“Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.”
-Tom Hagen, the Godfather’s consigliore
Well in our boundless affinity for Mario Puzo’s trilogy, we’ve found that the Don’s wisdom reaches all the way into the world of presentation consulting!
It seems as though sometimes, the best advice comes from where you least expect it. Though he may not be a presentation expert, here are 4 lessons Don Corleone can teach you about making an offer your audience can’t refuse, which can be applied immediately to any corporate presentation:
- Have a clear message and tangible vision. Michael Corleone makes it clear that he has a plan to evolve his illicit family dealings into a completely legal and officially recognized business. In the beginning of the second film, Michael describes this dream to Kay, his wife, claiming how “in 5 years our [his] family business will be completely legitimate.” While he never achieves this goal, the Don pushes himself and those around him in its direction throughout the three films. It’s crucial to make clear to the people you work with, or want to work with, what your goals are (quantify everything), what you want for your company in the short and long term, and what your overarching focus is on. If your presentation can say all of this, and leave your audience on the same page as you are and earn the respect and approval you deserve.
- Know your competition. “Never let anyone outside the family know what you are thinking.” Michael Corleone, and practically every mobster shown in the trilogy seems to know that competition in any industry is tough, and one has to think and act a very specific way in order to come out on top (or alive). Vito Corleone educates us about competition in saying, “never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.” While presenting, it is actually a good tactic to use your competition to show how you’re different or better than they are. Don’t blatantly insult or undermine them, simply come up with rational and objective facts that support your reasoning.
- You’re always building your community. The Godfather is recognized for knowing not only how to do a favor, but how to ask for others to repay it. He shows us that community building and networking is a 24/7 job. Business can be made anywhere from a conference room to a birthday party, to even a flight to San Francisco. With that in mind, use your presentation to reel in new friends into your family. Know who you’re speaking in front of, what interests they might have, and most importantly, show them what unique qualities you can offer them. Also, don’t be afraid or too lazy to do a favor. After all, you might even get lucky enough to repeat Marlon Brando’s iconic statement: “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”
- Show decisiveness. The Godfather is both loved and feared for his decisive, and sometimes ruthless, character. Both Vito and Michael knew that protecting their family, and expanding their influence was necessary for survival and success. When circumstance called for it, both Vito and Michael were willing to kill or die for what they believed in. While you may not have to kill anyone to prove your point, it’s imperative to think logically and act quickly. Specifically to your presentation, if you’re asked a question, know the answer! Anticipate everything by practicing a lot and in front of varied audiences. Hesitation leads to regret. Additionally, don’t come off as ambiguous in any aspect of the content you present. Know your position.
While I don’t endorse crime or the mafia, it would be foolish to oversee the valuable lessons they share, applicable to all presentation designers. And finally, always remember, “Great men aren’t born great, they grow great.”