Tags: Don Draper, Mad Men, Presentation Training
In my previous post we entered the world of the piano masterclass. Now we will examine training in the world of software sales. What follows is not based on studies but on my own experiences over 39 years and nine companies. The focus will be on Presentation Training.
I have had great Presentation Training and so I am not picking on the weakest horse in the race.In the next post I will make suggestions for improvement but now will review what often takes place.
In the best training, the instructor is skilled in presenting and training and early on, introduces foundational concepts, taking time to answer questions and to make sure that she is getting her points across. Soon, each student is filmed in a short introductory talk, just to get the feel of speaking before the group and also, to give the teacher a base-line as to the student’s skills and areas to improve. The instructor gives feedback for a few minutes and then it is on to the next student.
Following this segment, more content is delivered and then the second filming takes place. Often, the student has prepared a talk and quickly adapting what he has just learned, stands and delivers. This second presentation is almost always better than the first. Once again, a few minutes of feedback and the student sits – with a sigh of relief. He is given his film and soon he is back in the field.
Three days later, when preparing his upcoming presentation, he will seek to incorporate the most easily digested concepts he recently learned and if the air currents are favorable, he will give them a try. Most of the time, though, is spent re-purposing old slides. In a month, most if not all is forgotten as is the whereabouts of his filmed performances.
Remember, this is training done at a reasonably high level and by no means the average. Also, I am assuming that the student wanted to learn and was neither checked out, burnt out, cranky or upset at the world.
But I exaggerate: 10% of the students improve significantly and nobody gets worse than they were. I have been thinking about this for decades. Why aren’t the numbers reversed – why don’t 90% improve significantly? I think that it comes down to three fundamental points:
- Sales Reps undervalue the potential of their role in the sales process.
- They overvalue their skill level.
- The training is not sustained.
However, if Sales Professionals understood how important they are, understood that their importance lies not in setting appointments and giving a 12 minute “corporate” overview but in thinking through the customer’s problems and the solution to those problems in a unique way and then presenting the results of that work in a compelling, unforgettable manner, then the Sales Professional would take a cold clear look at their skills and not only insist on training, but insist on being the best in class and then the best in the field.
Don Draper always makes the pitch.
Tags: Andras Schiff, György Sebök, Jeremy Denk, Marcel Proust, William Leland
A “master class” is a setting where a great pianist or renowned teacher (sometimes they are both) coaches a young student while other students and interested parties, like us, look on. It can be excruciating for all involved, like a blood sport. But it can be an awesome learning experience as well. It is demanding.
These masters do not just sit there listening calmly, applaud and pass on a tip or two. Oh no, they continually interrupt! The great pianist András Schiff tells the story of a student about to play his first note and the master stops him. The student says, ‘but I haven’t started yet.’ The master rejoins, ‘No-but you were about to.’ The student’s foot was reaching for the pedal and the master saw that as a mistake.
The masters often demonstrate and the casual ease with which they play, rarely even glancing at the music, is striking. You get the sense that they truly know what to do and they help that by not excusing their own playing – ‘I’m rusty.’ By not apologizing they build confidence, so essential in a teacher-student relationship.
As I began watching these classes, I wondered how anybody could learn with these constant interruptions which can resemble a parent yelling advice from the stands as their child is in mid swing. That their peers are in the audience heightens the tension. But then I learned of the Hungarian pianist and teacher György Sebök in an article in The New Yorker by one of my favorite pianists, Jeremy Denk. In this wonderful and touching memoir of learning to play, Denk relates his experiences with two of his teachers, William Leland and Sebök (who taught for many years at Indiana University) and it is Sebök I found on YouTube holding a masterclass in 1987. The class is in six 10 minute segments and all are worth watching.
Sebök, in a manner that is both dreamy and detailed, gives the young pianist, in a perfect grandfatherly way, a philosophical framework for the Haydn piece she is playing but also technical advice. In the latter half of the first section of the video, Sebök asks her to play a short piece with both hands, as usual. Then, with just the right hand. Next he asks her to play it again with just the right and he plays the left hand part. Lastly, she plays it with both hands. You can hear the difference in her playing. Now that is teaching – and learning.
It is important to understand that the students are by no means beginners. They are tremendous pianists, sometimes future virtuosos. From what I have seen, they don’t become outwardly frustrated, though inside they may be counting the seconds for the next victim to take the stool. I imagine their best self being wide open to learning and that they take the discomfort as it comes, as a necessary passage to learning their art. I imagine them feeling quite lucky and if not immediately, soon after.
If, as I do, you find the master class fascinating, I recommend this one by Jeremy Dent, given at the Chamber Music Society in New York. In it he coaches two groups of musicians. It is two hours long but you can skip around. Denk, an American and Sebök the Hungarian are quite different but both share a winning generosity of spirit.
While the major point of this blog-series is the adaption of the master class method to business, I found that after watching a master class, my ability to listen to music expanded. For example, I heard gradations in sound, how a pianist first played a phrase this way and then another way. I heard the difference between teacher and student. I was, to adapt Proust’s advice, hearing with new ears.
Tags: Andras Schiff, Bach, Jan Jedlička, Well Tempered Clavier
Bach entered my life, appropriately in Germany in 1973. My wife Ingrid and I were just married and moved everything we had (3 suitcases, leaving only books and records home) to Germany so she could study in Tübingen. We had almost no money but I have always been able to buy music somehow and for only a few marks I found myself listening over and over to several Brandenburg Concertos by Bach on a small cassette player that my friend Pete Mularchuk gave me as a wedding gift to play Knick games on (part 2 of his famous gift.)
Bach hooked me and he has never let go. As Shakespeare wrote of Cleopatra, ‘Age cannot whither, nor custom stale his infinite variety.’
The profound pianist András Schiff has created quite a stir this past year with his recitals and his new CD release of the Well Tempered Clavier. Foolishly I missed him but have done a happy contrition by listening, rapt, to one Prelude and one Fugue each morning. Schiff has given us a new way, a prism, in which to listen anew. The Well Tempered Clavier is made up of two “books” and each book is composed of a prelude and fugue in each major and minor key, of which there are 24. So, each book begins in C major and ends in b minor. In Schiff’s imagination, and now in ours, he sees each key, the sound of each key, in a different color. Here is what he writes in his notes:
Let’s imagine that in the beginning there was innocence and therefore C major (all white keys) is white as snow.The last piece of both books is in b minor which is the key to death… This has to be pitch black. Between these two poles we have all the other colors, first the yellows, oranges and ochre … all the shades of blue … the greens … pinks and reds … browns … grey and finally black.
Of course, this is a very personal interpretation and each of you may have a different opinion. Nevertheless if some of us happen to believe that music is more than just a series of notes and sounds, then a little bit of fantasy is welcome.
With Bach, when you end, you begin.
Tags: Lazar Berman, Paul Lewis, Schubert
The English pianist Paul Lewis completed his Schubert cycle playing, undaunted and with great art, the last three piano sonatas. These are long and intense pieces that require wonderful playing, and an awake and excited listener. This was not a concert for the tired or the anxious.
It is often the case that, in classical music, the most wonderful and touching music comes with the most boring names. Schubert’s last sonata, completed just before he died at 37, is called Sonata in B flat Op. Post. D.960. When I first heard this sonata in a recording by the Russian Lazar Berman (that I bought for a dollar in those final days of the LP), I was entranced and played it over and over. Its first two movements are the Grand Canyons of deep soul. Here played by the great Alfred Brendel.
So, having heard Berman deeply and the magisterial Kempff and Uchida many times I awaited Lewis on this grand playing field. He was strikingly different from Berman taking 12.5 minutes less to play the piece. It wasn’t just that he played it faster, which he did, but he didn’t play all the repeats. In those old days, Schubert and Beethoven often called for repeats of sections of movements. The listeners would be hearing the music, most likely, for the first time – and sometimes the only time – and so the composer would notate a repeat to make sure the music was in the listener’s ear. They did not, of course, have collections at home but would have had to play the music themselves if they wanted to hear it again.
All this is just to illustrate how important it is to go see the musicians live – each performance is just that! I was lucky to hear Mr. Lewis’ take on this cherished work.
Tags: Debussy, Horowitz, Khrushchev, Tchaikovsky Competition, Van Cliburn
I came to classical music after Van Cliburn went into retirement but he was the first pianist I ever heard of and in this, I am not alone. Van Cliburn! His name resounded like the giant chords that begin Tchaikovsky’s First that became the first million-seller in classical history.
The weekend before his death on February 27 at 78, by chance, I played his The Debussy I Love and the playing was beautiful but the experience not completely satisfying. The sounds were all there but something was missing: Cliburn. Now, in the days when the record came out, 1972, it was not usual for an artist to write liner notes and though notes in general were common, having just the works and timings was just as common. But in this case, even though I know that this was part of a series (The Brahms I love …) I did want to know why he loved the chosen pieces, what were the associations, connections that led these works to this particular vinyl disc.
Like Horowitz, Cliburn came out of a self-imposed retirement but there the comparison ends. Horowitz played Carnegie Hall and Sixty Minutes and went on a pilgrimage to Russia and an ever-increasing clamor of adulation and while Cliburn played for all our President’s in ceremonial situations and even, one time again in Carnegie Hall, he always repaired back to a quiet repose in Texas.
I think that the fame that came from winning the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 with Khrushchev in the audience at the height of the Cold War and then the ticker-tape parade in New York City were far more than the shy boy from the South could stand. He didn’t have staying power but he didn’t need to. Harvey Levan Cliburn had done his thing at a time and a place that made him the most famous musician in the world. That was 55 years ago and that was enough.
Tags: Claude Debussy, Sviatoslov Richter
I have learned that when I fall for a piece of music I must set it aside, not over-listen to it, not analyse it, not compare 10 versions of it – or 9, to let it go back on the shelf even when, especially when it is haunting me, calling, whispering to me in that elegiac vein which is, perhaps sentimental to some, but to me is the essential hope behind every new album.
Here is ’the more than slow’ waltz Le Plus Que Lent by Debussy and played long ago in Moscow by the great Sviatoslov Richter.
Tags: Angela Hewitt, Bach, Debussy, Ingrid Mackey
I was so excited to finally see Angela Hewitt the great Canadian pianist this past Sunday in Chicago. I have, for years, been listening to her CDs and I have felt, from the first, that I know her better than other artists in my Pantheon. She plays beautifully but so do many pianists. She writes her own notes and not just sometimes. Her notes to each work are not dry but vibrate with excitement and emotion. This is priceless in a form that can seem out-dated.
My wife Ingrid characterized her playing well: the music flowed from her arms and this was true whether she was playing Father Bach, or the highlight of the concert for me, Debussy’s Pour le piano. She played a larger-than-normal Fazioli piano and was its empress, sitting tall in her pianistic saddle, greeting each composer on her own terms.
If I were asked what my one memory of the concert was, I would say now what I thought then: she put over the music – indeed she did.
Tags: Andras Schiff, Bach, Glenn Gould, Horszowski, Rosalyn Tureck, Sviatoslov Richter, Well Tempered Clavier
Last weekend I was despondent as I pondered just finishing two weeks on the road with another four in front of me. Just riffing through the NPR Music site I found an interview with the pianist Andras Schiff. In it he discusses his great love of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and his new recording, his second, of the two Books of the WTC, 48 Preludes and Fugues. I had read previously read that he hears this music in colors: the C Major is white, using only the white keys, for instance.
I was struck though when he said that he played from the WTC every morning for an hour. I have never forgotten that the great cellist Casals, even in very old age when his fingers were stiff from arthritis, would limp to the piano and play Bach as soon as he awoke in the morning. I had an idea.
Suppose on my endless stream of road “appearances” I listened to Bach’s WTC first thing! Yes, just one prelude and one fugue a day: first C Major and the next day C Minor. If I would just do this the travel would be somehow redeemed. In the same way that a mathematician finds a formula, after a struggle, right before his eyes, I saw my path clear. I would download a recording of the full WTC to my iPad. This was a valid reason to buy yet another recording of the great work!
I thought immediately of the doyenne of Bach, Rosalyn Tureck. I had not, as yet, climbed her Bachian aural Himalayas and I imagined correctly that the download would be inexpensive. And so this past week, after getting my triple and then, as the week wore on, my quad espresso, I sat up in bed with my iPad on my lap and listened to Bach, the majestic, the profound, the sometimes dancing Bach through the agency of Tureck. I have read that our brain adds musical content to even thin download style music allowing us to hear more than is there. I think that this is true. I heard a depth of humanity and I think now that I was hearing all the great pianists at once, Richter, Fisher, Horszowski, Hewitt, Schiff, Gould, play the Well Tempered Clavier, one key after the other, fugue following prelude.
As I listened the dismal marriott faded and the day ahead appeared out the window, at a distance and very small.
Tags: Baroque Conversations, David Greilsammer, Matan Porat
The words “classical music” like the word “museum” serve to deaden our minds and by categorizing an experience in such a boring and unenlightening way, take all the fun out. To add confusion, there is a Classical Period within classical music and this is when Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert walked among us. To many, this is the sum of classical music, once you explain where Haydn and Schubert fit in. Adding Bach on one end and Chopin, Brahms and Mahler on the other, I thought this for a long time but first my mind opened and finally, my ears.
Often I remark that “music is music”, not really believing it. I am starting to, though, and if you are interested in a 400+ year old musical conversation that chips at boundaries, get Baroque Conversations, just out, by the young pianist, David Greilsammer.
The album is composed of four sets of three works: a Baroque (1562 -1764 approximately), a modern, a Baroque. The connections are not in the titles as these are conversations that must be listened to. But even then, what are they saying?
The player is the same, the piano too. Notes are being played. The player chose the music and arranged them in a certain order. Is it just us who are listening or in some timeless way, are the composers listening to each other? Are we allowed to re-arrange the music? We could play Whaam! by Matan Porat at a party. It would have to be a good party though.
Tags: Beethoven, Gyorgy Ligeti, Jeremy Denk
Jeremy Denk, in his newest album Ligeti/Beethoven, has given me a great gift, the gift of modern music. I bought the album because I am now following him after seeing him in concert in Chicago, reading his blog, listening to his Ives. I looked forward to the album for the Beethoven Sonata #32, one of the greatest of all works of mankind. Because it was Denk, I was curious about Ligeti, an Hungarian composer, thorny I thought, who died at 83 in 2006.
I’ve listened to the album at least 30 times but the Beethoven just twice. I am now enraptured by Ligeti and by extension modern music and yes it is the music, two Books of Ligeti Études (studies) that draw me in as to a Pollock or a Rothko but it was first the notes that hooked me. Here he is describing Vertige, (Vertigo) “the most fiendish Étude of all”:
“At the beginning he writes prestissimo, that is as fast as possible (not nice), pianissimo (even less nice), legato (outright cruel), and then he delivers the coup de grâce: He instructs you not to use any pedal. This is no way to make friends with pianists.”
Even after the notes — and the Thomas Mann notation regarding the Beethoven is an English Major’s dream — the music was at first a blur. It is a blur, in a way. But now, listening all kinds of ways, all in a row front to back, back to front, one at a time in order and not in order, the pleasure, the humor, the puzzles, the simple touches become ever greater, ever more interesting, fascinating, beautiful.