Back to Scene Change Web Site
Can You Hear Me Up the Back?
Tips on creating presentations with personality

Posts Tagged ‘Hand Gestures’

Ten Things Anthony Robbins and Hitler Have In Common – Part 1

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Would you like to learn the secret presentation techniques of Anthony Robbins, the most renowned and highly-paid speaker in the world?

You bet you do.

To fully understand these techniques, you have to go back a little further, to the guy who wrote the rules on stadium-scale crowd motivation. A man who got ‘em to not only listen to his message, but also act on it, always a much tougher task.

That guy was renowned, errr… National Socialist dictator A. Hitler.

Hitler pioneered pretty much every modern-day live motivation technique except PowerPoint. He was, regrettably, an absolute master at it. And not through natural giftedness, but through decades of hard work and practice.

An Anthony Robbins speech is a master class of Hitler techniques from start to finish.

OK, OK, calm down. I’m not saying Anthony Robbins is an evil genocidal maniac. He seems like a perfectly reasonable guy.

And while Hitler was about as bad a specimen as the human race has produced so far, it’s worth studying just how he managed to persuade huge numbers of ordinary people to follow him down that path. What possible combination of words could make the average Johann Citizen turn on their own neighbors with such apparent enthusiasm?

The Hitler and Robbins approach takes presentation perfectionism to a level that few bother to do, managing every tiny detail of the speech to be as effective as humanly possible - script, sound, appearance, setting, pacing, and a lot more.

Setting aside the choice of using your speaking powers for good or evil, there’s a lot to be learned from both.

Here’s Part 1 of the Robbins/Hitler Top 10 Presentation Secrets.

1. Get Them Up On Their Feet

As Robbins says, passive audiences don’t retain information. They won’t go into battle, literally or in a real estate sales role, if they’re sitting back in their chairs. Both speakers get the audience on their feet and yelling.  A few hours of massed footstomping takes the audience to a different emotional place, particularly when combined with:

2. Powerful Music

Hitler blasted his audiences with hours of loud music, much of it original material written in a stirring martial style by sympathetic composers.  Atmosphere and continuity was all carefully planned: sombre minor keys were avoided, and major key music was arranged so successive pieces were no more than a couple of keys apart. Success is all in the details, people.

Robbins music is equally loud and relentless, though more your C’N’C Music Factory’s We’ve Got the Power school of 90’s corporate anthems.

3. Extravagant (But Well-Planned) Hand Gestures

Watch the enormous Robbins hands in action. There’s the two clenched fists of exhilaration in front of the chest, a move taken to new heights by Tom Cruise on Oprah. There’s the open outstretched hands of friendship. There’s the chopping of the rigid hand into the other palm to beat out the rhythm of a sentence. All building up the drama.

Hitler, too, spent hours practicing his stage moves in front of the mirror. People see movie clips of him with flailing arms and think: what a rabid nutcase. But he’d spend the first couple of hours (yes, hours!) in a calmer, Herr Reasonable mode, gradually working up to the dramatic crescendo.  To his audience, the lectern-bashing made perfect sense by the time he got there. Compare  both sets of hands in the two video clips below.

4. Audience Fist Pumping

The repetition of getting people to punch the air keeps them energized and creates a sense of shared purpose, whether it’s the classic Sieg Heil salute or the constant ‘Say Aye’ exhortations of Robbins.

5. Advanced Technology

Hitler was one of the first politicians to use the new technology of the time – public address systems and floodlights. In the 30’s, the spectacle of one man enthralling a stadium full of people must have created something of a God-like impression.

An audio technician I know set up a bunch of Anthony Robbins shows. He told me that part of the audio specification was an enormous arsenal of military-strength sub-bass speakers underneath the stage. When Robbins clapped his fist to his chest, just close enough to his radio mic*, it sounded like someone swinging a wrecking ball onto the Statue of Liberty. Subconsciously, the audience thought: Whoah - he’s an enormous man of steel!

Here’s some viewing for you. For presentation analysis only, OK? Not to suggest that Hitler and Robbins have anything else in common.

Part 2 later in the week, unless angry mobs storm my office and burn my laptop.

*Yes, technical buffs, this was before he started using headset mics.