Telling stories – the conduit at the heart of all presentations.

What does Eddie Gibb of Focus Consulting have in common with Hu Xiaolian, Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBC)? The former led a New Zealand Retail Association (NZRA) regional training seminar related to customer service excellence, and the latter spoke at the recent University of Canterbury special lecture on China monetary policy.

Each has decades of experience in their respective fields. Eddie Gibb a modest legend in successful NZ small business. Madame Hu globally respected in economics and foreign exchange circles.

Eddie had arguably the harder presentation task at hand. His audience was cynically hardened by the daily grind of getting money in the bank, rather than controlling policy to keep it there. Christchurch retailers initially offered less respect, so he had to work harder to win their attention and interest.

Using narrative to connect.

Each had a too-short amount of time to sell their preferred ‘product’, whether it was exemplary customer service insights, or monetary policy. They each sought to engage, using no more than stories to explain some of the finer details of their insight and experience.

They used narrative to proffer an emotional connection with the audience. Eddie Gibb related to his successful career in the ‘business of photography’. Madame Hu touched on fond memories of an internship at the Bank of New Zealand, and China’s long-standing relationship with New Zealand.

Both professionals at the top of their respective fields, it was telling to recognize both as smart and measured introverts. Their restrained flourishes achieving greater effectiveness than an extroverts’ showmanship. Humour making appropriate appearances, as sidekick to the main act.

Audience engagement.

Eddie Gibb simplified complexity in a friendly and humorous manner, and showed that logic is a poor relation to emotions and how people feel in customer service situations.

He infused the room with confidence. Participants came away reassured that their part of the greater scheme of things was on the right track. There was tangible effectiveness in delivering the actual product on the day.

On reflection, it was interesting that Madame Hu shone most engagingly (to Western ears) when eloquently speaking unscripted in her non-native language. I felt that she connected with her deferential audience far more than when presenting general PBC policy via PowerPoint.

What is the take-out?

Eddie’s knowledge transfer mirrored an expectation of immediacy demanded by Western culture. He delivered simple and understandable solutions from complex recurring customer service problems. More importantly he delivered confidence that those solutions could positively impact immediately.

Circumspection was the take-out from monetary policy, the long game more important than points on a foreign University scoreboard of audience questions. Madame Hu’s actual ‘product’ to sell wasn’t PBC policy, it was the confidence and reassurance that the West craves from the Tiger in their midst.

The China financial situation is a particularly complex challenge. Concerned with managing economic reform in a multi-layered one-party political system and  with a far longer time-span than the rest of the World’s economies. It could be argued that the West runs shorter and freer than the long-view, centralised, top-down command and control of the East.

Need to know.

Excellence in customer service pays big dividends. Any interaction, whether face-to-face or digital, requires careful focus and analysis. Eddie Gibb managed and sought to maximise the opportunity for NZRA training attendees. It seemed that Madame Hu’s real audiences were far removed from a New Zealand University conference room.  For the Party faithful she delivered powerfully, but for outsiders my impression was that any shifts in confidence and reassurance were at best neutral.

©David Binstead 2014. All rights reserved. @43words

Need an immediate customer service tune-up?

Eddie Gibb – Focus Consulting

Madame Hu – Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China

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