up our customers in the stretch limo and drive them to our office, and we have a tattoo studio, we had a tattoo studio built in and we tattooed our banking clients, and we made ourselves impossible to forget. And so our rule was always that our customers must leave our office and talk about us after dinner. We must transcend an office discussion. If people are only talking about their experience at work, you’re inside the same customer but if they’re talking about you at home, you get your pathway to another customer, and that for me is making sales social.
Bob Woods 0:44
Welcome to the Making Sales Social podcast, featuring the top voices in sales, marketing, and business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show.
Brynne Tillman 1:09
I am so excited about the guest that we have today. It’s Rich Mulholland, who is the founder of the Missing Link, which by the way, I think is the greatest name for a company and the author of Here Be Dragons, which is very exciting. But he is going to talk to us today about how presenters can engage and activate their audiences. Rich, welcome to Making Sales Social.
Rich Mulholland 1:36
Thank you so much, Brynne. Really appreciate you having me.
Brynne Tillman 1:39
I think this is going to be so much fun. Tell everyone a little bit about you.
Rich Mulholland 1:43
Alright, well, I’ll start by telling why I started a presentation company. So let’s go a little bit further back. I’m a Scottish-born South African. I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, I moved when I was nine to South Africa. And I’m a rock and roll fan. I’m a punk rock at heights. And when I left school, I became a roadie and I used to tour with rock bands. And we didn’t have work in winter because South Africans don’t like going to concerts when it’s cold, which I think is hilarious being from Scotland, it’s always cold. And so I started doing corporate work. And I went to my boss, I said, “Hey, we can sell to conferences.” And what I quickly realized is that good presentations, it doesn’t matter how good the lighting and sound and AV is. If the presenter was crap, it was crap. That was it. And I was fixing the wrong problem. And it’s funny, there’s a myth about, you know, people always say, do what you love, chase your passion, do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And I didn’t do that. 25 years ago, I started a business based on what I hated. And I hated bad presentations. And I thought somebody has to do something to make it better. So that was when I was 22. I’m 47 now and I’m still trying to make people suck less in public. And it’s still difficult, because people still don’t want to be better presenters, and it kills me.
Brynne Tillman 2:55
Well, I’m excited to dive into that and we are going to dive into that. But before we do we ask all of our guests one question, which is what does making sales social mean to you?
Rich Mulholland 3:07
That’s interesting? You know, for me, in the hierarchy of a presentation is what action is greater than what’s repeated is greater than what’s remembered is greater than what’s recited. And for me, it’s this repeated bit. So you know, for example, I trained a lot of professional speakers, and I hate to say it, but I’ve never had to do too much sales, because the job is to make sales social, you have to be so impossible, so repeatable, that people want to talk about you after you’re gone. And our entire business has been built on that, you know, we had we bought a stretch limousine with flames down the side of it, and we pick up our customers in the stretch limo and drive them to our office. And we have a tattoo studio, we had a tattoo studio built in and we tattooed our banking clients, and we made ourselves impossible to forget. And so our rule was always that our customers must leave our office and talk about us after dinner. We must transcend an office discussion. If people are only talking about their experience at work, you’re inside the same customer. But if they are talking about you at home, you get your pathway to another customer. And that for me is making sales social.
Brynne Tillman 4:13
That’s fabulous. I love that. Now we’re going to go back and dive into kind of your specialty. I’m going to start by asking you what do bad presenters do wrong?
Rich Mulholland 4:24
Okay, so there’s many, many ways that you can mess up a presentation, but there’s a few things. So the first thing is that they don’t prepare or they prepare the wrong thing. So they spend more time on their slides in their slide deck than they do on their narrative. For me it’s very, very simple, your ovation is earned in the preparation and not the presentation.
So you write a good talk before you design it, before you deliver it. And I’m not saying you have to write every word, I’m saying you have to write the basic structure and flow, and that flow should be intentional. For me it’s very simple. You give them a reason to care, then you give them a reason to believe, then you tell them what they need to know, and then you tell them what they need to do. But just to show up and throw up based on what you put in your slides at the time you were designing them is a terrible approach and it will almost guarantee to make you uninteresting.
And then the last, the next thing is, is that they think that the presentation is about them. It’s not. In Here Be Dragons, I say you’re not trying to tell your story, you’re trying to sell your audience a story in which you now play a part. People don’t care about you. There are two stories in business, you isn’t the one that matters, and the one that matters is theirs. And you have to sell them that new story. And that’s the job from a stage, not to tell your own unless you happen to be some motivational speaker.
Brynne Tillman 5:41
Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. So mistakes that people are making is, number one, they’re telling their story. (Rich: I believe so.) Yeah. Another one. Is there anything like they read off of slides? Right, that it’s all slides?
Rich Mulholland 5:54
Well, no, I, first of all, so I think that a mistake people make is that they don’t read their slide. So I think it’s a terrible bit of advice to give somebody — it’s a standard advice, if you read any presentation, (unintelligible) says, don’t read your slides. Absolutely terrible advice. Always read your slides, however, have very little to read on those slides. So if you’re presenting the document and reading your slides with (unintelligible) going through line after line after line after line, that’s a terrible idea. But if you have a small, let’s say you were bringing up a great quotation, you know, what my frustration is when somebody clicks through, so they get their clicker and they click through to the next slide, and then something comes up for your audience to read but the speaker carries on speaking. This is like trying to read a book and watch television at the same time. What you have to do is you’ve got to control your audience’s attention. So what I want to do is lead up to that moment and I’ll get and I’ll say, you know, there was a great line by Duke Ellington, as he famously said, click, we don’t need time, what we need is a deadline. And then when I turn back to my audience, there’s nothing left for them to read on the screen. They now know what I said there. Now I can contextualize it. So what does that mean to you? Well, it means this. So I believe that any form of text that comes on will be read immediately by your audience. Therefore, it should be read immediately by you.
Brynne Tillman 7:17
I love that. Love that. Okay. So, question on the preparation — should you prepare like it’s a TEDx talk where you’ve memorized every word that you’re going to say? Or is more authentic flow better? Or does it matter on the person?
Rich Mulholland 7:31
No, I think that you shouldn’t, I, if we’re, unless you’re an expert at (unintelligible) delivery, generally speaking, preparing, like for a TEDx talk where you have every word and you have to kind of prepare most of your transitions there, just because you’re so time constrained. And it’s got to be so perfect. But actually, generally speaking, that’s not what we tell people to prepare. What we tell them to work on is their segues. The most important thing that you can missdial in is how you get from concept A to concept B, concept B to concept C, concept C to concept D. And so if you know your transitions, if you know your segues from getting from this point that I just raised about, you’re getting them so we don’t need time, what we need is a deadline. But what does that mean day to day? How do you bring that into your everyday life? Well, you have to have a daily system, click, in which deadlines are important. How can we impose deadlines on a day-to-day basis? So you want to know where your narrative structures and how you’re getting from point A to point B. And why that’s so important is what it means is, as a presenter, is when you might get invited to speak at a summit one day and you’re delivering a 20-minute version of your trademark talk and that’s fantastic. But then the next day, you’re invited, and they’ve given you 45 minutes. Now, instead of creating lots of content, I mean, you may want to add in a few extra slides but often what happens is if you just know your links, you can go deeper on little stories inside those links without changing too much of the format and structure of your talk. So you can maybe let this one little cool story you tell go a little bit longer, but if you’re in a shorter environment, then you don’t. But the way I would prepare always is start off with post-it notes, get your ideas out there. Rate them about how important they are and how interesting they are. Because if something is unimportant and uninteresting, it should be out and then work out how much time it takes to deliver and build from there.
Brynne Tillman 9:25
Wow, amazing. I love that. So tell me a little bit about what it takes to get people to talk about you after the presentation. What do you need to do to get them to continue to talk about you?
Rich Mulholland 9:35
You got to surprise and delight. So everybody comes with an expectation engine and your job is to hack that expectation engine. People think it’s about exceeding expectations but I don’t think that’s enough. If you go to, and I tell the story, I went to a five-star hotel and I got this incredible service. But because I don’t have you know, I, my expectation that a five-star hotel is five-star service. If I get that, I don’t come home. Now if they exceed that, if they give me slightly fluffier pillows, I still don’t, you know, talk about it when I come home. But if they do something that I perceived that wasn’t their job, something that surprised and delighted me, you know, like, there’s one great story aboutit when I was at the Four Seasons about this guy who gave me an impromptu swimming lesson just because he saw me swimming in a pool. I didn’t pay for that. That’s something that’s not their job and that was something that I would talk about.
Now, that’s the same in delivering a presentation is, it’s not just about your content, it’s also about your delivery. So people will often remember that one little moment, it’s actually called peak-end theory. So they remember the emotional peak of your presentation and the ending. So I make sure that I pack my core messaging near the end so they remember that, and I make sure that I have a high emotional spike and peak. And it might be something arbitrary that I’ve worked in just because it’s a really good crowd pleaser. And people come up to you guys later and say, “Oh, my God, I remembered seeing you speak you were the guy who told that stupid story about the ninja drip.” And it’s so silly, because it’s not the message, but I’m remembered. And they remember that joy. And that’s where they recommend when they want somebody for their next big conference. You’ve got to have a surprise and delight moment in your talk. Well, as a professional speaker.
Brynne Tillman 11:14
Yeah, yeah. I love that. So what’s the difference now that so much of our speaking is online between when I’m on the stage with hundreds of people or I’m in Zoom with hundreds of people? How do you teach that or adapt that.
Rich Mulholland 11:30
The first realization for me was that something fundamentally changed. When I’m presenting to a live audience, I’m trying to hold their attention but when I was presenting to a Zoom audience, I was trying to interrupt their distraction. So that’s a different thing. My assumption when I’m presenting online is that I’ve lost my audience. So I have to bring them back in. So how do I do that? I will telegraph a lot more. So I might say something like, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, in the next slide that I’m about to show, will sum up, there’s going to be three rules on this slide. And I can tell you, if you just do one of those slides, one of those rules, it will change this in your life.” And then what happens is they’re checking their email and they’re off to the side. Now they’re thinking, “Oh, this next slide is coming up as important.” So they change back and they come back to me here and then I show them that, then I show them that content, and I share with it. So I tell them often, I telegraph to them when they should come back in, and then I will also draw on them from time to time. So I will ask them more questions. I tend to be more, I’ll ask more questions in a Zoom audience. And I’ll also give them permission to engage at the beginning. So in the beginning, I asked a very soft question. So we’re going to all be chatting. The “where are you based” is usually a very, very good one. And I’ll share some little anecdotes of I’ve been there. But then I’ve given them permission to engage. And I say to them, “Everybody, I’ve got my chat screen open right here.” I am watching and if somebody says something, I draw on it. And I say, “Oh, thank you so much, Brynne, that’s amazing. I’m so, yes, that’s exactly my point.” And then I’ll talk about it so that other people start wanting to engage.
This management of human attention is different. The one is just about making sure that your narrative is dialed in to keep the audience, you know, they will dip and ebb and flow, but you want to keep them up there with you. In Zoom the distraction’s too high. So it’s about interrupting their distraction. Assume you’ve lost them and win them back.
Brynne Tillman 13:25
I love that. I never came at it that way. A lot of times, when I’m presenting, I’ll say, “If you agree with this, put a “1” in chat. If you’re like No, not for me, put a “2” in chat,” like I’ll do a lot of that. But I never came from a perspective of they’re distracted and you’re right, they are. Do you ever, as a presenter, request that everybody turn on video or do you let them just be who they are and choose what they want to do?
Rich Mulholland 13:51
In facilitation, we have a strict cameras on. So if I’m facilitating, if it’s a group of people when we’re doing facilitation, and I actually mean, there’s been times it was one customer where they weren’t (unintelligible), I said, “Guys, we don’t need your money here. We need to solve a problem and I can do it like this. This is like me arriving in your office and you’re all facing the wall. So I’m going to cancel this now.” And the CEO messaged me, “I’m sorry. Please come back and do it again.”
But in an audience, I will say to them that it’s a lot nicer. And I will definitely ask them. I say, “Everyone, this is very, very (unintelligible) and seeing your faces up here. There’s Julie, hey, and there’s you know, Steve, thank you so much for being here. It’s so nice to see you. Any of you who are willing, if you turn on your cameras, I promise you it will make you feel like you’re present and will make you less likely to get distracted. And if you’re less distracted, you get more value. Because your participation isn’t required today, your attention is and it’s easier for you to pay attention with your cameras on.”
So I’ll make a plea like that at the beginning and I’ll try to make a logical emotional plea, and then a bunch of cameras come on. Thereafter, in the past when I started, I was trying to bully people into doing it. And then I thought, ooh, all I’m doing is alienating my audience, and if I’m begging them and doing that, so I make one big plea, and then I don’t think about it again. And then what happens is throughout the presentation, some cameras will come on. And then when we go into the interactive Q&A session, I will make one more request there and say, “For Q&A, it’d be easier if y’all turn your cameras on so I know who’s still out there.” And then I usually get more people then.
Brynne Tillman 15:20
I love that. There are different kinds of presenters. There’s the keynote speaker and there’s the trainer. And then you know, so what’s the difference in the way that they deliver based on kind of the role that they’re playing?
Rich Mulholland 15:34
So our trainers and our presentation training, deliver like keynote speakers. So we have a core belief that you should be delivering as the best version of yourself. It’s, I’ve got a video on my YouTube channel coming out next week, and it’s on Toastmasters and why sometimes I don’t enjoy some Toastmasters speakers. I think the organization is phenomenal and I recommend it, but I find that they all come across a bit like, “Hi, ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Today, I’m gonna talk to you about…” and it feels very rehearsed and overdone.
Whereas we want, and I think, you know, if there was a departure point for presenting for who your persona needs to be when you’re on stage, the visualization I want you to do is I want you to imagine the last time we were at a dinner party, and you had all your friends around — the people you’re comfortable with, could be family, and you were telling a story, I want you to remember a time you were telling a story (unintelligible), it’s a fun story, you remember how you feel, and that storytelling, you were explaining what happened and then Uncle Mike came in and did this, and everybody’s gone in and you’re going… That’s what you got to be onstage. It’s you but louder. It’s the best version of yourself. What you don’t want to be — because imagine showing up to that family gathering and saying, “Guys, I gotta tell you the story. It’s about Uncle Mike. It was hilarious. It was a cool, dark night and (crosstalk)
Brynne Tillman 16:53
You’re right. (Rich: What?)
Rich Mulholland 16:55
Nobody wants that. And nobody wants that in the stage. They feel like you’re acting. And that triggers their authenticity detectors…
Brynne Tillman 17:03
Which is a TED talk, actually. Right. So because the TED Talk, they’re all performances, right? So that’s interesting.
Rich Mulholland 17:11
The one important thing, so we obviously use a lot of TED talks when we’re teaching because they’re short and compact and readily available. The problem is the mandate of a TED talk is to be watched. It is, TED is kind of like Netflix. It’s an entertainment channel. And yes, there’s educational components for it but TED Talks don’t often, (unintelligible) like at the end of a TED talk, they wouldn’t give you a traditional call to action, or, you know, they don’t often do that. And we must be careful when we mirror ourselves too much like TED talks, because the mandate for you presenting a new marketing report to your team or even a keynote speaker presenting to a group of executives, is very different to the mandate when I — I’ve done four TEDx talks and one TED Talk and my mandate there was just to be watched more. That’s it. And you know, you want to share an idea that you think is meaningful, but everything is wrong, this one, they must think that I am clever. Whereas (crosstalk) the other presentation I give, they must do something differently.
Brynne Tillman 18:09
Interesting. One of the things you said that I just want to reiterate because I really liked that is your trainers train as if they’re keynotes. And so the training becomes so much more entertaining and so much more engaging. And that’s part of what you do is like activate audiences, right, like, and so…
Rich Mulholland 18:28
Completely. You know, my book, my second book is called Boredom Slayer. And the reason it’s called that isn’t about being wacky and crazy, it’s that audiences are bored. And boredom is the enemy of retention. If I am bored, my brain disengages. I go into, you know that and you’ll know what I mean when I say it, that submarine mode — you’re staring, they’re speaking but you’ve kind of gone inside your own brain, and you’re thinking about a tweet you read yesterday, and they become like, Charlie Brown’s school teacher, if you remember that, (unintelligible). And so what happens, has to happen is you have to slay that boredom. If your audience is bored, it doesn’t matter because a lot of times people say, “Oh, but I’ve got to present this content. It’s boring.” I said, “No, you don’t have to present anything.” Your audience has to take something away and your audience can take away anything that they’re bored listening to. So you’ve got to be able to learn to deliver it in an engaging way. There is no boring content. There’s only content delivered, engaging, potentially engaging content delivered in a boring way.
Brynne Tillman 19:27
I love this. This was absolutely brilliant, Rich. So if our listeners are out there going, “Boy, I want to be a better presenter.” How do they connect with you?
Rich Mulholland 19:37
Well, there’s a number of different ways. You’re very welcome to reach out to my personal website that’s getrich.af that will take you to my name and surname so you don’t have to spell it, and also because I like the cheeky domain. And you’re also, you’re welcome to go to Ineedmissinglink — if you want to learn about the business — .com and learn a bit about the company and the programs that we have there. And definitely if you, if I could make a cheeky ask, I’m really trying to grow the lessons and training that I’m doing on YouTube, so definitely, you know, getrich.af/YouTube pop over there. Feel free to engage and chat to me on the channel there I answer every comment, and I would love to get the conversation going. And then lastly, LinkedIn is always a great place. I’m very active there. It’s my favorite of all social networks.
Brynne Tillman 20:18
Awesome. Oh, we’ll put all those links in our listen notes, but, and I encourage, folks, reach out to Rich, buy his book, and watch his YouTube channel. Make sure you Subscribe, don’t just watch and be a lurker. Engage, so he knows (crosstalk) (Rich: Thank you.). Thank you so much. This has been incredibly valuable. For everyone listening when you’re out and about don’t forget to make your sales social.
Bob Woods 20:45
Thanks for watching and join us again for more special guest instructors bringing you marketing, sales training, and social selling strategy that will set you apart. Hit the Subscribe button below to get the latest episodes from the Making Sales Social podcast. Give this video a thumbs up and comment down below on what you want to hear from us next. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Visit our website SocialSalesLink.com for more information.