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Richard Branson doesn't care for PowerPoint. He prefers eye contact and conversation. Branson doesn't have patience for long, confusing presentations. He prefers short and simple pitches, even if they're written on a beer mat. Branson also disdains sterile conference rooms. He prefers the outdoors and unconventional settings like the time he sat in a bath while Al Gore delivered a presentation on global warming. These are just a few of the things I learned when I recently had the opportunity to ask the Virgin Group founder some questions based on his new book, Like a Virgin.

No entrepreneur sells himself quite like Richard Branson. His ideas on effective communication are valuable for CEOs, managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and aspiring leaders. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation [my insights appear in brackets].

Carmine:Let's start with the subtitle of your book, 'Secrets They Won't Teach You at Business School.' What are business schools failing to teach students about communicating, presenting and pitching their ideas?

Richard: Too many people are hiding in dark rooms flipping through too many words on big screens. There's a reason why I avoid boardrooms. I'd rather spend time with people 'in the field,' where eye contact, genuine conviction and trustworthiness are in full evidence.

[When you're pitching an idea, your story should take center stage. Slides complement the story; they don't replace the story. Once you lower the lights so the audience can read the words on a slide, you've lost them.]

Carmine:Mr. Branson, you devote a chapter to Steve Jobs. I wrote a book on how Steve Jobs gave presentations and I know that many business leaders have adopted his style. I'm curious. Did you ever see a Steve Jobs keynote and what were your impressions of him as a communicator?

Richard: Sadly not, but an important lesson Steve taught today's business leaders is to express your unflinching commitment to your products and your company. Steve had two valuable communication strengths: obsession over the details and his belief that the company was unveiling the very best product possible.

[Branson said Steve Jobs was the entrepreneur he most admired, but he has a completely different leadership style than Steve Jobs had. Both entrepreneurs, however, were obsessed with making radical improvements on the status quo. Jobs was single-minded in his pursuit to design computers that everyday people could use to transform their daily lives. Branson was-and continues to be-obsessed with customer service, staff engagement, and a sense of fun in his business units. Passion also connects Branson and Jobs. According to Branson, "We both truly enjoyed and believed in what we were doing. Because you are far more likely to be persistent, inspired, and dedicated if you love what you do, and if you eventually make something you are truly proud of that filters down to your staff and your customers."]

Richard Branson

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