Episode 78: Bob Schmetterer on Becoming a Powerful Speaker, Advertising by the Decades and Yachting in Key Largo
Meet Bob Schmetterer, Chairman and CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide, who is recently retired and doing DishyMix from his yacht in Key Largo. Bob is living the life now and always did when he was running a massive agency conglomerate.
Bob shares his wisdom and perspective on four decades in the agency business. Hear about the different eras of the ad biz, how Bob founded his first agency, his advice for starting an agency and some of the highlights of his amazing career.
One of the most polished executive speakers not just in our industry, but in the US gives listeners the 5 key tips for being an accomplished, engaged presenter. This is very valuable and sage advice, well worth the listen! Then he regales us with stories of his heady bachelor days at the NY city dance clubs of the late 70's and 80's - go to The Palladium, Studio 54 and more with Bob.
The axiom by which Bob lives his life is "living well is the best revenge." This episode gives you some great perspectives on your job potential and how to leverage your personal talents into an amazing career.
This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I'm your host, Susan Bratton. And on today's show you are going to get to meet Bob Schmetterer. He's a creative leader, a communications visionary, and an author. We're going to talk about his book. You may know Bob. Most recently, he was Chairman and CEO of Euro RSCG, one of the biggest global agencies. I've known Bob since mid 90's, when I met him because he was probably the most amazing keynote speaker at ad:tech. I've just tracked and stayed connected to him all these years. He's retired from Euro RSCG in 2004. We're going to find out not only what it's been like to be part of the growth of advertising from the 70's through the turn of the century, but also, what he's learned in those years now that he can look back on it from his yacht, the Blue Moon. Before we get into meeting Bob, I want to tell you a couple things. I just went to the post office and I mailed out a ton of schwag to you, DishyMix listeners, and I want to tell you I really enjoyed that trip to the post office. I sent Hoopla, a bunch of books of Hoopla, to all my friends all over the country. I even sent one to Dainius Blynas, a McCann employee out of Lithuania. I sent a Hoopla cycling jersey to Dana Todd, one of my regular listeners. I sent tons of books, Tell 3,000 from Pete Blackshaw, Social Media Marketing: An Hour A Day from Dave Evans, and I have some autographed copies still here to give away of Bill Tancer's book, Click, and Branding Only Works on Cattle. The show you listened to last week with Jonathan Salem Baskin, the singer of the Sock Puppet Blues. So let me send those to you. You probably know the drill, but in case you're a new listener, all you have to do is post an interesting request that I like, and I choose, at DishyMixFan.com. That's my Facebook fan club. Just "fan" me, post your desire, and I hope I'll be able to take a trip to the post office and send you an autographed copy of the book of your choice.
Bob Schmetterer: This idea that chicken, which is a commodity, and didn't exist as any brand, could in fact be a branded commodity, a branded product, a branded idea. His name is Frank Perdue. And that opportunity to work with Frank himself, to work with Ed McCabe, to work with Sam Scali, was the beginning of my belief that advertising was something that genuinely could be worthwhile. Things that inevitably happen in a consolidation, the sense of courageous thinking, became drained from the business. And even though agencies that started as
digital agencies and now absorb, they're still catching up to the change, because the change is so profound and so large. And at the same time, the incredible fragmentation of media has made the job of what used to be called advertising very different.
Susan Bratton: Welcome, Bob. How are you?
Bob Schmetterer: Wonderful, to be on DishyMix, one of my favorite things to listen to and to hear about and read about. And I'm speaking to you live today from the motor yacht Blue Moon at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida.
Susan Bratton: You are?! Oh my gosh, that is so great. I love it. So you're on your yacht?
Bob Schmetterer: Yes, absolutely, on the yacht.
Susan Bratton: Wow! That's exciting. This is my first yacht interview.
Bob Schmetterer: (laughs)
Susan Bratton: So, on the show today, Bob, you and I have been doing some planning. We're going to talk about the advertising business, decade by decade. We're going to talk a little bit about yachting. I want to hear more about the yacht. We're going to talk about the power of the pause because you have the most powerful pause of any man, or woman, I know. We're going to talk about your Studio 54 "decandence" era because we want to hear all the dishy, juicy stuff. And, we're going to talk about living a creative life, which is what you've done, Bob. So, tell our listeners just a tiny bit about your history because we want to get into your thoughts on the world of advertising over these decades.
Bob Schmetterer: Well I think, you know, I had a sort of non-descript childhood. Except, as I started going to school and learning some more and being exposed to people, I pretty early found myself struggling with this notion of Who am I?, What am I?, What am I about? And at some point, it occurred to me, because I'd find myself attracted to artistic things, to painting or photography, and then I'd find myself equally attracted to learning more about business, or learning more about mathematics. And this sort of struggle between left and right brain, I think, really was a difficult part of my childhood, and reason why I didn't do very well in school. Until something really fortuitous happened. I got married when I was nineteen years old and fell in love with my high school sweetheart, and got me into the workforce very early on and wound up doing something that I loved, which was being around automobiles. And once I was around automobiles, and I was going to school at night and studying psychology, I suddenly began to think that there's this whole idea that work could actually be fun. And that in work, you could find the opportunity to have both a creative side and a logical side at play at one point in time. So, fast forward, I started working for a car company and then I was discovered by a young advertising agency named Scali, McCabe, Sloves who tried to convince me I should be doing advertising, and I absolutely rejected the idea. I said, "What do you think I am, one of those guys carrying a bag around?" You know, to show ideas to clients. In any case, it turned out to be one of the most exciting moves of my life. I worked for Scali, McCabe, Sloves, became president of its New York agency, then was recruited by Y & R to be head of a big joint venture with Marsteller and the European company. Then I started my own agency with some great partners called Messner, Vetere, Berger, McNamee, Schmetterer and then that was acquired by Euro RSCG Worldwide. And after they acquired us, they asked me if I would run that company. So, in a nutshell, that's sort of how I got to where I am, and still am trying to figure out that left and right brain, but that's another story.
Susan Bratton: Well, it sounds like instead of trying to figure it out, you sort of let it work its balance out. Your book is called Leap, a Revolution in Creative Business Strategy. We'll get to that, but there was a funny quote in there. You said that Martin Sloves was one of the mentors for you. And the quote cracked me up. (laughs). It said, he said to you, something like, "You bring the substance, I'll bring the style, and we'll both be farting through velvet. (laughs). I can just imagine, like did he have a cigar? Was he sitting behind a desk, did he have a pot belly?
Bob Schmetterer: (laughs). No, Marvin was, and still is, he lives in Tuscany. But Marvin was a very very well schooled, well educated man, very artistic, very sensitive, and extremely well dressed all the time. In his trying to convince me how I could really have a role in advertising and in the agency, he said that. And I have to say, when I did the book I had to get permission for the quotes. I contacted him and he wrote back and said, "I know I said that, but will everyone understand that it was sort of an old garment district joke?" (laughs).
Susan Bratton: Ah, so is that right? So as they say, you'll be farting through silk?
Bob Schmetterer: Yeah, you'll be farting through velvet.
Susan Bratton: I always heard "silk", but the same, yeah.
Bob Schmetterer: (laughs) So that was the origin...
Susan Bratton: The personality of that quote is just so classic. I can see why it's stayed with you for years. And I do also want to come back to your startup agency. It was Messner, Vetere...I'm going to get this right because I remember this. Berger, Carey, Schmetterer, did I get that right?
Bob Schmetterer: That's correct.
Susan Bratton: Good for me.
Bob Schmetterer: That's what it was. Although a client of mine, who liked me particularly, used to call it "Schmetterer Etcetera". We could have shortened it but that is the name.
Susan Bratton: (laughs). I like that. Well, I want to come back to that time when you started up that agency with those guys and you had no clients, because that's got to be a good story. But really, the first thing I want to get out of you is, here you are calling me from your yacht. You're a big agency mucky-muck. You've got years of experience. Walk us through, kind of, the changes, decade by decade, that you saw in the advertising...How would you typify those changes in the advertising business?
Bob Schmetterer: I think I was really fortunate to enter the business very young. As I said, I married young, I went to school at night for nine years. And then Marvin convinced me to be in advertising and I joined Scali, McCabe, Sloves in 1971. That was at the height of what was going to be called the creative revolution. You had these extremely talented, wonderful copywriters and art directors, who were beginning to not just work for little clients, but in fact, win major clients. But part of it was that decade and its kind of fearlessness in a certain way, and the ability for agencies to really say to clients, "This is what you need to do. This is the right thing to do." As opposed to saying "What would you like us to do, and we'll do it." It was a very exciting time to be in the business in the 70's for that reason. And you had a dozen or more brilliant agencies start up and at least dozens more, you know, come after them in that legacy. So I feel fortunate to have entered the business at that time, and worked with and seen some of the exciting, wonderful, and creative thinking in the history of advertising.
Susan Bratton: What was Mary Wells' book?
Bob Schmetterer: Mary Wells' book that she did a couple years ago was called A Big Life.
Susan Bratton: That was a good book! If you want to really know that era, that 70's, 80's era of advertising, your real core time... She wrote a good book on that too, didn't you think?
Bob Schmetterer: Outstanding book of that time and frankly, of her whole life in a certain way, you know, being a function of that time. So it was an extremely good book, very readable, and highly recommended.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. So the 70's were these big ideas that... Big companies were coming and saying...Madison avenue was really getting formed... Big companies were coming in and saying, "Do my campaigns for me." You talk about Perdue and the book as being... Volvo and Perdue as being two big ones that you kind of completely branded, right?
Bob Schmetterer: Well, those are the two that changed my life. I had actually worked for Volvo as their marketing research director when I was in my early twenties. And that's where...Marvin met me there because Scali became the Volvo agency in the late sixties, and that's how we got to know each other, and that's where that transition happened. But when I went to work at Scali, aside from the opportunity to eventually fart through velvet... I said, "I've done work with cars, I'd really like to do something else." And, you know, Marvin said, "Well yeah, the first new client comes in, you'll have a chance to work with, whoever that is." This guy came in from Salisbury, Maryland with this idea that chicken, which is a commodity, and didn't exist as any brand, could in fact be a branded commodity, a branded product, a branded idea. His name is Frank Purdue. And that opportunity to work with Frank himself, to work with Ed McCabe, to work with Sam Scali, was the beginning of my belief that advertising was something that genuinely could be worthwhile. Childhood to sixties, growing up, the last thing that you could think about was advertising, you know, telling people to do something they didn't want to do. But the idea of telling people, who wouldn't otherwise know, that there is a real difference in the quality of a product and to demonstrate that with a lot of fun and a lot of humor...a very exciting time for me. And that continued with Volvo when I finally did go back and work with Volvo because Volvo is another example...very tiny company by automobile standards, in terms of number of cars they make and sell, and by any right, shouldn't even exist as a car company. And yet, this very special car company, who believed in safety, above all else, with the right branding, with the right people, really created a phenomenon and stood out in the world. So those two kind of set for me why I had found the right business to be in.
Susan Bratton: And so that was the seventies. So tell me the difference between how advertising changed between the seventies to the eighties, and the eighties to the nineties.
Bob Schmetterer: I think the big changes, frankly, were from then on, sort of structural. One of the things that I like to think about when I think about the seventies, and certainly was true in the late sixties, with Bernbach, and some of the other really great agencies, Mary Wells, is that there was a courageousness of being able to go to new ways of communicating and to selling. And I've always felt, you know, creative thinking and creative business, needs a courageous time, for people who are not fearful, to be able to flourish. What happened in the eighties was the beginning of...no one really saw it right away, but of a massive change in the structure of the business. And by that I mean you suddenly, and in many ways it was really started by Saatchi in London, who took their company public. There had been a public agency before, but the idea of taking what was a hot startup agency, growing it into a big company in London, then going on the stock market with it... Raising money, and then going out and acquiring really an enormous number of other agencies. People forget, but the little chief financial officer of Saatchi at the time was Martin Sorrell. And so, in a way, it was the beginning of this era of advertising becoming a big business as well as an exciting business of great creative thinking. The consolidation, the acquisitions of the...of the eighties, changed the business in a way. And as it did that, and more companies were consolidated under these massive holding companies. One of the things that happened, as it does with all acquisitions of public companies, people got fired, there was downsizing, all the things that inevitably happen in a consolidation. The sense of courageous thinking became drained from the business. And along with fearfulness, is hiding from being courageous with your ideas and courageous with how you approach a client. I used to say to people all the time, the worst thing that could happen to you is you get fired.
Susan Bratton: Mmhmm
Bob Schmetterer: What's wrong with that?
Susan Bratton: Right.
Bob Schmetterer: You know, and yet...Of course, there is a lot wrong with that. We're living in that period right know
Susan Bratton: Sure. Of course.
Bob Schmetterer: So that, to me, as a result, the nature of the ideas and the work became much blander, much maybe as it had been back in the fifties, and simply less exciting, by and large, in the United States particularly. Less so in the rest of the world, but particularly in the United States. For me, at least, that period in the eighties. It's one of the reasons, during that period...the middle part, the later part of the eighties, you began to see more startups again coming into the business offering alternatives to these big consolidated, kind of average thinking, companies.
Susan Bratton: And so, what do you see happening now? Is there anything that you're getting a sense of, that is kind of the next era of the agency world?
Bob Schmetterer: Well I think, you know, and certainly there was this...and when you and I first met in ad:tech and ad:tech to me was always just a great idea in its fruition of realizing that advertising and technology, with the advent of the internet, and with the advent of additional communications, in the broader sense, was creating a new chapter. You know, advertising has always, despite the fact that agencies like to think they create everything, in fact has always followed the media. And so, when advertising was primarily print, agencies were based on print. When the media was primarily print, when media became the radio, the agencies changed. They started producing radio shows. When the TV came on, they started producing television shows and becoming involved... And so the media has always led the way, and certainly with the advent and the explosive quickness of the advent of digital communications in general, the internet in specific...it's made possible in an enormous amount of other things. The problem is, it's happened so quickly, agencies are still catching up to it. And even though those agencies that started as digital agencies and are now absorbed, they're still catching up to the change because the change is so profound and so large. And at the same time, the incredible fragmentation of media has made the job of what used to be called advertising very different. So the answer to where it is now and where it's going... It's become, on the media side, highly fragmented and made opportunities obviously for great media planning agencies to be creative, and necessitated advertising agencies. The big ones in the world make well less than 40% of their revenues from advertising. 60% of their revenues are from traditional advertising...are coming from database marketing and interactive marketing and sponsorships, and all kinds of other communication forms, public relations and so forth. So you have a fragmentation of how creative it's done. It is, with one big exception, one of the great creative opportunities of all time, exist in the era we're living in. Whenever you have massive change going on, on a social level, there is always wonderful opportunity to find new ways of expressing what products are about, or services are about, and tapping into that. The thing that's holding that back I think, is going back to my old sense that you can divide creative periods into those that have fear and those that have courage. We're living in a very fearful time right now, and I think that's a major issue for the industry in general, and frankly, for the world.
Susan Bratton: You know, it's funny. I'm speaking, this week, to a group called the Aspen Group. They're a group of some of the leaders in the digital media environment. I'm conducting a workshop on managing change. I'm going to go through confronting your fears and anxieties. Actually, like, making them very tangible and then writing them down and looking at them rationally because we tend to let things kind of eat away at us that are almost...entirely unfounded, but not completely thought through. Fears.
Bob Schmetterer: Right.
Susan Bratton: I've come up with some techniques to manage the stress of change using the newest concepts in psychotherapy and neural science, like mindfulness-based stress reduction, which is a really interesting new area that can be brought into the corporate culture. And then being a leader through change, how do you create an emotional container for all that charge that's created when there is a downshift, a down-cycle in the market, advertising's hit really hard. What can you do, both for yourself, and for your organization and for your team, to get everyone through these kind of harrowing times when we have our downturns. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's the first time I've done something like this, and I've done a lot of research to put it together. I'm looking forward to it. I hope that we do get ourselves really worried about these things. Advertising gets hit so hard when we have these downturns in the market, and I'm hoping I'll at least be able to make some positive impact on a few people who lead some teams.
Bob Schmetterer: It's a very exciting notion, and hopefully you'll have a future DishyMix special on it because it's a very, very, exciting opportunity. The secret word, and you used it a couple times just now, is this idea of leadership, and who are leaders, and what does that mean. I used to... Before my mother passed away, whenever we would speak...which was never often enough, apparently... but when we would speak, she would say to me at the end of the conversation, "Bob, how are they treating you?" and I would say, "Mom, I am they." (laughs)
Bob Schmetterer: Because in her world, and frankly, in the world of lots of people, they're looking for someone else to lead, and someone else to solve, and someone else to make it all right. And one of the things that I think happens during downtimes, is people who have the instincts, and the abilities to lead, are simply afraid to. So I think overcoming, and realizing, you know, you are they. You know, I am they. Sometimes I would say to her, "I am they, and they are treating me badly." (laughs). That would start another whole thing. But I think that that idea, of that thing you're doing, of inspiring leadership in teams and realizing that that's how things get done. That's how things change, that's what creates positive energy and great creative thinking. Wonderful.
Susan Bratton: We have to go to a break to thank our sponsors, who advertise! And we love that. When we come back, I want to talk to you about the power of the pause, I want to talk about... I have a lot of things we still have to get to. So, stay tuned. Hang on with me, Bob, and we'll be right back after we thank our sponsors.
Susan Bratton: All right, we're back, and we're with Bob Schmetterer. He is calling us from his yacht in Key Largo. Bob, one of the things that I wanted to do was to just get a really...just what the hell was going through your mind when you started up that agency with Tom and Rob and Barry and Wally? You had no business, and you started the agency. How did you make the leap and what did you do? What advice can you give us, who are starting companies now, while you're looking back at it?
Bob Schmetterer: Well, I think...two things. I had made a judgment at that point. That was after my 13 years at Scali, McCabe and rising to run that company. And also, having then been the CEO of a big international company for Y & R. I decided that the thing I most wanted to do was have my own agency, and I probably wanted to do that for a long time, but I just didn't.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, you said you'd wished you'd done it sooner, in the grand scheme of things.
Bob Schmetterer: I do. I do wish I'd done it sooner. And part of that, again, has to do with battling that comfort level, which is part of what makes for...it's not so much fear as much as safety, as opposed to, you know going out and trying something new, and so forth. So I was very clear I wanted to do that, and I had been approached by a number of people to start an agency. Some people who wanted to back it, and some traditional art directors, I say traditional, highly talented art directors and writers. Most of the format for an agency in... startup in advertising, was always...you had an account person, you had a copywriter and you had an art director and that together, the three of you could do anything. And then, what happens over time, great advertising people morph into anything, and you don't even put them in one of those categories. I knew Ron Berger because he had worked for me at Scali, McCabe, Sloves. He and Tom Messner, and Barry Vetere had worked together at a great agency called Ally & Gargano. We knew each other socially, and so forth. These guys had decided that they wanted to start an agency, and then Wally Carey was someone they knew and worked with on political advertising, on the "Tuesday Team", which was the Reagan one.
Susan Bratton: The Reagan one, yeah.
Bob Schmetterer: And so they decided to start this agency. And out of the blue, Ron called me, and he said, "Listen, I hear that you're going to start an agency. Why don't you come and join us on this startup?" Because you know, we've already announced what we're doing and I said, "Ron, you've got four people with no business. Why do you need five people?" (laughs) He laughed. He said, "Come and talk to us," and we did, and I met them. And I went home that night, and one of the lessons I had learned at Scali, McCabe, Sloves, and frankly, learned in life in general, is that the power of a very strong partnership in a creative business is quite remarkable because if you have partners who are not competing with each other, but in fact are doing different things. Literally the amount of time that you have to devote to clients and the amount of time to have to devote to the business is very different. So I said, look, the average person can work like 2,000 hours, or something like that. And if you've got three people, you can work 6,000 hours. If we've got five, we've got 10,000 hours. Why can't we be better than anyone else if we have 10,000 hours to give to our clients? So we decided, and these were mature fellows. I mean, Tom, I and Barry are about the same age. Ron is a couple years younger, but we were all, at that point, in our 40's, and that's not normal when you start an agency. But they had been around and been in successful agencies. I think out of this came something that I felt very vibrant about, and that was a willingness to say, "Let's reexamine the whole idea of how an agency can be structures and running." Remember, now we're talking about almost 1990. It was '86, '87, and everything had changed. You can have a computer on your desktop affordable. You couldn't do that before. The world was beginning to change from a communications standpoint, and we figured with five very strong partners, any one of which could have had their own agency, it would be a unique proposition in an era where everything else was the same. So we structured it differently. I remembered giving a talk at one of the ad:techs about the structure of it. We structured it as a law firm, not with a pyramid, but with five equal partners. We set about to try and redefine how the nature of an agency could work.
Susan Bratton: And did you feel like you did do that, and did that redefinition help you win business that otherwise you would not have, had you had an older structure?
Bob Schmetterer: Absolutely, no question about it. I think, it turned out to be a hugely successful agency. The first year or 18 months, you know, we struggled along and went from small, little, nice, little businesses and so forth. The breakthrough came in year 3 or year 2 and half, I guess, when we did two things. We made a deal with a big European company called RSCG.
Susan Bratton: Oh that's where you got the connection in, ultimately.
Bob Schmetterer: Which is where the first connection came in. And they wanted to buy us and we said we had nothing to sell, we're just beginning. And they said, no, we believe in you, and so forth. What they did, in essence, was... we didn't sell them the agency, but we allowed them to invest in it, in a way that freed us up to think about what we needed to do to really make this structure work. What we did was go about the business of winning business in new and unusual ways. The big breakthrough for us, is we began winning more business. And then we ran in 1991 two really huge clients at that time. One was MCI, in its earliest iteration, which is way before WorldCom, but MCI who Tom had worked with at Ally Gargano and who was challenging AT&T for what was going to become the telecom wars. We competed against big agencies and won; shocked everybody, winning a client of that size. And then 6 months later we were fortunate to win the Volvo business, and obviously I had stayed in touch with those people and they needed a new agency. And so within 6 months we went from 20 people to about 300 people, and then continued to grow, and continue to do new and different things. And frankly, without 5 partners, it would have been impossible to manage the growth and to continue the exciting career that had had. But we did change the way our business operated. Again, we were fortunate because technology was making possible file sharing and things that today sound like nothing, but...
Susan Bratton: Yeah, you said that you were one of the first agencies that were on email.
Bob Schmetterer: One of the first. People forget that MCI actually had a form of email very early on called MCI Mail, and one of the things that we said with them, was that we wanted to get on and wanted to communicate that way. Once we did that, we would make it a requisite for any new client and say, at least your marketing department has to get on this with us. So it changed the way you would write call reports or the way you would communicate on a daily basis. The other thing that was really important for us is...again, people forget, but MCI was the number one provider of the Internet backbone before anyone knew there was such a thing as the Internet. They provided the backbone for the National Science Foundation. It allowed us...and we did some early advertising, you may remember, for the Internet. No one knew what we were talking about. We used Anna Paquin and we were talking about the future and digital technology and how soon everyone will be here and not there. It was sort of a mysterious campaign, but it allowed us to get, very early on, into this digital revolution and understand it, and allow us to use that kind of, not only technology, but thinking, with all of our clients. I always say, there's a lot of good fortune. I think to me, the things that made it...the lesson learned there was, the power of partners, of as much as one or two people can do, if it's five of the right people, they can do it better. Maybe not forever, but certainly for a period of time.
Susan Bratton: One of the key takeaways for me in listening to you tell that story was also, that two of your biggest accounts came from previous work relationships with whom you'd stayed in touch, which I also think is... Maybe that didn't occur to you, but in hearing your story, I noticed that if you think, you know, the advice to people who are listening to the show and thinking, okay, I'm ready to go out on my own and start an agency, too. There's a lot of advice loaded in that. I want to switch subjects with you now. You're not getting out of this interview without telling us how you learned to be such an amazing speaker. Good speakers are not born. You did some work. What did you do, and what did you learn... Tell us the things we can do to be a speaker as good as Bob Schmetterer.
Bob Schmetterer: I think...two things happened. I said early on in the show that I didn't do so well in high school and my early years of education. Well there were two courses in my junior and senior years that changed my life in certain ways. One was typing. (laughs)
Susan Bratton: There you go. Email, technology, yeah.
Bob Schmetterer: I'm learning how to type, and touch type, and even today, I think you and I reconnected on...
Susan Bratton: Facebook. I found you on Facebook. I'm like, Bob Schmetterer is on Facebook! And he's doing it from his yacht.
Bob Schmetterer: How many retired ad guys that you know that are on Facebook, on their yacht?
Susan Bratton: I love it.
Bob Schmetterer: But typing really was, it became such an incredible... But the other thing, more to your question, was that I took a class called Speech & Drama, and really loved it, and loved doing some acting. I've often worked with people, and been asked to work with people, on how to become a better public speaker, and I've often said here's an acting class that you need to take. A part of it, that you learn in an acting class, is how to communicate to an audience. So, you know, when I speak...people ask me quite a lot, and they're often very complimentary as you've been about my speaking skills. There are about 4 or 5 things that, to me, are always needful of being done. The first is really...is the material, is feeling a huge obligation to your audience, to tell them something interesting, and to tell them something they're going to want to know about and learn about. I think it's crucial, it's just that without that material, you're not going to have that level of confidence, and working on that material and getting it right, you're not going to have the confidence to do do the communications thing. The second thing that, to me, came over time, was not listening to what I was saying, because I had that down... I knew what I was saying, and what I was going to be saying...but looking at the audience and listening to what they were hearing. And often you could look into an audience and just by their...you know, you could look around and you could tell, by who was nodding their head, who was nodding off, or who's focused and who's not, and what are they hearing? Are they hearing what I'm saying? And if they're not, which is often the case, because it's not easy to listen to other people talking, even if it is interesting. The two techniques that you mentioned... one of, that I found very important, is first, the art of repetition.
Susan Bratton: Right. You do that a lot with your hands. You'll say, "One, two, three," and you'll hold your hands up, and then you'll repeat a theme through your presentation.
Bob Schmetterer: Exactly. And then come back to it again because in the end of it, you'll probably only wanting to communicate three things overall, and how you do that is part of how you present it. But if you hear that they're not hearing it exactly, or not fully understanding it, stop and just say it again. It's amazing how heads will perk up at that time, and it also adds something to the quality of how you're speaking. The most powerful thing you've mentioned a couple times, and that is the pause. That is something that you study and learn and being not afraid of silence. (pause) ...like just now. And realizing that if you stop and don't say anything, it's often more powerful than if you just keep talking.
Susan Bratton: It is always more powerful.
Bob Schmetterer: Yeah, it's extremely powerful. And the thing is to not overuse it. But when you do pause, and let some silence come in, people kind of re-calibrate, they have their internal reset button go. And they realize that either you've just said something important, that you should be thinking about, or you're just about to. So I think that's part of it, and I think overall, it's a little like you producing a show. I think that when you produce a talk, if you're doing it just yourself, or you're doing it with other people, you spend the same amount of time on the details. Sound is very important. The sound quality, the kind of microphone, is very important. The notion of modulating. I used to put notes in my speeches for when I was going to raise my voice or when I was going to lower it way, way, down, and be almost a whisper like. Because it's an orchestration, you know. If you were listening to a piece of music and it was always at the same volume and basically playing the same note over again you'd get bored very quickly.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. I do that with this show. I modulate my voice in various ways. Well those are really...those are great tips. And I'm actually...have you ever heard of Burt Decker?
Bob Schmetterer: Yes
Susan Bratton: He runs Decker Communications out here in San Francisco. He's written what I consider to be the definitive book on public speaking. He talks about tapping into your limbic system, your emotional core of your audience. And he does, also believe, that you have three topics, and he has this thing he calls...I call it, everybody calls it, the "Decker grid." Out of this world helpful. And getting speaker training from him is so amazing. And he's coming on DishyMix in...I think, next week. I got him coming on next week, maybe two weeks from now. I found him, believe it or not, I found him on Twitter. I saw Burt Decker on Twitter, and I thought, is it the Burt Decker? I've always been...you know I've never met him and I've always this tremendous fan of his work. I think he's the definitive speaking teacher.
Bob Schmetterer: Isn't that wonderful?
Susan Bratton: I know. It's funny, isn't it, some of those things?
Bob Schmetterer: Yeah, it's great.
Susan Bratton: It makes a difference...
Bob Schmetterer: There is no more powerful tool, as you know, if you have ideas to communicate.
Susan Bratton: That's right. And to be a leader. You have to be a good speaker to win in this world now. So, we're totally out of time. Here's what I want to do. I...one last thing I want out of you, Bob. You told me the axiom by which you ran your life was, "Living well was the best revenge." Clearly, you know what you're doing, and I want you to tell me one or two little, fun stories about the Studio 54 era. What is something that you just really remember about that time in your life, living well?
Bob Schmetterer: Well I'm not sure that was living well, by the way.
Susan Bratton: (laughs)
Bob Schmetterer: I think it was living during an amazing time, where I was fortunate, I guess, to be single at the time. I'm very happily married to my second wife, but I was singe for 10 years in between and that was part of those 10 years. Thank goodness, because I don't know what else might have happened there. But it was the most...it was a time where, for a brief moment, there was a suspension of all rules, and a lack of knowledge. This was pre-AIDS and pre-ultra-drug-concerned, as people have become, and there was this free, freedom thing going on that was very hard to really capture. And along with that freedom came along early disco and then other kinds of music that sort of added to it. But I have to say, the first time I ever walked into Studio 54, and by the way, I know that a lot of people don't know this, but it used to be Studio 52, which was the CBS radio studio. It started as a studio and the addressed changed to 54 West whatever street it was on and that was how it was named Studio 54. But the first time I walked in and heard this amazing sound and these bodies on the dance floor, and stuff just whirling around in the air, this atmosphere of...it was decadent but it wasn't dirty decadent, it was just plain decadent. (laughs) And I guess it was the first time I'd ever understood the experience of what was then to become unisex bathrooms much later on. (laughs) Because they're all unisex at that point. It was just...I think the sense of it all was great. My wife tells the story that...and I used to like going out to clubs in general, and I like to dance, and it wasn't just Studio 54. You'd start there and then maybe go to the China club, go to the Mud club downtown, or go to the Palladium or others and you could spend a good deal of the night. Fortunately, during that era..that's when I was the CEO of that joint venture with Y&R...fortunately, I had a driver, so I didn't have to worry about drinking and driving, and all that other stuff. And I lived in the city so I wasn't out all night, but it was certainly late nights. When I first started dating Stacy, who would then become my wife...Terrence, who was my driver confided in her, because she didn't like clubbing, didn't like going out...confided in her 3 months later, "I think you saved my life." (laughs)
Susan Bratton: (laughs) Terrence was exhausted.
Bob Schmetterer: He was exhausted. (laughs)
Susan Bratton: I love it. That is funny. And it's funny to you because now you've graduated. I think there's actually a graduation where you start farting through velvet and now you're farting through naugahyde, but it's the naugahyde on your yacht. (laughs) And it makes a better sound.
Bob Schmetterer: Oh thank you, that's true. It's very funny.
Susan Bratton: I love it. I have had so much fun reconnecting with you, Bob. I've just always thought you were such a terrific guy, very approachable, and very connected in. I wish we had more time to talk. I wanted to hear that story about how you took the creative business ideas and the hundred days and the hundred people and you essentially created a new culture in the whole Euro RSCG Global network. We don't have time to do that, but will you come back sometime and talk to us some more?
Bob Schmetterer: I would love to.
Susan Bratton: I would love to have you.
Bob Schmetterer: Maybe you could come visit on the yacht. We'll do it on the yacht.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that would be good. I've got portable recording equipment. Now, there has to be good wine involved though, if you really want me. There's got to be something good. What do you got to put on the table?
Bob Schmetterer: Oh, we've got some very good wine.
Susan Bratton: For the man whose axiom by which he lives his life is, "Living well is the best revenge," I'll bet you do. It's been so nice to have you on, Bob. Thank you so much for being here.
Bob Schmetterer: Thank you, Susan. I enjoyed it very much.
Susan Bratton: Good. All right. Well, I'm your host, Susan Bratton. You just got to get to know Bob Schmetterer, and I hope you had a great day. And don't forget to join me at DishyMixFan.com, and I will talk to you next week. I've got another great show for you. Renny Gleeson from Wieden & Kennedy is coming up. Talk to you soon. Have a great day.
Find more great shows like this on PersonalLifeMedia.com