Ever wondered how come bright ideas and brilliant inventions fail to get past the scrutiny of those tough-love business angels on BBC's Dragons' Den? It's because the entrepreneur/inventor lacks the personal credibility to persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash. Though it's unfashionable to admit it, first impressions do count. We do judge on appearances.
So my review of Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity's Life's a Pitch... should start with my first impressions. (Comments on the content can wait).
This book is a thing of beauty. A colleague and I were cooing over it this morning and trying to identify its design inspiration. She mentioned cook books (like the River Café Cook Book); I thought of art books published by Thames & Hudson (who also publish Wally Olins On Brand and Corporate Identity by the same author).
Why the fuss? Well, the medium is the message and a book on business presentations needs to be well presented if it's to make its case persuasively. And a book co-authored by 'design guru' Stephen Bayley will be judged by different standards from normal business or academic texts.
Besides, the purpose is made explicit in the book's subtitle: 'How to be businesslike with your emotional life and emotional with your business life'. The point is that in business generally, and in universities universally, we emphasise left-side-of-brain reason over right-side emotion and intuition. By doing so, we miss a few tricks.
Bayley's co-author Roger Mavity is an adman turned business executive. Each writes a book within the book - Mavity on how to prepare for a business presentation; Bayley on history, philosophy, stuff...
Mavity's advice comes from a lifetime's experience. It's deep - but presented simply (again, this being the message). The correct structure for a presentation is boiled down to 'say what you're going to say; say it; say it again'. The approach should be based on storytelling using the 'problem-solution' formula.
'Great communication is simple communication', so start with the story: write the presentation first, he advises. Then be ruthless. 'Virtually every presentation suffers from having too much of what the speaker wants to say, rather than what the audience need to hear.'
Now to logic (left brain). 'Big business inevitably tends to be staffed by people who are frightened of risk, in a culture where the real power of ideas is neglected in favour of the apparent power of numbers. No wonder they give too much value to logic and not enough to passion.' Mavity recounts the story of when his intransigence (passion) won him business. He was lucky, though: he was the boss. (Big business tends to be staffed by people who are frightened of risk...)
This work of beauty is useful too. It has emotion and reason enough for me. I aim to return to Stephen Bayley's more philosophic 'book' in a subsequent post.