1
Sep

Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, says it takes 10,000 hours to join the ranks of “Expert.” His theory is that people who become experts at anything first want to excel, and then they put in the effort. They work hard to perfect their skill by doing it over and over again, whether it is playing the violin, slamming a puck into a hockey net, or developing software. Through repetition and coaching, they are transformed from good to great. The big thing to remember is no one is born an expert. Skills are honed over time.

From the stand point of becoming an expert communicator, you have to work at getting good by speaking frequently. You may think you rarely present and, consequently, don’t have any opportunities to perfect this skill. However, while most of us don’t do formal presentations regularly, we do speak informally constantly. You speak at meetings, to your team and to individuals on the phone every single day. These “low stakes” situations are great occasions to practice.

In meetings or on the phone, you can practice slowing down by pausing for a breath at the end of each sentence. You can also practice better enunciation or the elimination of filler words or words like “um, ah, you know or honestly.” Picture the speed of an on-air newscaster as your model for how you should speak. Notice a newscaster rarely mispronounces a word and never says “ah.”

Eye contact is a skill that people use to assess honesty. It is rarely a problem in a one-on-one meeting, but in a group situation, sustained eye contact can be vexing. People have a tendency to scan a room rather than to sustain eye contact with one individual at a time. To nail this skill, practice at lunch when you are with a group. Practice in a bar when you are with friends. Practice until it feels comfortable to finish a thought or sentence with one person at a time.

If you feel your posture leaves something to be desired, practice balancing your weight equally on both feet when waiting to check out at a store or when you are buying a movie ticket. In a meeting situation, make sure you lean into the table and have your feet under your chair. You will be perceived as much more invested.

With regards to your gestures, ask others if they notice anything distracting in your gestures. Sometimes, you may get feedback that you point or over-gesture. People can give the impression of over-gesturing if they do the same repetitive gesture and if their hands never seem to be at rest.

Meetings are also a great way to practice “getting to the point.” As you put together your ideas, challenge yourself to say what is on your mind in the fewest words possible. Use strong verbs and descriptors and avoid over-connecting one sentence to another with “and” or “so.” Ask yourself if you are being ambiguous? Would people easily follow your ideas? Does one idea lead to another? What transitional statements take you from one key point to another?

Being an expert takes commitment. It takes practice, lots of practice. Those that are great communicators rise to the top in an organization. They are given additional responsibilities and promoted often because decision makers know there will not be confusion about what needs to be done. Propel your career to the next level by becoming an expert communicator.

Question: What do you need to do to move to the expert category? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | Presentation Communication Skills
4
Aug

Is your presentation scheduled for 3 p.m. or even later? If so, you’re in the Grave Digger’s Shift. In fact, any time you speak in the afternoon, you run the risk of digging your own grave unless you are interesting and engaging. People are tired and typically have a lot to do before they end their day. You absolutely cannot present information the same way as you would in the morning when people are fresh and less distracted. Here are some key things to remember.

Be animated.

Amplify your energy. Speak up. With a louder voice, you pull people into your world. With a soft voice, you become background music in an elevator. Do bigger gestures. They help listeners to visualize your point. Remember to smile. You will seem more approachable and friendly. Nobody wants a “sour puss.” Move toward your listeners if you have the opportunity. The mistake that many speakers make in an afternoon session is to sit down or to stand right next to the podium. That’s deadly. When you move, eyes will follow. Finally, and this is most important, sustain eye contact. You will appear trust worthy and transparent. Also, there is an obligation with eye contact. When you look at people with intention, they respond by smiling or nodding.

Set some context.

Before you do a deep dive into the details, people need some background on the issue for discussion. Remember your listeners have been involved in other things all day long. Even if you have sent them an agenda, be sure to tell them as you start the criticality of what you are about to discuss and the impact on them personally. A boring opening, particularly in the afternoon, is one that starts with “Today, I am going to talk to you about….” A lot of people will shut down at this point because you have indicated that the message is all about you and what you want to accomplish.

State your “ask”.

Hold your listeners responsible. Right up front, tell them what you want them to consider doing and why it would be beneficial. By giving listeners an action step, people listen more attentively, especially if they know you ultimately want a decision.

Tell people something they didn’t know.

Not many of us can stay riveted on information we already know or accept. If you are giving an update, tell listeners what’s different than last month or last quarter. Don’t waste time going over data or numbers that are not problematic.  If you are meeting with a new client, tell your client how your company or product differs from others. At that time of day, that is usually their main concern. A boring diatribe of the history of your company or your extensive client base falls on deaf ears.

Be a storyteller.

People are easily distracted and pre-occupied as the day intensifies. It is critical to make your points stand out. What better way than to tell you listeners a story? People love stories because they are entertaining and engaging. They evoke empathy. They help listeners to experience the same feelings for themselves.

Add a dash of humor.

If used well, humor can boost creativity, initiate conversation and build a trusting relationship according to research by the Hay Group. It can also reduce hostility, deflect criticism, relieve tension and improve morale. Can you imagine how welcome playful laughter can be when the day has been hectic?

Be short.

William Strunk, the writer, said a sentence should have no unnecessary words for the same reason that a machine should have no unnecessary parts, or a drawing no unnecessary lines. Don’t overwhelm people at the end of the day. Give your listeners enough data or facts so they can make a decision and be done with it. If you have an hour, try to finish in 40 minutes or less.

Presenting an idea or product to an internal or external customer is always a challenge. It is particularly difficult in the afternoon. To insure that you are successful, make the necessary modifications to your delivery and style.

Question: What challenges have you faced when presenting at the end of the day? What have you done differently to be successful? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Audience | p) Delivery Tips | p) Involvement | Presentation Communication Skills
2
Jul

Most of the time when people are brought together for face-to-face meetings, the purpose is for persuasion- either to accept an idea, buy a product or approve a decision. Often, these meetings are not successful because the speaker misunderstands the need for audience involvement in the persuasive process. Great presenters, on the other hand, know that to motivate an audience to action, listeners must voice their concerns and actively participate in dialogue. Although great presenters make audience involvement look effortless, they actively seek participation through relevancy, problem solving, emotional appeals, fun or spontaneous activities.

Relevancy:

Listeners automatically become involved if the topic is dear to their hearts. For example, if you are talking to cardiologists about a medical imaging machine that can offer 260 slices of the heart versus six, physicians will have many questions because they need to determine if this particular device can help them better serve their cardiac patients. However, many speakers, due to time constraints and their own work load, fail to uncover their listeners’ particular issues. Instead, they talk about the topic generically, unaware that it minimizes discussion and delays decisions.

Problem Solving:

Smart speakers know that prescription without diagnosis is a recipe for disaster so when talking, for example, about a production issue or customer complaint, they ask their audience a lot of questions. Some may be rhetorical questions or “yes” or “no” questions, while some may be open ended questions. Listeners, not only willingly voice their opinions, but also they are impressed the speaker cares enough to ask. When the speaker does finally define a particular solution, the audience feels that it is the logical choice, particularly since it seems to take their views into account.

Emotional Appeals:

People are moved by their heads but also by their hearts. The old adage is true that people buy on emotion and justify with facts. For example, a young woman who began a presentation to launch her company’s non-invasive diabetes monitoring device mesmerized her audience by holding up a stapler and asking her listeners to staple their thumbs. Listeners became intrigued as she talked about how the current process of monitoring insulin levels feels like stapling one’s thumb three and four times a day. They were riveted by the time she introduced her company’s new, non-invasive pulse-ox product that could be worn like a wrist watch. The emotional elements of her presentation greatly enhanced the woman’s credibility so that after her presentation, listeners were ready to place orders.

Fun/Spontaneous Activities:

Most audiences attend meeting after meeting and assume that the meeting will be tedious or even boring. When a speaker makes an event fun because of a demonstration or by doing something usual, the audience becomes motivated.

When Steve Jobs introduced his company’s new I Phone in January, 2007, he made a point of holding up all of the many electronic gadgets the I Phone could eliminate, so many of them that some fell to the ground. On a screen, he showed all of the great things the I Phone could do, whether it was checking one’s stocks, emailing a friend, receiving a call or downloading music. The applause from the audience was thunderous. The sales force left the meeting ready to tackle any and all competition.

When a Chief Financial Officer of a small consulting company wanted to show the need for a new CRM system to an audience resistant to change, he used a large ball of string. After asking everyone to stand up, he proceeded to toss the string to the first person involved in a particular process; then he asked that individual to toss it to the next person involved until all of the seven people who had to touch a process were identified and wrapped in string. Finally, he introduced the new CRM system by cutting all the strings, with the exception of just one person’s. The buy-in was instantaneous and unanimous. Had he lectured, instead of demonstrating, the non-technical audience would have been resistant.

While getting involvement takes effort, it results in better understanding which ultimately leads to an acceptance of your ideas. Josh Gordon in his book, Presentations That Change Minds, says that the role of a presenter should not be that of a gatekeeper through which content flows, but rather that of a lightening rod to a dynamic communication process.”

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Delivery Tips | p) Involvement | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Jun

Most business professionals, regardless of their industry, participate in team presentations. The team approach ideally reinforces the idea that each person will take ownership for the success of the project or the account and also that each person is an essential contributor. Customers- whether internal or external- often base their decisions on how the team functions as a whole. They know that ultimately things can go wrong so they need to feel that in tough times any member of the team will help them out. 

The team, of course, is as effective as its weakest link. The way people communicate on the team is critical to your success. Poor communicators can easily erode the credibility of the entire team. The following baker’s dozen of tips for team presenting will insure a positive reaction from your listeners.

  1. Identify the leader of the team. For the sake of every one involved, a leader should be an appointed. The leader assigns roles and responsibilities, develops a strategy and orchestrates the actual event- including the logistics, topics, order and visuals. Typically, the senior person is the team lead. This individual should be “hands on” throughout the entire process and should personally make sure each player is updated on all details and any changes.
  2. Be Prepared- and that means every one. Each person on the team should be in agreement on the goal of the meeting and the needs of the audience. They should also have a comprehensive understanding of the how the customer makes buying decisions, how the customer conducts business, who his customers are and what his attitude is towards your company and your product. At a bare minimum, there should be a mandatory pre-meeting conference call or face-to-face meeting where these issues are discussed and questions answered. Team members should also understand the game plan for the engagement, the order of speakers and time allotment.
  3. Brainstorm as a group or as individuals the questions you will might potentially be asked and submit them to the team lead. The leader should e-mail all members the potential questions, as well as the answers, for review and comments. Based on areas of expertise, the leader should decide who will field what questions.
  4. Take the time to know each person and their overall role. It can sound hokey, but customers notice when the team seems to know and care about each other. A minute or two of conversation early on to get to know each other and understand the focus of the various presentations can make a difference in the end result.
  5. Create solution-oriented presentations. Each team member should create his or her own presentation, being careful to make it customer focused and solution oriented. Speakers should remember to incorporate analogies, stories, examples and other audience involvement techniques to increase retention since listeners may be hearing multiple speakers. None of the presentations should be a product sell. As subject matter experts, it is easy to go into too much detail and to overload listeners with too much information. Less is more. In fact, three key points is ideal. If the information isn’t clear from the get go, customers won’t connect the dots.
  6. Submit all visuals for review. Customers want to feel that you have prepared visual support that is geared to their issues and their industry. Customers will notice if the slides seem generic and if more than one speaker is using the same visual. They will also be annoyed if there are too many slides and if the slides are boring and/or too technical. The wise team leader reviews all slides to insure that they are interesting, informative and intuitive.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice. Although it is often logistically challenging to rehearse ahead of time, the more the team can rehearse, the better it is. Team members can provide valuable feedback to each other on areas for clarification, complexity of slides and presentation skills. The more practiced the team, the more polished presentations will be and the more the customer will conclude this is a confident, knowledgeable team.
  8. Get there early. Things can go wrong. Equipment can fail. Additionally, by being early, the team can allow for a final debrief before show time and ask any final questions.
  9. Build rapport. Members of the team should spend time introducing themselves to the client with a firm handshake and strong eye contact. Although small talk builds rapport, be aware that it eats up valuable time. Out of respect for the customer, it is always good to begin the meeting as close to schedule as possible. During the actual presentations, speakers can build rapport by linking to anything the customer has said either that day or earlier.
  10. Begin strong. The moderator should begin strong by quickly introducing himself and the team, verifying the customer’s needs and stating the goal of the meeting. The team lead should also address the potential impact the identified issues on the customer’s business before launching into a solution.
  11. Link presentations together with effective transitions. Listeners need to feel that there is a connection between the presentations. Thus, transitions are very important. As each speaker wraps up his own presentation, he should introduce the next team member and preview the subsequent topic. Transitions provide the presenter with an opportunity to brag about the new speaker’s credentials and reason for being included on the team. They also allow the possibility of some humorous anecdotes so that the new speaker can play off of them. When the new speaker begins, he should make references to what has been said earlier so that the customer continues to see continuity between presentations and remembers key points.
  12. Pay attention. It is easy to be consumed with one’s own presentation and one’s own speaker notes. However, customers will notice if individuals seem oblivious to what is going on. When one speaker is on, the entire team is on. By paying attention, team mates can notice important visual or body language cues that might have been missed by the speaker. These observations can help the next speaker determine whether to adjust content and to assess buy-in.
  13. Wrap up the meeting with a call to action or next steps. The team lead should summarize what has been covered and how each of these topics solves the customer’s identified issues. He should invite any additional questions, being careful to redirect questions to the appropriate person. A team presentation is not the time for team mates to challenge an answer. If an answer needs correcting, the person should do so tactfully, in a manner that suggests the person is merely adding additional information or insights. Finally, the team lead should conclude with a definite call to action or the appropriate next steps.

Team presentations must leave the customer with the conclusion that the team is capable and has addressed their issues. Presentations should not be solo performances. They must be connected and move the process forward to the desired conclusion. The baker’s dozen of tips will help your team achieve the desired results.

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Team Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills
30
Apr

Carly Fiorina was CEO of the Hewlett Packard organization for over 5 years. Fiorina was a charismatic leader and was extremely successful in rallying the board around her ideas and her strategies. Despite several missed profit expectations and an 8% drop in stock value in 2004, the board continued to be committed and sold on Carly’s plan. Why was this?

Fiorina was a strong and powerful communicator. When she spoke she commanded attention. As a result her message was received and her ideas were sold. As a sales person, how many times have you walked into a meeting thinking, “I better do my best performance… this is going to be a hard sale.” I am sure this is what Fiorina was thinking every time she met with her board members as a spokesperson for a struggling company and an unpopular strategy. However, she was able to communicate in a way that resulted in continuous buy-in as well as confidence in her and her thinking.

As salespeople it is our responsibility to convince, persuade and sell. How do we do this? Following are three areas that must be assessed to ensure you are effective and will close the sale.

#1. Need Oriented

Have you assessed your audience’s needs? Your introduction and main points during your sale should all be directed towards your audience’s needs. Capture them up front by hitting those hot buttons and keep them reeled in with main points that reiterate how you can fill a need and by the conclusion you’ve got them hook, line and sinker. How many times have you bought something that you “really” didn’t need? We’ve all done it. For some reason, however, that item is filling a need at that time or a need that you didn’t think you had, but was uncovered by the sales person. Determine the need of your audience and convey the ways in which you can fill that need.

#2. Differentiation

You know that your product, service, or idea is meeting a need with the audience, but what differentiates you from your competitors? What differentiates you is the way you communicate your message. Carly Fiorina had passion. When she spoke, people listened. She had conviction. If you believe in your message, so will your audience. Incorporate a story or example that will grab their attention and ensure that they remember you over the competitor.

#3. Confidence/Conviction

Last but not least, can you imagine Carly Fiorina fidgety, nervous or anything but poised? No, I am sure she approached clients, employees and her board with conviction, looking them straight in the eye, standing up straight and looking like a real CEO. When you approach a client, their impression of you is made before you even open your mouth. If your arms are crossed, you are viewed as stern and unapproachable. If you’re fidgety, you’re viewed as unconfident and untrustworthy. Your posture must be strong and confident. If you are not perceived as confident, your audience will not trust in you or your message, and the sale will not be made. Believe what you say and look the part. Hands should be to the side, not fidgeting or closed. Shoulders should be back. Sit or stand up straight. This is the easiest way to exude confidence and to make the lasting first impression.

Although Carly Fiorina has been recently let go from the Hewlett Packard organization, her legacy continues. Fiorina was the first woman to head a Dow 30 company and the first outsider to head up the struggling Hewlett Packard organization. She may no longer be at the helm of Hewlett Packard, but there is not doubt she will land on her feet. Fiorina began as a sales executive and has mastered the skill of selling herself and her ideas. For over 5 years she continued to sell her strategy to a board who had differing views, but who backed her anyways. One consistent message that you continue to hear about Ms. Fiorina is her ability to communicate. She was and continues to be a strong, charismatic and memorable business communicator. No matter what line of business you are in, to stand out from the crowd and really sell your ideas, you must prove yourself by being a communicator that addresses needs, differentiates himself and exudes confidence.

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a presentation to CEO?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Sales | Presentation Communication Skills
31
Mar

We all know that a speaker needs to be heard, whether it is in giving an update on a project, advising a client on an investment opportunity or explaining the functionality of a new product. Yet so often, business professionals are not heard. They do not connect with their listeners. They bury their points by over-talking an issue or by going into too much detail. If you really want someone to get your message follow these tips.

Speak louder. Louder voices are taking more seriously. A louder voice automatically signals “This is important. Please listen.” On the other hand, when a speaker has a soft voice, listeners may assume the person is insecure, nervous and lacks confidence in his or her beliefs. Additionally, if listeners strain to hear you, they will eventually tune out or look at their phones. They may also try to take advantage of someone who has a soft voice.

Speak slowly. If something is important, it can’t be misunderstood. Speaking slowly insures that people will have time to process the message and stay with you. If you speak quickly, people can’t sort and understand your ideas fast enough; they can’t ask their questions. Inevitably, they will miss some points, especially if this is new information. Additionally, when you speak quickly, there is a chance accents will not be understood or articulation will be sloppy. The lips, teeth and tongue can’t get into the right position to say the words clearly.

Intensify the eye contact. People judge honesty or credibility by the strength of your eye contact. Look at your listeners, one at a time, with sustained eye contact. Show them you have nothing to hide and that you want and expect them to take your ideas seriously. A fleeting glance will not establish the connection you need to win them over.

Move closer. If you have the opportunity to move towards your listeners, do it. Do not stay behind a podium or tethered to your laptop. When you move towards your listeners to deliver key points, they see that you are trying to connect with them. They become more attentive.

Net it out. Do not over-talk or go into too many details. Decisions are made easier when your ideas a simply expressed. Short, pithy sentences with strong adjectives or adverbs are just the thing to gain and hold people’s attention. They make your points stand out.

Show value. To be won over, listeners have to see value. What’s in it for them? If you can answer that question with clear benefits, it is likely your message will be heard. Anytime you can support your message with numbers or statistics, rather than generalizations, people take notice.

Being heard is not automatic. It takes paying attention to what you say and how you say it. Utilizing these seven tips will help you to be taken more seriously and eliminate the risk of people wondering what they should do.

Question: What have you found helps you to be heard? We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | p) Sales | p) Technical Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills
3
Mar

How to Wow in One-on-Ones

Posted by Comments Off

One-on-one meetings can often be intense. Obviously, it is important to showcase your best self – a person who is confident and committed to his or her ideas. Your body language says it all. To deliver your message and wow, consider the following suggestions.

  • Lean in. When you are sitting across the table, remember your posture. It can easily look too relaxed. If you have something important to share, be sure to lean in.  Put your feet under your chair and your hands on the table. This will force your body forward. This will trigger the perception that what you are about to say is definitely significant. Also, this posture demonstrates that you are paying close attention to the conversation.
  • Sustain eye contact. People assess honesty and credibility through eye contact. Normally, eye contact in a one-on-one meeting is not a problem. However, it can be compromised by note taking and reading from slides. Through sustained eye contact, you can also read the other person’s reaction to your ideas. A word of caution- eye contact can be intimidating if it is too long. When you finish a couple of sentences, look aside for a moment. Then resume eye contact.
  • Use meaningful gestures. Gestures help your listener to see your passion, your commitment to your position or recommendation. Do not overlook using your hands since they create a picture for your listener. When sitting, gestures will be smaller. They will come from the elbow versus the shoulders. Some gestures, such as pointing or the back of your hand should be avoided. Your listener will notice if you play with your ring, your hair or your glasses. Make sure to gesture with an open hand and definitely not with a fist.
  • Be expressive. Your face should match your words. Avoid being too intense. Smile freely. It will put your listener at ease and demonstrate your confidence. Also, don’t forget that when you smile, your listener will typically smile back. It will relax both of you.
  • Sound friendly. Be enthusiastic. When we are nervous or unprepared, we have a lot of “filler” words or “ums and ahs.” We also speak quickly, and this often results in a voice being monotone. Make sure your sentences come to a definite end. Be careful of over-connecting with “and,” “but” or “so.” If you smile, your voice will sound warmer and you will be perceived as friendlier.
  • Pause between your points. Allow your listener time to digest your ideas to pose a question. Remember, the more you pause, the more the other person gets and the more you can think about what you want to say next.

One-on-ones are an opportunity for you to shine. If you do a good job, you wow. You impress. If you do a poor or mediocre job, you leave your listener wondering if you are the right person. Body language will be noticed. Make sure you look, sound and act confident and convicted.

Question: What tips do you have on persuasion? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
4
Feb

From the time we are babies, we try to persuade others. Babies want more milk, elementary school kids want to stay up late and teens want the car. Given the fact that we have been practicing persuasion for so many years, you would think that as adults we would be really good at it. However, most people fail to grasp two key principles about influence.

The number one issue is that the person must see value with what you are proposing, either for himself or the company. Without demonstrating value, it is not likely you will gain approval. Take for example my experience in buying a large, flat screen television. The salesperson was friendly enough and showed me various models. What he focused on with each set were all the wonderful features — live video streaming, picture within picture, surround sound, 3D, etc. The list was endless. However, the salesperson never asked if these capabilities were important to me. Since I only watch one channel at a time, I could care less about anything other than a clear picture with decent sound. No one wants to pay for features they will not use. I walked out of the store saying, “I’ll think about it.”

In business, the comment, “I will think about it,” is usually the kiss of death. If, for example, you want your boss to approve allocating funds to a project or hiring a new person, be sure to have facts and figures at the ready to show how much more output your department will have and how that bump will affect the bottom line over the course of a year or resolve the issue with customer service. Do not focus on your needs but on the benefits to the business or to the boss on a personal note. Stressing value is critical!

Another issue in the persuasion game is trust. Building trust takes time. It is related to things like sound recommendations, follow through and going the extra mile. Thus, any suggestions you make must be thoroughly researched. Defining the risks and the opportunities is a must. There should be no surprises.

Rapport also affects perception. Are you friendly, approachable? Would others see you as a team player or a “Can Do” person? It’s to your advantage to build a relationship with individuals you need to influence.

On the other hand, if I don’t know you, your body language can make or break you. First impressions are lasting. A lack of eye contact or a stammer in your voice will erode the perception of you as knowledgeable or confident. Little things matter. Get feedback on how you appear to others. If there are issues, eliminate them.

There are numerous books on the art of persuasion. Various authors have identified many issues that can come into play, but the two critical ones are demonstrating value and establishing trust. Work hard at these two factors and your job of moving someone to action will become a lot easier.

Question: What tips do you have on persuasion? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | p) Delivery Tips | Presentation Communication Skills
2
Jan

If you think you are a good listener, think again. Study after study confirms that most people listen effectively only 25% of the time. Instead of listening, they are focused on responding.

What is often overlooked is that there are three levels of listening. At the very basic level, there is passive listening —where we only loosely pay attention to what the other person is saying. It is the type of listening one does while multi-tasking such as when doing e-mail and talking on the phone. The second type is evaluative. This is the kind of listening that most of us regularly do when with a customer or at a meeting. We determine whether something is right or wrong, and we respond accordingly. The most sophisticated level of listening is intentional where we listen with our mind, our heart and our ears. It is demanding and draining. It takes all of our attention. It is also a very advanced skill, and one that is necessary for anyone wanting to be perceived as a trusted advisor.

There are five things that intentional listeners must master.

First, the listener must internally commit to being fully attentive. He must be willing to set aside his own needs. Most of us come to the table with our own agenda, with a message we want the other person to hear. Intentional listeners willing commit to allow the conversation to move in the direction the other person determines and only bring their message to the forefront if it offers insight or a solution. They never give the impression they are trying to sell anything.

Because of their commitment to be fully present, intentional listeners do not argue, defend, or put down, no matter what they hear. They refrain from taking things personally, even if attacked. They choose to focus on what the other person needs or wants, instead of their own needs. They also demonstrate through their body language that they are paying attention. They nod, look the person in the eye, and even move closer to verbally and visually show they are following the topic.

Secondly, intentional listeners purposefully paraphrase. They want to be sure that they have accurately heard what has been said. Purposeful paraphrasing is much more than simply parroting back the speaker’s actual words. It involves reading between the lines for what has actually been said, as well as what has been intended—the message behind the message. It is very specific. If the speaker has not been correct, the person will correct him. Whether correct or almost correct, the individual will applaud the person’s attempt to be accurate.

Thirdly, intentional listeners empathize with encouragement. When they hear an emotion, they identify what they hear, and again very specifically. They take responsibility for any wrong that may have been incurred by them or their organization. They agree with the individual’s point of view and never follow it with a “But” statement since it would negate what they just said. “Ok” or “Yes” are never used as empathic responses. Instead, they might say a statement such as, “I can see why you would worry about that because I know you are very concerned about accessing information quickly in order to respond to your customers correctly.”

Next, intentional listeners want to be correct. They want to understand the problem in its entirety so they ask questions that might give them a better perspective, always cautious to avoid “grilling” the person. When asking their questions, they sometimes preface their statements with, “I am concerned that I am not seeing this correctly. Can you tell me more about…?”

Finally, intentional listeners offer insightful comments with a “tag and add” approach. Any idea or suggestion is linked to statements the speaker himself said earlier. By doing so, it seems as if the person is just adding to what has already been discussed, rather than pushing his own point.

Being an intentional listener is hard work and time-consuming. It may take two minutes or two hours to hear what a person is truly saying. Intentional listening may necessitate doing these same things over and over until the individual actually feels heard. The process cannot be rushed. However, the payoff is that we are perceived in the manner we desire, as a trusted advisor.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. Click here – to comment on this article, share your concerns or ask questions. Judy will respond to all questions.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Audience | p) Involvement | p) Listening | Presentation Communication Skills
2
Dec

If your approach to being successful in a one on one meeting is to keep your fingers crossed and “hope” it turns out well, you risk disappointment. Applause winning meetings take thoughtful preparation and flawless execution. The following tips may turn the tide for you:

Ahead: Preparation is everything. The more important the meeting, the more preparation it takes.

  • Know the mindset of the person across the table. Is the individual driven by metrics, containing cost, improving customer relations or capturing market share? If this is an outside customer or someone internally that you don’t know, reach out to your personal contacts for insights on the best approach. Listen to interviews, review the company’s 10K and notice what is written in LINKEDIN. Pay attention to memberships in professional clubs, alumni groups or other favorite organizations. If you know the person, you probably are familiar with how the individual processes information and prefers information. Think from that person’s perspective at all times as you put together content. Winston Churchill was a master at understanding people he was addressing. You need to be also.
  • Consider what questions you might be asked. Don’t be blind sighted! Sit down with paper and pencil and make a list of any potential tough questions. Then, find the answers. If you are meeting to report a delay or a downturn, be ready to explain why and how this is being addressed to prevent future problems. Figure out what the decision hinges on, whether that is man hours, availability of product or skillset, and you can anticipate where the bulk of the questions will come from. One question many managers ask revolves around the risks and the opportunities. Be sure to have facts and figures at the ready. If using slides, create an appendix of slides to further explain a point.
  • Know what questions you need answered to meet expectations. For example, you might ask, “What changes do you want our team to make?” OR “What is the new timetable?” If expectations are to be met, they need to be understood.
  • Create the appropriate support. Most people prefer a conversation, but if you must use slides, keep them at a minimum. Make sure the slides make a single point, versus multiple points. Pay attention to font size. Slides should not be an eye chart. Consider whether a hard copy would be better. Also, use slides to help persuade or explain your ideas. Do not use them as your speaker notes.
  • Send a confirmation of the meeting a day before. “It is my understanding that we are meeting tomorrow from 10-11am to discuss the revisions in the marketing plan. Please reach out to me if this is not correct.”

During:

  • Build rapport – If you don’t know the person well, work at developing a relationship. Going forward, it will always give you an advantage. Comment on world events. Notice what is in the news about the company or the economy. Build off the manager’s responses, but get down to business fairly quickly. Managers are busy.
  • Be respectful of time. Speak for 70% of your allotted time. This will allow ample time for questions and discussion.
  • Open strong. Speak in sound bites or short sentences. Get through your opening remarks in two minutes or less. Don’t go into the details. The details come after you have carefully positioned your topic. Use strong descriptors. Discuss the impact of the issue if it isn’t addressed.
  • Be clear on any action steps in your introductory comments. It helps the manager process your information more readily. If you want the person to make something a priority or allocate funds, state it upfront. Otherwise, you risk disappointment. Never wait to the end to suggest the action you need. It delays a decision.
  • Be clear and concise. If you have an update to give, provide context and zero in on the information that is different or critical. Make important points stand out with strong examples. Don’t get lost in the “weeds.” Tie ideas to what is important to the manager. Use phrases such as, “How this will help us grow, etc.” “Why this is important for us to consider now is….”
  • Expect pushback. Managers can’t make a mistake. They need their questions answered. As you answer, be sure to link your answer to a benefit or action step. Have hidden slides or printed reports at the ready.
  • Take notes. It shows you are committed.
  • Summarize. As the meeting wraps up, repeat any actions for you or for the manager, clarifying any dates or times.

Afterwards:

  • Review your notes. Don’t rely on your memory. If need be, share the information from the meeting with a team.
  • Follow up on any action items. If it is not possible to complete an action step by the agreed upon date, make sure the manager is kept in the loop.

Successful meetings aren’t automatic. With thoughtful preparation and careful delivery, you will be someone that the managers trusts and wants in charge of additional projects.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
31
Oct

People who are extraordinary communicators don’t start out that way. They work at getting better. They take communicating effectively seriously. They practice. They learn the When, Where, How and Why to improving the way they communicate.

When: People who are fabulous communicators do what Tiger Woods does – they work at perfecting their core communication game on a daily basis. They are always practicing or modifying some skill. They never say “I am good enough.”

Where: Great communicators use every opportunity to practice their communication skills. They practice first in low stakes situations, like in meetings, trade shows, “lunch and learns,” or conversations with one’s peers. They also practice off the job- in restaurants, at parties, at weddings or around the kitchen table. They don’t wait for formal presentations. By the time a high stakes presentation comes up, they feel ready because they have been practicing all along.

How: First, serious learners get feedback, either from a communication’s coach, their manager, or their peers. Some join organizations, like Toastmasters or take a communications skills class with the express purpose of understanding what they do well and what needs improvement. Once they understand their strengths and weaknesses, they set realistic goals. Then, they tackle one skill at a time until it becomes second nature for them. They do not try to correct everything at once.

Maxwell Maltz says it takes 21 days to change a habit. A lot of what we do when communicating is based on habit. Since some habits negatively affect people’s perception of a speaker’s credibility, it is important to change those things that undercut one’s impact and to work on improvement on a daily, even hourly basis, for 21 days or longer.

To be perceived as a powerful business communicator, a speaker must demonstrate both composure and energy. The skills for composure are:

  • Posture
  • Eye Contact
  • Pausing

The skills for energy are:

  • Movement
  • Gestures
  • Vocal Variety
  • Facial Animation

To practice the composure skill of posture, notice your posture whenever you see yourself in a mirror. If one shoulder is higher than another, you are not balancing your weight. Also, notice your arms when at rest. Do they rest at your sides, in your pockets or on your hips? Are they crossed on your chest? The goal with posture is to look confident, but also approachable. Each time you walk in front of a mirror or see your reflection in a window, correct your posture until you feel people will see you in a positive light. This is the first way you communicate with your audience.

Eye contact is easy to practice since you can do it anywhere. The thing to remember is that you want the eye contact to be sustained, not fleeting. You want people to feel you are talking just to them so practice by looking at an individual for a full sentence or thought. Do not try to include everyone at once by giving people a quick glance.

You can keep tabs on how you are pausing through your own voice mail system. Play back messages before you send them. Listen for non-words, speed and diction. Pay attention to how clearly and concisely you stated your message.

When you present an idea to people, their expectation is that you truly believe in it and are excited to share what you know. To convey enthusiasm, it is important that a speaker gesture to emphasize ideas and help listeners to “see” it. If the speaker has the opportunity to stand up, movement sends an additional message as to how important the idea is. When a speaker is moving and gesturing, he becomes real and demonstrates conviction. Moreover, when the speaker is gesturing and moving, the face lights up and the voice has a certain sparkle. The best way for speakers to get feedback on the energy skills is by periodically videotaping themselves and noticing what they observe when reviewing the tape. Are the gestures repetitive, overdone, or too controlled? Does the movement seem purposeful and tied to a pair of eyes? Is the voice interesting or flat?

Why: The answer to why one should get better at communicating is simple. It is the number one skill for business people today. It is essential for anyone who wants to move up the corporate ladder. To be considered a good leader, one must be able to communicate effectively with senior level managers, one’s peers and one’s direct reports. Without clearly communicating the message, projects get scuttled, opportunities are overlooked and wrong decisions are made, costing the company market shares and profits. With “ordinary” communication skills, one’s career stagnates.

To join the ranks of extraordinary communicators, be a continuous learner. Dedicate yourself to perfection. Pay attention to many opportunities you have for growth.

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Delivery Tips | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
30
Sep

Filler words, such as “um,” “ah,” “like” and “ok,” represent verbal static or noise that your listeners have to filter out. The more fillers you have, the more difficult it is for your listeners to hear your message. Minimizing these annoying irritants will boost your credibility.

Researchers tells us that listeners perceive those who have the “um and ah disease” in a negative way. They see them as nervous, unsure, or stalling for time. The more eloquent you are, the more intelligent you seem.

The question for many of us is how do we eliminate these meaningless words, phrases or sounds?

First, one has to be observant. Record your voice three to five times a day, every day for a three week period. Since you leave voice mails for colleagues, family and friends, use your cell phone to heighten your awareness. Before you disconnect, carefully review your message. Count the number of non-words. Additionally, listen for how quickly you speak. Notice if you connect one sentence to another with “and,” “but” or “so.” Assess whether your voice fades every so often? Evaluate how often you pause. If you have a video camera, turn the camera on yourself and watch your eyes. Do your eyes often go up as you say “ah?”

Once you know what is causing your filler words, you can take action.

For example, if you have discovered you speak quickly because you have a lot of content, you may want to be more realistic about the amount of material to be covered in the allotted time. Concentrate on the “must know” information and reserve the “nice to know” for another time. It will eliminate the pressure to speak quickly to cover everything.

Fast talkers have a lot of filler words because their brain is struggling to catch up with their mouth. Notice “on air” newscasters. They speak at a slow pace and pause where there might be a comma or a period, and, as a result, they almost never have filler words.

Over-connecting with “and, but or so” also causes problems. Speakers who over-connect talk until their voice fades or they run out of air. At which point, they drag in air with an elongated “so ah.” Instead of breathing from the diaphragm, they breathe shallowly through the upper chest and use fillers to bring in air. Olivia Mitchell suggests “chunking” information. Once you finish a chunk, pause. Take a deep breath and begin to speak on the exhaled breath.

The good news is that when speakers are practiced or rehearsed, they have very few fillers. The brain accesses the information from a memory bank, instead of creating it on the fly. With awareness and practice and pausing frequently, you will come across as confident and knowledgeable.

Question: If you have had filler words and eliminated them, what other suggestions do you have? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.


Category : p) Communication | p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills