Tony Jeary (aka Mr. Presentation™) has traveled the globe for two decades teaching others how to present with excellence. He has authored over 30 books, including Inspire Any Audience (which Zig Ziglar called “the ultimate presenter’s handbook”),Success Acceleration, Designing Your Own Life, Training Other People to Train, and his latest, Life Is a Series of Presentations. His coaching clients include the CEOs and presidents of Fortune 100 companies such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Ford, New York Life and Texaco. Brian Tracy has called Tony “a walking, talking embodiment of success.” For this issue, Tony spoke with us about confidence, life as presentation, and the importance of keeping it real. — JDM

How did you first become interested in the whole idea of presentation?

About 20 years ago, I went broke—


Funny how so many success stories seem to start that way!

That’s the truth! I needed to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I’d had some great experiences, had both earned and lost millions of dollars, and it occurred to me that I could take all the experiences I’d had and apply them in consulting, training and helping others. I kind of fell in love with this idea and jumped in.


And you were a natural?

Actually, no—I wasn’t great at it at first. But it intrigued me, and bit by bit, over the course of a few years I started figuring out a few pieces.

In 1991, I had an opportunity for a big pro-ject with Chrysler and vowed to become their number one trainer. Two years later they were paying me two million a year and sending me all over the world.

About that time, I recognized that I had been blessed with a particular talent: the ability to help people with their presentations. I decided to focus my career on that. I trademarked the moniker “Mr. Presentation” and set out to become the best presentation guy in the world.


I notice you say, “a gift of helping people make presentations.” So it’s not about you making excellent presentations but helping others do that.

I’ve certainly learned how to give a great presentation, and I’ve pleased audiences in 35 countries, five continents and 15 languages. But we all have our own unique gifts, and where mine lies is in helping other people learn how to do that.

You can divide a presentation into a few different areas. People often think being a good presenter is a matter of developing good skills, or practices, and of course skills are important. But even if you’re not terribly good in your skills, there are certain processes you can learn. Presentation mastery is a matter of both practices and processes—and anyone can learn those processes.


Give me an example of a skill.

One skill would be how you work with your environment. For example, how you move around on the stage, or if it’s one-on-one, how you work across a desk or table.


And a process?

An example of a process would be how to build what I call a 3-D outline™ for an important talk. Or another example: the process of building a breathing space into your presentation. If you design your presentation so that rather than simply talking the entire time, you create points where your audience responds, say to a question you ask, that gives you a breathing space. It allows you to take a moment, collect yourself and think, which allows you to be a better presenter.


So processes are more about preparation?

Half the presentation mastery puzzle is in the preparation, what you could call “readiness.” People usually think of presentation only in terms of delivery: “I’ve got to be able to deliver this information well, accurately, with confidence, so both I and my information will be credible and respected.” But the delivery is only half of it.

Your level of readiness or preparedness has to do with how you gather intelligence ahead of time. Whether you’re speaking to one person or ten people or an audience of thousands, there are so many simple little things you can do to better know who you’re speaking to.


When I think of “preparation,” I think of research, facts, information, designing my outline of stuff to present. But that isn’t purely what you’re talking about, is it?

That’s certainly one piece of it, but there are a lot more pieces.

For example, determining your environment. Are you going to be at a restaurant? Will it be noisy, quiet, distracting? Will people be eating? Will they be hungry? Where will they have just come from? Is it going to be on your turf? Their turf? Is it going to be where you can pull things out of your briefcase, where you can use your great tools, or not?

My new book, Life Is a Series of Presentations, goes through a series of eight practices; four have to do with the readiness or prep side of things, and the other four with delivery.


From the title, I gather you’re not talking only about presenting from a stage.

Exactly—it’s about all the presentations we do in life, professional and personal. Professionally, we train people, mentor people, we have one-on-one encounters, sometimes planned and sometimes impromptu, we hold meetings—all of these are presentations.

On the personal side, we present to our spouse, to our kids, to our friends…we’re presenting all the time, though we don’t often think of it in those terms. When you think about all the phone presentations you do in a given week, all the delayed presentations you give through voice mail, all the e-presentations you make electronically…when you step back and look at it, you realize that you’re presenting all the time, dozens and dozens of times every day!


The title also evokes the idea that your life itself is a presentation—not necessarily planned that way or presented from the stage, but it’s you putting your best foot forward.

That’s right. How you look, the state of your dress, your car, your house, your environment, everything about you is constantly presenting and positioning you in other people’s minds. In fact, you are your personal brand, based on how you present yourself, and it’s critical to recognize that you’re doing this all day long.

In fact, you’ve been presenting all your life. Your first formal presentation may have been when you were asked to do a “show and tell” at age four. And if you think about how the other children and the teacher responded to you, you realize that how you present and how others respond has been affecting your confidence, self-esteem and motivation, your leadership ability and your success throughout your life.


What are some of the classic ways people misprepare?

This is the core concept of my book Nervous to Natural; your readers can get a free copy at I extensively studied all the things people do that cause them to lose confidence and boiled it all down to one core concept: “taking the unknowns to the knowns.” The more you take the unknowns to the knowns, the more confident you’ll be.

For example, before you called, I asked my staff to give me a brief on this interview. I called some folks who work with you to get a better understanding of who you and your journal are. By taking unknowns to the known of who you are and what you wanted, understanding your journal and the issues you write about, I’m able to be more effective.

This Friday I have a big presentation with some of the top people at Southwestern. I could fly out Friday morning—but instead, I booked a flight out the night before, so I can check out the situation, interview the folks there, get to know the surroundings.

What’s the environment? What’s the background? What’s the history? What’s the objective? Every unknown you can take to the known makes you that much more effective. And this is something people often don’t do.


I’m on the phone, know nothing at all about this lead—how do I prepare?

If it’s a total cold call, you want to open up the conversation in a way that says, “Hey, we want this to be a valuable conversation, here’s the objective or the purpose, let’s make sure it’s a good fit for you.”


What a novel idea! Actually come right out and say, “I want this to be a valuable conversation for you…”

When I wrote Life Is a Series of Presentations, we pitched it to eight different publishers in New York. At each of those eight meetings, I sat down with my co-authors and agent, looked at the publishers and said:

“I want this to be one of the most valuable author meetings you’ve ever had. In order to do that, please tell me up front, what do we need to cover in the next hour? I know you’re busy and there are a lot of authors who would like you to publish their books, so tell me what you need.”

We ended up having a bidding auction because all eight of them wanted it!


You speak about living a life of impact; it’s part of your mission statement. What do you mean by that?

I have a poster on my wall that says, “Give value, do more than is expected.” We can always look for ways to give more value through our preparation and readiness.

There are so many ways to give value. You can give the person an article that relates to them, or tell them about something someone else has done, about books that would support them. Always positioning yourself to give value to people makes for a better networking relationship. It’s cultivating the habit of thinking, “How do I give value to the person I’m presenting to?”


As opposed to seeing that only in one narrowly defined way, such as, “I give you value if you join my opportunity!”

Right! First I want to ask, “What’s going on in your world, who do you need to meet, is there a book I can recommend that will help you…?” We’ve all got 168 hours in a week; how we spend that time affects the results we’ll have in our business. If you position yourself as a person who gives value, more opportunities and people will come to you.


Tell me about Designing Your Life.

I built this book around the way I approach goal-setting. I keep a binder for this, with 114 pages of goals—


Excuse me, you have 114 pages of goals?!

I spend as much as 200 to 300 hours per year on my goals, more than anyone I’ve ever met. I have it dissected down to what drives me, my motivation, my values, my kids’ goals and how they interact with my goals, my spouse’s and parents’ goals, my friends and neighbors…I’ve thoroughly investigated how I can make congruent all the different goals and pieces of my life. That’s what I teach in the book.

People often write things down they think they want—but they don’t think about how to make all the different aspects or implications of it congruent. Because of that, they get friction. They might even reach the goal, but because they’ve unintentionally violated different values or created different kinds of friction, it doesn’t bring them the satisfaction they were hoping for.


They made the money but forgot their family or their health.

I work with top executives and hear this all the time, how valuable it is to be with their families and yet they’re torn and burdened with responsibilities. Before you set out in pursuit of your life’s goals, you’ve got to think it through carefully. It’s great to have lofty goals, but it’s also crucial to see them in the context of your life.


Be careful what you wish for.

That’s right! I haven’t always had the understanding I have now. I’ve made some mistakes and learned from them. I hope that ten years from now, I have an even better understanding!


Do people say, “Holy cow, Tony, how can anyone spend all that time with goals?!”

Sure, and I don’t necessarily think everyone should spend 200 or 300 hours a year—but 30 minutes a week wouldn’t hurt!


And not just the pragmatic benchmarks, but to also spend time inside the goals, what’s behind them…

And look at those things you have accomplished. That’s a crucial part of it. If you don’t define what you’ve already accomplished, then you may be missing out on some valuable motivation and inspiration to continue setting your goals.

Most people never take the time to sit down and list their accomplishments. “Well, I haven’t really accomplished a lot….” Well, what have you seen in your life? What have you owned? What have you experienced? Who have you worked with? In the book we help you identify those areas, which helps to expand your awareness in relation to your goals.


How many people go through life without even having a family mission statement? Haven’t talked to their kids about goal-setting and how it all fits together? My kids are seven and 11, and I already have them thinking about their goals. I have them asking themselves, what kind of spouses do they want to have when they’re 25? And then, what kind of characteristics will they need to possess, which they can work on now, that will allow them to have that number ten husband or wife?

How many failed marriages could we have avoided by doing that?! Because otherwise it’s easy to just fall into a situation without having really thought it through.

When you look at the numbers there, you see the odds aren’t great. Why not try and make some of those unknowns known?


Tony, sometimes when I talk with professional presenters, I feel like I’ve been run over by a train that never noticed I was on the tracks. I don’t get that sense from you.

I think a lot of people in the presentation arena teach people to be machines, and today I don’t think that’s what people want.

Today’s society is all about being real. I teach people to learn these practices and processes and add them to their own style so they can be effective and be real. I help people understand that when they’re presenting, they can be transparent, they can make a mistake. It’s not about perfection, it’s about excellence. It’s about conversation.


You say that we are successful to the degree that we’re able to perform and be ourselves at the same time. How do we gain the confidence to let ourselves be authentic in presentation?

In my first few years of doing this, I made a lot of those mistakes. I tried to be someone else. Eventually I realized that what I wanted to do was look at the characteristics other people utilize and layer those onto my own style. I think more than anything else, that’s really what has helped me help so many people.

Once you realize that it’s not about perfection, that it’s about excellence, then you realize you don’t need to worry. There’s a sixth sense people feel about you, they feel that realness, and your confidence comes back.

Right now in our conversation, hopefully, you’re sensing that yes, I’m a real person and I really do want to help people, I might flub up in my response to your questions, or not quite say what I intended to say—but I’m not fretting about it. I’m going to be the person I am and hopefully you’ll take the message and craft it and make it great.


There’s a paradox in network marketing: we love self-development and gobble up all the material we can get on how to get better at what we do. At the same time we say, “This is a business anyone can do,” and we all want to be duplicable. So…I want to become a polished professional, and I also want to be an ordinary guy anyone can model.

When we wrote Life Is a Series of Presentations, we distinctly had network marketers in mind, because so many people need that confidence in the context of presenting. You couldn’t have a subject that strikes more to the heart of what we do in network marketing. Over the phone, by email, in person, from the stage, one-on-one, three-ways, small groups, in meetings, in trainings, everywhere and in every way.

Why, when this is such an important part of every organization, is this subject not driven deeper?


What can we as individual network marketers do to present our profession to the world in the best possible light?

I think it comes down to two words: Be real.

What does that mean? It means, if this business really does take some work to build, then you need to tell people it’s going to take some work to build. If it’s going to take some time, effort and commitment, then lay it all out there for people to see. Be authentic. Be real. People sense that and appreciate it.

And I don’t just mean to be real about the so-called “down side” of the business, either. There are a lot of positives, and people skip over those just as much as they do about the hard-work part.

We’ll tell people there’s an income opportunity here—but there are other benefits too, aside from economics. Is your family nourished by this business? Are there solid principles your kids learn as a result of you being involved in your own home-based business? Has it changed your viewpoint, your personal skills, your abilities, your life? Then let people know that too!

There’s no reason to focus exclusively on the economics—there are multiple benefits here, and people are hungry for all of them.

Tell people why you do what you do. Be real. They’ll appreciate it.