“My company’s a goose” says Japan’s richest man

[:en]Who is Japan’s best communicator? People often tell me it is the nation’s richest businessman, Masayoshi Son. As a public speaking coach, I can’t promise to make my clients rich like him. But I do encourage them to listen to both what he says and how he says it. In this blog, I’ll share with you a simple principle which Mr Son uses when explaining his ideas to international audiences.


Golden eggs

I have heard Masayoshi Son give brilliant speeches in both English and Japanese. He has a particular skill with visual aides. At one investor briefing, for example, he showed his audience a slide with a picture of a goose. “My company is like the bird of the legend that produces golden eggs,” he explained. That slide was so striking that the Economist published a whole article about three years later.

Softbank has just bought a controlling stake in the taxi firm Uber. That deal is worth more than a billion dollars. It is also said to be preparing to float the Japanese division of its telecoms business on the Tokyo Stock Exchange for around 18 billion dollars. And it runs a 100 billion dollar “Vision Fund” focussed on investing in what Mr Son calls “The Internet of Things.”

Learning from the Job

Watching Mr Son speak, I have concluded that he has learned his craft from another brilliant communicator – Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Mr Jobs studied the art of public speaking very carefully and this helped him transform Apple into one of the world’s most profitable and successful companies in the world. I am sure Mr Son has read the book by Carmine Gallo who coached Steve Jobs.

Keeping it simple

The key point to remember is that audiences do not want speakers to show them slides with lots of words written on them. Japanese audiences may be too polite to complain but when bored, they simply stop paying attention and fall asleep!

Wordy slides undermine a speaker’s credibility and suggest that he does not really know the material. Audiences find it frustrating if they are able to read the words on the slide faster than the speaker can say them.

When I asked an American public speaking coach based in Tokyo for his advice, he said the slides of a presentation should tell a story. The first group of slides can form chapter one, the second group will form chapter two and in the end there will be a conclusion.

He reminded me that some Japanese people want to be able to leave a meeting or a presentation with a single deck of slides, printed out on pieces of paper, which contain all the information they have heard. They might need to show the print-out of the slides to a colleague or to a superior after the meeting.

Double deck

So, which is better in Japan? A big detailed deck of slides or a small, simple set? The American public speaking coach says:

“What we do, is we create one detailed deck which is printed out and given to the people to take away with them. However, we also create another deck which is much simpler, which we project on the screen during the presentation itself.

“Of course, it takes time to create two different decks of slides but it avoids the problem of having too much detail on the screen when the speaker is making his presentation.”

That means, you can make slides which are simple and have a strong visual impact. A goose laying a golden egg is a perfect example.

Register to subscribe