What presenters can learn from Vasant Narasimhan (CEO Novartis)

The new Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan delivered a speech at the BSR Sustainability Conference in November 2018 in New York. It runs for the first 21 ½ minutes of the video. Afterwards there is a Q&A.


Presenters can learn three things from Vasant:

  1. Speak clearly. Often you see leaders ignore this in their talks. They think that they are leaders for a reason and that everybody understands them. Period. But this is not the case.
    Vasant uses just the right speed. Not too fast, not too slow.
    He articulates the words very well. It is extremely easy to understand them. Even for non-English natives.
    Vasant uses simple words and short sentences. All free without a prompter.
    If you can’t afford a rhetoric coach yet, I recommend these tips: Practice before. Practice with somebody who has no clue about your topic. Avoid standing behind a lecture. Do not have words or even text on your charts. At least the latter two you can see at work in Vasant’s speech.
  2. Be humble. I see three major signs for Vasant displaying humility.
    He is wearing no suit and no tie. Just grey trousers and a white shirt. The shirt has no French cuffs like almost everybody else in C-Suits is wearing. He could be an ordinary business guy. One of “us”.
    Vasant uses very few technical words. Speakers often feel that it displays expertise. But it does the opposite. And it destroys humility.
    We hear him talking about his own experience in third world countries. We see him show pictures of people in these countries. He is NOT talking about all the great leaders he knows and calls his friends.
    Showing humility makes it easier for an audience to connect to us and our cause. Maybe the best show case is Warren Buffet who yearly attracts over 30,000 shareholders to see and hear him.
  3. Have only charts that support you. We can’t see in the video whether there were any other charts. But I only spotted blank and simple charts. Either just pictures or a very plain graph showing the live curves along centuries.

    Vasant does not use charts to make people be impressed by. They are only there to illustrate what he just says. What more can they do?
    Get rid of all the text. Enlarge your pictures. Refrain from animations. Then charts can be your friends.

If you want to give speeches like this one, please contact me. I will show you how to shape a clear message, inspire your audience and deliver a speech that makes people act.






Note: Vasant Narasimhan is not a customer of mine.


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