“I can’t stand Christmas music”—My Interview with Santa Claus

December 18th, 2019

My Interview with Santa ClausI recently had the chance to sit down with the CEO of one of the most successful organizations in the world—the big man himself, Santa Claus. It was a cool, fall day—before the craziness of fourth quarter set in, when St. Nick had a little time to spare. His legendary jolliness was on full display, and over a cup of hot cocoa, we had a great chat.

DC: You have so many names: Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Pere Noël, Pelznickel, Ded Moroz—how did you come by them?
SC: The names come from the different languages of various countries and the early stories they told about me. For most of my career, I’ve worked on the down low, and when people don’t understand something, they make up stories. And I wasn’t exactly leaving my business card at every stop, so they made up names for me as well.

DC: Which name do you prefer?
SC: I like them all! Really, I’m pretty easy going, so feel free to call me whatever you like.

DC: What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?
SC: The sheer joy on children’s faces when they unwrap their presents and when they play with their toys on Christmas morning. We record all those moments so we can watch them when I return from my deliveries. It’s just the best.

DC: What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
SC: Miracle on 34th Street. Followed closely by Die Hard.

DC: What’s your favorite Christmas song?
SC: I can’t stand Christmas music! It’s the same twelve songs over and over again. We actually don’t play it at the North Pole—not in the house, not in the workshop, not even in the reindeer stables.

DC: What kinds of music DO you like?
SC: I’m a big hip-hop fan. And acid jazz. I crank that up to 11. Mrs. Claus loves classic rock and Irish drinking songs. And the elves are all over the board.

DC: How has technology impacted your work?
SC: Not that much, really. We have a small tech department that handles e-mail and monitors social media, but that’s about it. Our behavior-monitoring and data-analysis efforts aren’t technology-based. The systems we set up in the beginning still work perfectly and are superior to anything employed by the world’s most advanced intelligence agencies. And they’re more reliable and secure as well. Let’s face it, I can’t afford to have a bunch of servers crash or have my data hacked.

DC: Are kids getting naughtier? Or nicer?
SC: Surprisingly, neither. I’ve been tracking global naughtiness for hundreds of years. And over that time, the JNI (Juvenile Naughtiness Index) has been nearly a constant. Sure, it may tic up or down a bit occasionally, but it invariably regresses to the mean.

DC: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?
SC: Children’s requests have gotten completely out of hand. Back in the day, kids would only ask for one present. And it was usually something simple: a baseball bat, a doll, a wagon. Now, kids have lists longer than real estate contracts! And of course they want the latest electronics and video games.

DC: Is there anything that annoys or frustrates you about Christmas?
SC: Yes, now that you mention it. A lot of times, parents will give their kids things like underwear, or electric toothbrushes, or educational materials, and write on the gift tag that it’s from me. And then the kids blame me for it. So parents, cut that out! In fact, if your kid’s been good, don’t give them things that are no fun. Those aren’t presents. And the only time you should give somebody underwear is when you’re buying lingerie for your significant other.

DC: Speaking of significant others, you and Mrs. Claus have been married for an incredibly long time. What’s your secret for a successful relationship?
SC: There are several. The first is to have mutual goals, values, and priorities. Mrs. Claus shares my passion for children and has always been a huge supporter of my mission. Another is communication. We talk about everything—there are no secrets between us, and we make it a point to always ask the other for what we need and want. And a third is keeping the spark alive. I still think she’s a hottie and I let her know that every chance I get!

DC: So you and Mrs. Claus….um….how do I put this……
SC: Hey, it’s cold at the North Pole! We gotta keep warm! Ho, ho, ho!

DC: What do you do right after Christmas?
SC: Everybody gets a two-week vacation. The Mrs. and I usually go someplace tropical: the Caribbean, Hawaii, Bora Bora…

DC: Do you know the Easter Bunny?
SC: The Easter Bunny and I are tight. We have dinner with the Bunnies several times a year. And we share intel, resources, and best practices.

DC: How do you get food at the North Pole? It’s not like GrubHub delivers there.
SC: We grow most of our own food. We have a huge greenhouse where we grow fruits and vegetables, and we raise chickens and livestock. So we have eggs, beef, lamb….

DC: Reindeer meat?
SC: Next question.

DC: I understand that a few years ago, you filed lawsuits against a number of companies for unauthorized use of your image. What happened with those?
SC: That litigation is still in process, so I can’t comment on it at this time.

DC: Okay, on a lighter note, what’s your favorite kind of cookie?
SC: Chocolate chip. But I love all cookies! And brownies too. Except for the gluten-free ones. I give those to the reindeer. And other kinds of treats are nice too. Some French families leave out these little eclairs. Those are so good!

DC: Does it bother you that many people don’t believe in you?
SC: Over the centuries, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if people believe in you as long as you believe in yourself.

DC: One final question: Am I on the naughty or the nice list?
SC: I think we both know the answer to that one.

14 Tips for Delivering Better Presentations

December 10th, 2019

14 Tips for Delivering Better PresentationsIf you’re in sales—and that’s nearly everyone in the company—you need to make presentations. Whether it’s a one-on-one to a prospective client, or a keynote speech at a conference, delivering a great presentation is vital to your success.

Here are 14 tips for presenting more effectively.

1. Open strong
Your opening is your opportunity to grab your audience’s attention. Don’t waste it by telling a stale joke or talking about the history of your company. Instead, cite a startling statistic, make a bold statement, or ask a provocative question. Or consider one of these other powerful options.

2. Close stronger
Whatever you say last is what your audience will remember best. So finish with something worth remembering. Like what? Check out eleven ideas here.

3. Know your opening and closing cold
You don’t need to memorize your entire presentation. Very few people—even professional speakers—do this. (For a variety of reasons.) You do need to memorize your opening and closing though. In order to deliver these two crucial pieces of your presentation with maximum impact, you need to have them down cold.

4. Vary your rate, tone, and volume
Speaking in a monotone will put your audience to sleep. And while shouting can be extremely effective when used judiciously, if you do it for the entire presentation—which I have experienced far too often—it not only loses its impact, it seriously turns off your listeners. Think of your presentation like a TV show or movie: the pacing, intensity, emotional feel, and volume all need to change frequently to keep the audience’s attention.

5. Look at your audience, not your slides
Whether you’re presenting to one person or a thousand, eye contact is critical. So don’t turn your back to them. Whenever possible, place a laptop, tablet, or confidence monitor in front of you so you can see what slide you’re on, while still looking at your audience.

6. Slides—fewer words, more visuals
The days of slides packed with paragraphs of text are—or should be—long gone. PowerPoint is best for visuals—charts, graphs, drawings, photos, video—not long blocks of hard-to-read text. Speak the words, show the visuals.

7. Don’t stand or sit behind anything
Part of your success as a presenter stems from your ability to connect with your audience. And an important element for creating connection is how well they can see you. So don’t allow obstacles to come between you and your audience. If you’re in your office with a prospect, come out from behind your desk. If you’re on a stage, get out from behind the lectern. (A podium is what people stand on. A lectern is what people stand behind. Although they shouldn’t.)

8. Use a remote
You don’t want to be tethered to your computer. A remote enables you to roam around the room, which enhances your ability to connect with audience members. (Oh, and always pack extra batteries.)

9. Tell stories
Stories provide context for data so we can make sense of it. Stories communicate emotion as well as facts. Stories hold our attention. Stories can inspire people to act. Tell more of them.

10. Get your audience involved
People today don’t want to just sit and listen to a presentation. They want to be active participants in a conversation. So ask them questions. Have them share thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Incorporate relevant exercises and games. The more interactive you can make your presentation, the more powerful it will be.

11. Be enthusiastic
If you’re not excited about what you’re saying, why the hell should anyone else be?

12. Have a call to action at or near the end
What’s the point of your presentation? What do you want your listeners to do once you’ve finished? If you don’t include a call to action, you’ve wasted your time.

13. Practice
Okay, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it definitely makes better.

14. Get coaching
If you really want to up your presentation game, work with a presentation coach. A good coach can help you overcome your weaknesses and hone your strengths. Just a few hours with a coach can make a huge difference in your presentations.

The better your presentations, the better your sales. And the better for your career. Use these 14 tips to make every presentation more engaging, more professional, and more impactful.

When NOT to Negotiate

December 3rd, 2019

When NOT to NegotiateNegotiation is an essential element of sales, not to mention other aspects of business. It’s vital for reaching mutually beneficial outcomes, closing more deals, and growing your business.

And yet, there are times when it’s in your best interest NOT to negotiate. Here are eight of them.

1. When you don’t have to
If you have a product or service that’s in high demand—or if you have a scarce supply of it—you don’t need to negotiate. If one particular prospect doesn’t buy because you’re not willing to give them a deal, there are plenty more who will. There’s a reason Rolexes and Ferraris don’t go on sale.

2. When you can’t trust the other side
If you don’t believe the people you’re dealing with can be trusted—for any reason—there’s no point in negotiating. Just walk away.

3. When it’s not worth the time
Negotiating takes time, and time is money. Time spent negotiating is time spent not doing other things that are important for your sales or your business. If the time it would take to negotiate exceeds the value you would stand to gain, don’t bother. Just say yes or no and move one.

4. When the deal is bad for you
A good deal serves both parties’ interests. But some people will make you an offer that serves their interests without truly serving yours. As a professional speaker, I often receive requests to speak for free, with the promise of “great exposure.” I have learned, however—as many other speakers also have—that free speeches typically lead to requests for more free speeches. And that principle applies to your business as well: bad deals typically lead to more bad deals.

5. When your counterpart isn’t the final decision-maker
If the person you’re negotiating with can’t say yes to the deal you hammer out, you’re wasting your time. Because just when you think you’ve reached a conclusion, you’re going to have to start the process all over again with the person they have to report to. And this time, you’ll be starting from a position that’s weaker than your original opening position. Negotiate with the decision-makers or not at all.

6. When the other side isn’t that interested
If a prospect—or a job applicant, or a potential business partner—doesn’t really want what you have to offer, sweetening the pot isn’t going to help much. So don’t bother. Instead, invest your time and energy seeking out those who would be a better fit. Your results will be far superior.

7. When it’s unseemly
Occasionally, someone will come to you with a very weak negotiating position. And they aren’t asking for very much. Maybe an employee with a sick relative is requesting some additional time off. Or a charity is asking for a small donation. Or a friend has tickets to a concert or ball game they’re offering you cheap because they can’t go. Sure, you could squeeze them. But do you want to be the kind of person who does that?

8. When you’ve established enough trust that it isn’t necessary
It isn’t easy to create this kind of relationship, but when you do, it’s a thing of beauty. I worked with a client for several years. In the beginning, we negotiated every detail of every project. Over time, though, we built up enough mutual respect, appreciation, and trust that we didn’t need to negotiate any more. They would make me offers they knew I would say yes to and I did the same thing in return. It saved everyone time and hassle. It’s a great goal to strive for—with every client, employee, vendor, and partner you have.

Negotiating is one of the most important skills you can master. It’s incredibly valuable, both in business and your personal life. But knowing when not to negotiate can be every bit as valuable.