Episode 417

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No matter how experienced you are, everyone gets nervous before getting up in front of a room full of people to speak. The adrenaline starts pumping, and you start doubting yourself and your ideas a little bit. It’s a universal experience we’ve all felt at least once in our lives.

Michael Weiss is here to teach us that giving presentations doesn’t have to be the stressful, nerve-wracking experience we often make it out to be. When you boil it down, it’s just an exchange of ideas you’re gifting to your audience. And with enough rehearsal and understanding of your speaking style, it can be engaging and fun, too.

If you have a sales pitch, an important client presentation, or even a big presentation on stage at a conference coming up, be sure to refer back to this episode to learn professional strategies for how to deliver an informative presentation while keeping your audience engaged and interested.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

agency employee presentations

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Helping people recognize they’ve earned the right to be on stage
  • Understanding that the audience wants you to succeed
  • Why you must always rehearse before presentations, and for how long
  • Getting more comfortable with rehearsing presentations
  • How agency leaders can set great examples for the team with presentations
  • Finding a groove when presenting with multiple speakers
  • Honoring your speaking style and giving engaging presentations
  • How to have brilliant and clear slide decks
  • Reading the audience and keeping them engaged

“Be 90% prepared. Leave that 10% for the nerves and the improv.” @mikepweiss Click To Tweet
“No one's having meetings anymore unless they need to. You're in the room for a reason. Whether it's your boss, your team, or the clients who believe you're the right person.” @mikepweiss Click To Tweet
“You have the right to be in the room. You are the person to deliver this information. Now, whether you will deliver it in an engaging way or not is up to you.” @mikepweiss Click To Tweet
“What's the worst thing that could happen? They don't like the idea? It's the transfer of emotion, a human interaction. If you’re excited, pumped, and animated about it, they'll feed off that.” @mikepweiss Click To Tweet
“What also is fascinating is that when people think about speaking and presenting, they think of it as a solo. It's not. In agencies, it's always ensemble.” @mikepweiss Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Michael:


Hey, before we get to the show, I just wanna remind you that we have created a private Facebook group just for you, our podcast listeners. There are almost 1500 agencies, agency owners, inside that Facebook group every day talking about what’s going on inside their shop, asking for resources, gut checking decisions, talking about everything from pricing to hiring, to biz dev. All kinds of things are happening there. We’re starting conversations. You guys are starting conversations. What I love about it is the community’s coming together and sharing resources, encouraging each other, and just sort of having a safe place to talk about what it’s like to own an agency. So all you have to do is head over to Facebook, search for a Build, a Better, Agency Podcast Group, or Build, a Better, Agency Podcast.

And you’ll find the group. You have to answer three questions. If you don’t answer the questions, we can’t let you in. But they’re simple. It’s, do you own an agency or do you work at an agency? And if so, what’s the U R L? What are you trying to get out of the group? And will you behave, basically? So come join us. If you haven’t been there for a while, come on back. If you haven’t joined, join into the conversation. I think you’re gonna find it really helpful. All right, let’s get to the show.

Running an agency can be a lonely proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. We can learn how to be better faster if we learn together. Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build, a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market with 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build Better Agency. Thank you for coming back. You’re gonna love this. You’re gonna love this conversation, and I think there’s gonna be a lot of really practical takeaways that you can apply every single day in your agency. So, you know, I love episodes where there’s lots of really tangible, practical, actionable items, and I know that our guest today is gonna deliver those for you. So I’m excited about that. Before I tell you a little bit about him, and we get going, I do wanna remind you that Money Matters, which is one of our most popular workshops. So it is two days of talking about nothing but money. How do you, one of the financial metrics that you should know that are very agency specific, how do you know if you can afford another employee?

How do you know if your team members are actually spending their time where they should? How do you know if your pricing and your project estimates are on track? How do you deal with clients who don’t pay their bills? How do you know how much money you should take out of the business as an agency owner? How do you know how to create a bonus program that gets everyone thinking about the same metrics and caring about the same metrics that you do as an agency owner? How do you make more money, which is what I just talked about. And also, how do you keep it, what are the tax strategies that really savvy, smart agency owners are legally applying year after year to mitigate their tax risk and liability to the minimum that they legally have to pay so that they’re not overpaying in taxes, which many of you are are doing?

So we talk about all of that kind of stuff. It is two full days of talking about the financial side of your business and how you can in every single year. I don’t care if it’s a recession, I don’t care if it’s a depression. I don’t care if we’re in a boon or a bust every single year. You should be able to make 20% profit before taxes, and obviously before you apply some tax strategies, there’s no reason why you can’t be doing that every single year while still properly paying your team and rewarding them for work. Well done. So that happens. All of that conversation happens at Money Matters Workshop that the dates for that are October 16th and 17th.

So it’s a Monday, Tuesday in Denver. October is lovely in Denver. So come join us. Spend two days learning and soaking it in. And I promise you, you’re gonna leave with a pages and pages of to-dos, stop doing, do different, all kinds of things. It’s gonna change the way you run your business. I have agency owners who walk up to me and say, I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve owned my agency for 20 years, and I have learned so much in this workshop. I wish I had, I had heard about it 20 years ago. Don’t be that agency owner. Don’t come five years from now. Don’t come 10 years from now. Come now. Learn it now. Start to apply it now. This is great stuff.

And as always, with every workshop we teach, if at the end of the workshop you’re like, Drew, that sucked. I didn’t get a lot of value from it. I didn’t learn anything new. I knew all of this stuff. It was a waste of two days for me. You just walk up and say that to me gently with love. Well happily refund your money. We have never ever had to do that. But I absolutely will do it without any questions asked. I’m that confident about the workshop and the value and the information and the stuff we teach. Plus, you get to hang out with a bunch of other agency owners. In most cases, this is agency owners. And many people bring like their bookkeeper or their C F O or whoever their money person is along with them so that they can learn together and start talking about how they’re gonna apply what they learn while they’re still with us.

So Money Matters. October 16th and 17th, register now. It always sells out. So don’t wait till the last minute. Go to the website agency management institute.com, go to the How We Help tab on the top. Scroll down. You’re gonna see Workshops and Money Matters is off to the right. Okay? So we would love to see you there. Alright, with that, I wanna tell you about our guest. So Michael Weiss is a fascinating guy. He has given delivered three different TEDx talks. He has trained many other TED and TEDx speakers. He owned an agency for a period of time. So he understands our world. But what he really understands is how can we improve our presentation skills and the presentation skills of our team?

Every day we make presentations. Some are formal, some are informal, some are over Zoom, some are in a client’s office, some are in a prospect’s office, some are in a coffee shop. However that happens, we present every single day. And what we are presenting, our ideas, our analysis, the data that we have discovered, really absolutely the way we present and the information we present can really change our clients’ trajectory. It can change the agency’s trajectory. So we have to be good at it. And honestly, a lot of people in the agency space are not good at it. We’re uncomfortable, we’re nervous, we’re sweaty, we’re awkward, we’re stiff. We are, we do not come off as the confident capable people that we are.

But there are tricks to do all of that better, to be more confident, to have more of a presence, to connect with the audience more. And so that’s what Michael’s gonna talk about. So I don’t wanna waste any more time. I wanna give you as much time sort of picking his brain and learning from him as we can get. So let’s just get to it. Michael, welcome to the podcast.

Hey, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

You bet. Hey, tell everybody a little bit about you, your background and how you came to have the knowledge that you have around presentations and looking good on stage, whether that’s literal or figurative.

Oh, yeah. Well, it’s an interesting story, and I think what I, what I like to say is that I’m a storyteller. Mm. I’ve been a storyteller my whole life and different facets of my life. I’ve always been, I guess, a sucker for the stage. I like being on stage. I’ve been band my whole life. I was the lead singer and a bass player and jumping around on stage and entertaining people and sort of telling stories through song. Went and got my master’s in counseling psychology, and went to work at a high school where I was helping kids tell their story, figure out what their legacy is gonna be, working with seniors. Mm. Cool. Who were, who were, who were graduating. It was really fun. We did a lot of really interesting non-academic discussions. And it always came down to sex, drugs, and rock and roll, because they’re teenagers, but it was always an interesting group setting and would take ’em on retreats and do all kind of fun stuff like that.

And then I realized education, although I love it a lot, I didn’t make a lot of money doing it. And it was 1997, and my brother-in-law at the time looked at me and he said, the web seems kind of cool. And I said, yeah, it does. Like I

I, I knew that was the first it, it might stick around.

Yeah. It’s like, what, what do do we do with it? I knew a little H T M L and he, he knew game coding. And so we started a, an agency and we started helping brands tell their story online, which in 1997 was ridiculous. Yeah. Had crazy clients who, being in LA we had a lot of entertainment clients who had big movies, and they’re like, what do we do with this medium? What do we do? So we, we learned that we promised things that we, that definitely could not deliver and,

And then figured out how to do it.

Oh my God. Yeah. And we pulled a lot of all-nighters, pulled a lot of all-nighters, trying to deliver, and really started to move into nonprofits and helping them tell their stories and, and using it, using the web for good. Not that other things aren’t for good, but we really started to focus on nonprofits Yeah. And help them spend their money wisely. Got into content management systems. And then my business partner and I had a deal that the day we get bored is the day we leave. So I walked into his office in April of 2011, and I said, I’m bored. He said, all right, let’s figure out how to transition you out. So I transitioned out, became a consultant, and really focused on content marketing, storytelling, and worked with the Content Marketing Institute, worked with Robert Rose over at Content Marketing World, and all those folks.

And just, it’s always about story. It’s always about finding narrative in the data, trying to find what do you present, what do stories do you tell. And I, and I was lucky enough to be invited to the TED stage TEDx stage, I should say, and did three TEDx talks. And they went well. And people asked me to train them for, and help them with their TEDx talks. And I realized, oh, here’s a little cottage industry I could turn something into. And then next thing I knew, agencies were asking me to come in and lead workshops because the agencies as smart and as flashy and as exciting as they are, they had a lot of junior people and a lot of senior people who aren’t comfortable on stage.

And the boardroom is a

Stage. Well, even a lot of, even a lot of owners aren’t comfortable. Right. I mean, they, they’re probably the most comfortable ’cause they’ve had to do it. But I think you’re right. There are a lot of people inside agencies that are brilliant, but you ask them to stand up in front of 3, 4, 5, 10 people in a pitch or something. Or even a client that they already know. Right. And all of a sudden, you know, they’re, they’re a puddle.

It’s amazing what happens. It’s, I call it the five feet of fear, which is they’re sitting around the table and they’re like, Bob, will you stand up and show us? And in that moment when they stand up and they walk those five feet, physiologically something happens. Yeah. Everything changes in their body and their stress hormones are released. Cortisol and adrenaline just run through their veins. And so I, I, I learned real quickly that there’s, I don’t have a problem being on stage. I’m not afraid to speak. I get nervous. Think that’s natural. I’m not a psychopath. Right. So I get a little nervous, but I realized I have some tips and tricks and I can help people through this. And, and it just sort of spiraled into a little bit of an industry and doing some work.

And I wrote a book on it and just keep, keep doing the workshops.

Yeah. I, I am with you on the, on the nervousness. So, you know, I mean, I have been on big and small stages, inbound content marketing where all of those, I and I welcome the butterflies. Like to me. Yeah. So I used to, I used to pitch, I used to play baseball, and every time I would walk towards the mound, I would feel those butterflies. And for me, that meant I had a passion for my upcoming performance and it mattered. Yeah. And so I’ve always felt like if I had to, if I walked up on a stage and didn’t feel a little bit butterflies, that would actually be concerning to me because it means I don’t care that much. If I do a good job, you’re not investing. Right. You’re not. Right. Yeah.

Right. And, and I think I like the nervousness because it keeps me on my toes. Yeah. Why when you have adrenaline, you, what’s happening is you’re having fight or flight. Yeah. And so you got two choices run off the stage or stay and use that energy to get you going. And once you sort of tell people that that’s the physiological reaction that’s happening, fight or flight, like why are my hands shaking? Why is my voice quiver? Why am I sweating? Well, because a long time ago when a saber tooth tiger wanted to eat you, your body had to be prepared. Right. You’re still facing a stressful situation. You’re just standing up in front of a bunch of people, whether it’s five, 500 or 5,000, your body’s gonna react exactly the same. Yeah. And so, I, you know, it happened to me.

I was, my first TEDx talk, I was very excited about it. It was a six minute talk. I was scheduled to go on like seventh or eighth in the day, and I got there early. ’cause I’m chronically early. We can talk about that later. That’s a sickness. I

Was gonna say that. Yeah. That, that’s, that’s a whole different podcast episode. Yeah.

I blame my mother and I got there early and I said, oh, good thing you’re here. We switched it. You’re on first. And every stress hormone just flushed my system. And I started shaking. And they’re like, we gotta get the mic on you. And I’m like, no, no, not yet. And I said, where are the stairs in this building? And I said, they’re right over there. And I said, gimme 10 minutes. And I did stairs for 10 minutes and I just burned it all off. And I said, you’re sweating. I said, yeah. Not from nerves anymore. Right.

I’m sweating because

I burned it off. And so I went on and I was still nervous. And I tell people, be 90% prepared. Leave that 10% for the nerves and the, and the, and the improv.

Yeah. Right. So,

You know, I, I think there’s one other interesting thing that I always tell people. And it was, it Tracy Morgan said it. He was, you know, Tracy Morgan was a comedian and got in a bad car accident and, and didn’t know if he’d ever perform again. And he had the opportunity to go back on the road. And he went on Jimmy Fallon. And Jimmy said, wow, you must be super nervous. He says, you know, Jimmy nervous people can’t wait for it to end excited. People can’t wait for it to begin. And he said, I’m excited. And I, and I, I, I really, that hit home. And I thought, what an interesting way to look at it. Because if you think about it, the butterflies in the stomach could be nerves or they could be excitement. It’s just a question of how you frame it in your mind.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I do think a lot of it is just the mental position in which you put it. Right.


So, you know, I think for agency folks, this is, this is a challenging area. We get, we get asked about, do you teach presentation skills and stuff like that all the time. Like you and I talked about. And, and I, I find it fascinating that, you know, most agency people, when I think about the people who work in agencies, for the most part, they are extroverted type A entertainers. Right? They, yes. They, they, they like to, to hold a room. They like to tell a story. And yet when they, when they feel like they have to present, it’s that word Right. That they have to present as opposed to just chatting between two people or three, or four or five people or telling a story.

You know, in a bar to eight people, all of that feels normal. But the minute they have to present, as you said, everything happens. Right. They get flooded with all the things, all the worries, all the discomfort, all of the imposter syndrome. Yeah. So one of the things I know that, that you talk about a lot is helping people sort of recognize they’ve earned the right to be in the room or on the stage. Yeah. And trying to kind of quell or manage that imposter syndrome.

Yeah. I think one of the biggest problems with people, and you said it perfectly, they can sit around the table with a bunch of beers with 30 people until the first date they ever had, or the first Rock concert they ever went to with ease. Right. With flair, not even eat Right. With flare. Yeah. With storytelling, with engagement. But as soon as you say, I need you to present your ideas, there’s this, this pit of self worthiness that just opens up and self-worth, and they just don’t believe that they have the self-worth. Like who you said, as you said, imposter syndrome. Who am I? Right? Well, lemme tell you something. It’s 2023. No one’s having meetings anymore unless they need to. So you’re in the room for a reason. They believe in something, whether it’s your boss and your team who believes you’re the right person.

Or the client’s, like, we really want Joe to come in and present because he created the UI in the ux, or whatever it is in the creative copy or whatever he created. I think as soon as they feel that dip of self-worth, as Brene Brown says, it creates a chasm between you and the audience, and you’re disconnected. Right. And as soon as you’re disconnected and you feel that the audience is like, what? Like that, that wasn’t the joke that we had dinner with last night. Like what happened. Right? It’s just that all of a sudden you bring on this enormous responsibility that you’ve put on yourself, that you believe that you’re not, that it’s not worthy. And then what happens? They read the slides, their mood is different.

If, if they’re Zoom, they’re like this, you know? Yeah. They can’t see you. Maybe like they’re squashed down and, and, and their diaphragm is contracted so they can’t speak. Well, they’re not breathing well. So there’s all sorts of things that come into play.

So how does somebody, if they, if they know that they suffer from that in certain moments and, and speaking in front of a group tends to trigger that in almost everybody, whether you normally have imposter syndrome or not, how do you help people manage that? ’cause you can’t make it go away. You can’t just stop it from happening. So it’s really about managing it, right?

Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s, well, the one thing that I always tell people is, you know, baseball players practice musicians practice, doctors practice, everybody practices, but we don’t practice our presentations. And so what normally happens is you’re sitting there at your office and all of a sudden you look on your calendar and you say, okay, I’ve got a presentation at two, it’s nine o’clock. No problem. That’s like four hour, five hours away. I’m totally fine. Then all of a sudden a reminder comes up, or an email comes in, is this your final deck? And it’s an hour before, and the cortisol starts to move in your system, and you start to get all rallied up. And then the alert comes up, you’re on in 15 minutes, and Norm, like 50% of what’s happening now is like this on Zoom. Right.


So it’s already awkward. Yeah, that’s right. And it’s already, and, and, and, and, and you feel you’re gonna be, you know, you feel you’re being judged by the audience and all these types of things. And the one thing that I always tell people is this is that they asked you to do it. As we talked about, you have a reason to be in the room. You have the right to be in the room there. The, you are the person to deliver this information. Now, whether you are going to deliver it in an engaging way or not, is up to you. Whether you’ve rehearsed, whether you’ve found the narrative and the data, and you’re telling a story that’s totally up to you in preparation. But there’s one thing that the audience