4
May

When making a proposal to C level Executives, those CEO’s, CIO’s, CTO’s or CFO’s, it is necessary to remember their focus is on solving problems and making the company successful. They are not interested in how an issue was resolved, but that it is no longer a problem. These are very busy people. How you open or position your topic is critical. Right from the get-go, your ideas must be clearly expressed. As you continue, remember clarity and conciseness. If you say something well, it gets heard.

  1. Start by setting some context. Obviously, Executives go from meeting to meeting. In a few sentences, provide background, even if you have sent an Executive Summary ahead of time. “Last month, you asked me to research options to a key component in our manufacturing process due to rising costs. There are three possibilities.”
  2. State you recommendation. Executives have a breath of knowledge, but they don’t have your depth. They look to you for suggestions. From the perspective of the Executive, what is important for the individual to know about the issue? “Of the three choices, I strongly recommend XXX over the other two.” The more vivid your language, the more readily the Executive will pay attention. Strong adjectives and adverbs are just the thing to make an Executive see how important dealing with a situation is. “We need to act immediately since sales have sky rocketed and the supply of our current component is low.”
  3. Stress benefits. Executives focus on things like the bottom line, market share and return on investment. If the Executive considers your option, the individual will want to see the benefits. Be aware that they are not easily swayed with platitudes. If you can quantify or add metrics, it will help to win them over. “With this new component, I believe we will save 1.4 million in the next sixteen months. Our engineers tell us that the initial results are positive. The component has been reliable in 5/6 tests.”
  4. Prove your points. A lot rests on an Executive making the right decision. The challenge you have as the speaker is to sort through all that you know and elevate your ideas to the Executive level. It is always a temptation to go into too much detail. Be sure to keep it high level. As you move further into the conversation, define the risks and the opportunities. A chart of the pros and cons will help to clarify at a glance, assuming your chart or visual does not look like an eye chart. Specific examples are also important. In fact, some experts say they are mandatory when trying to influence.
  5. Be prepared for push-back. Too much is at stake for an Executive to make a mistake. Anticipate that there will be questions. Figure what their decision rests on and you will know the bulk of the questions. Always answer succinctly. If they want more information, they will ask a follow-up question. Have at the ready hidden slides or handouts.
  6. Summarize. You have undoubtedly heard the old axiom, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you have told them.” Never leave without a strong summation. If there are actions you need to take, be sure to list them. If there are actions the Executive must take, specifically state what they are and by when. Get confirmation that you are both in agreement.
  7. Consciously deliver your message. Keep your focus on the Executive at all times. Do not be intimidated. They want you to be successful. Demonstrate your confidence by looking the person in the eye, by pausing often to let your points sink in and by leaning into the table. Use your hands to punctuate your ideas.  Look, act and sound like you belong!

If you follow the pointers listed above, you will get your ideas across. You will influence Executives.

Question: What issues have you had in communicating with Executives that you are still not sure of? 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) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
31
Mar

Sales have been lost, projects stalled and promotions given to someone else all because of the way questions were answered. Your ability to handle tough questions is critical. Since questions can make or break you, consider the following suggestions. They will help you turn questions into opportunities and make your point resonate.

First and foremost, be prepared. Without proper preparation, tough questions can derail you. Before going into your meeting, sit down with paper and pen and brainstorm all the difficult questions you might be asked and how you will handle them. Consider the titles and functions of your listeners. Determine what a decision in your favor would depend on. Knowing this will help you to focus your answer on the things questioners care about, whether it’s return on investment, the risk or why you. Solid preparation will help you think on your feet.

Be a good listener. Instead of only listening to the first three or four words of a question, listen all the way to the end. Never interrupt or talk over a questioner. Be sure to demonstrate that you are listening with your body language. Nod, move closer if standing and look the questioner in the eye. Avoid looking to the ceiling or floor, and be sure to uncross your arms. Your body language will be noticed and speaks volumes.

A lot of people automatically repeat a question. If you are unsure what the question actually is because it is buried in a lot of verbiage, of course, repeat or ask clarifying questions. You may learn that the person is only objecting to one small element. By resolving that one issue, you may sway the individual to your point of view. If you are quite clear on the question being posed, repeating it will look like a “stall.”

Obviously, if you do not know the answer, be forthright. It is easy to say, “I don’t know.” However, without blaming, tell why you don’t know the answer. “I don’t know the answer to that because the numbers haven’t been reported yet, and I know you want me to be accurate. I will get that to you as soon as I know.”

Avoid patronizing by saying, “Good question.” It seems like a superficial or perfunctory comment that really isn’t sincere. Also, it sets you up as the judge of which questions are good and which don’t deserve a comment. A better way is to acknowledge the person’s attitude or position on an issue. “I can see why you would bring that up. Cost is a consideration with all of our customers. Our products are expensive, and you want to be sure that you are making the best investment for your company.” OR “Yes, you are correct. The project is three months behind schedule due to an unexpected quality issue from an outside vendor.” If you are unsure how to acknowledge, ask yourself, “What is the point they want me to see?” Simply saying “Yes” or “I understand” is not enough. A strong acknowledgement statement shows respect and makes the questioner more receptive to your answer. At all costs, avoid following your validation statement with “But,” “However,” or “Although.” It erases all the good you will have established and says that your point of view is better than theirs.

Always keep your answer short. A long answer may overwhelm and open up new areas for discussion that may be unrelated. If the questioner isn’t satisfied with the brevity of your answer, the individual will ask a follow-up question. Have at the ready addendum slides. Number your slides. Print them off in slider sorter mode. Circle the slides that might prompt discussion so that you can quickly access them by typing in the number and the enter key.

On the back end of your question, there is an opportunity to solidify your ideas by tying your answer to a key point, a benefit or an action step for your listeners. A good example might be, “By acting now, you will see a return on investment in the fourth quarter.” OR “Again, the risks are minimal, and, by launching now, we capitalize on customer demand before our competitors.”

People make decisions by the way you answer questions. If you do a good job, they will see you as a subject matter expert, the right individual for the job. If you do a poor job, you and your company may leave money on the table and your own integrity might be jeopardized. By applying the tips outlined here, you will turn questions into opportunities.

Question: What issues are you still unsure of related to handling tough questions? 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) Delivery Tips | p) Large Group Presentations | p) Managing Conflict | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
3
Mar

The Grave Digger’s Shift – What to Consider When Presenting Later in the Day

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The Grave Digger’s Shift

Presentations are particularly difficult in the afternoon. To insure that you are successful, make the necessary modifications to your delivery and style.

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: Think about you last presentation. 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) Communication | p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Feb

Everyone wants to be influential when in front of a client, a boss or even peers. For many of us, being persuasive is a crap shoot, where sometimes things go great, but, at other times, we wish for a “do-over.”  Those who are known as powerful, motivating communicators do a number of things- and they do them consistently. Imitate what these are and you too will be influential.

  • They are clear on their goal. They don’t go into a meeting with only a vague idea of what they want to accomplish. They have the end game in mind at all times. They don’t deviate.
  • They understand their listeners. They know each group is different. By analyzing their audience ahead of time, they discuss what is important to them and come armed with proof.
  • They anticipate resistance and are prepared with relevant data, facts and examples. They have hidden slides at the ready.
  • They listen well. They acknowledge the other person’s point of view and show respect at all points in time.
  • They directly link key points to benefits. Obviously, people want to know how an idea helps them or the business. Influential communicators connect the dots. They clearly and logically state what people can expect as a result of taking or not taking their suggested action.
  • They speak simply. Influential speakers work hard to explain complex ideas in terms anyone can understand. They use analogies, similes and metaphors when necessary.
  • They ask for what they want. No one leaves a meeting wondering what has to be done. They are specific about “what and when.”
  • They are animated. Their voice is louder, their gestures bigger, all in an attempt to gain and hold attention. No one would ever describe them as other than enthusiastic.
  • They are authentic. They don’t appear rigid or memorized. These genuine speakers smile, laugh and often weave in information about themselves to show that they are transparent.
  • They have strong relationships. Others like them. Because of the strength of these relationships, people more readily trust and believe them.

Influencing others is achieved through hard work. Those that are successful prepare well and demonstrate their belief in their ideas through their voice and body language. They are well liked, clear and logical.

Question: What issues are you still unsure of related to being influential? 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) Executive Conversations | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Jan

The Global Audience Shouldn’t Feel Undervalued

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Hosting a meeting with a team located around the globe is challenging. People come from different cultural and language backgrounds. Often, those located away from the parent company feel like stepchildren who are tolerated, but certainly not prized. When meeting with your global team on a conference call or a virtual session, your responsibility is to make each player feel their expertise is appreciated and their input essential.

  1. Develop rapport. Building rapport on a virtual call is far more than saying, “Can everyone hear me? Can you see my slides?” Get to know your team on a personal level. Who is into sports, theater or music? Who has a family? Acknowledge time differences and the fact that some are tuning in very early or very late in the day.
  2. Speak in words everyone would understand. When the language is simple, the team can quickly resolve issues. Long sentences and connecting one sentence to another with “and” make it difficult for those with English as a second language to know what is important. Additionally, eliminate any slang expressions. Consider the following. “The real underbelly of this problem has left me scratching my head. If we can decipher it, we can fix the whole enchilada.” Not only is there a risk of confusion, but there is also the possibility of insult.
  3. Send the slides the day before. Many people are better at written language. Make sure you add a visual component to the slide. A picture is worth a thousand words when speaking globally. Also, create an informative title to each slide.
  4. Before you show a slide, provide context or preview it. “On the next slide are the results for third quarter. You will see the breakdown for each country.”
  5. Speak slowly. Pay attention to the speed with which newscasters present. Notice that they pronounce every syllable in the word. They do not drop endings. Articulation is sharp. People with English as a second language typically learn the British pronunciation of the word. When you speak slowly, they can make the adjustment. If you speak quickly, you risk losing them.
  6. Avoid references to sports, movie stars or politicians. Somebody in India follows Cricket, not the NFL. Additionally, they may have no idea who Jennifer Aniston or Bradley Cooper is, and they certainly don’t watch the Voice or the Academy Awards.
  7. Request that participants interrupt you with questions. Announce that their opinions are valuable. Don’t wait until the end for questions. Engage your out-of- country audiences with specific questions like, “I know in India, things are governed by country rules. Can you tell us more about that?” OR “Olivier, you are the expert in this product. In France, what issues were of concern and how did you fix them?” Remember, in some countries, interrupting a senior person to ask a question is considered rude or disrespectful. Pause frequently to invite questions.
  8. Make sure to summarize key points and action items. If the meeting is lengthy, people will forget. Recap the key points and action items as you close. After the meeting, send an email again summarizing the actions items and deadlines.
  9. Amplify your energy. Passion is everything on a virtual call or teleconference. Most presenters forget how important amplifying their energy is. If need be, stand up, gesture, move around and speak up. People will hear the smile in your voice. If you sound boring, attendees will do email and only partially listen.
  10. Use your text tools. Underline, circle, or draw arrows to indicate what is important. Most virtual presenters forget these tools exist.
  11. Give your listeners something to do. Maybe they should move into breakout rooms. Maybe they should write their concerns in chat or on the whiteboard. A poll of how people are feeling is also a good idea. The more feedback you can get from your listeners, the more you can be convinced they are listening!
  12. Record your session. Afterwards, listen and assess how well you did.

Virtual team members need to feel appreciated. As global members feel valued and recognized, they work even harder. They don’t hesitate to bring up issues. Morale improves, and results soar.

Question: What issues are you still unsure of related to being a Breakthrough Communicator? 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) Delivery Tips | p) Global Communication | p) Team Presentations | p) Video Conferences | Presentation Communication Skills
25
Nov

Breakthrough or Breakdown

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Nobody wants to leave a meeting having a breakdown, wishing you would have done something differently. All of us want to be breakthrough communicators. Getting your message across doesn’t happen by accident. It depends on considering 5 key things:

  1. Preparation. First and foremost, you have to do your homework. A breakthrough communicator learns as much as possible about the person he or she will address. What is going on in that individual’s world? What issues are problematic? What opportunities could there be? What are the risks? What questions or objections might the person have? What help can they provide?
  2. Focus. As you begin, of course, develop rapport and provide context for your meeting; but get to the point quickly. Don’t bury ideas. Use strong language. Avoid jargon or “buzz” words. Use short pithy statements. Carve a clear path to what you want to accomplish and stick to it. Proof is one thing, but don’t overdo it. Too much detail confuses. Make it easy for your listener to follow your points. Sort through all of what you know about the topic and determine what is essential to your argument. Choose examples carefully. Breakthrough communicators remember “Less is more.”
  3. Value. To be heard, you have to show value. As you present your ideas, be sure to tether your ideas to solving your listener’s issues Show how the person will gain share, or save money. Don’t rely on chance. Connect the dots.
  4. Follow through. Breakthrough communicators do what they say. They deliver on what they promise. Information or data necessary to make a decision is at the ready. If something goes wrong, they hold themselves accountable. In all situations, they are always truthful. There are no shades of gray.
  5. Authenticity. Sometimes, when we are nervous, we appear rigid or on automatic pilot. Be real and authentic. Genuine speakers smile; they joke, if appropriate. They don’t worry about being too animated. They easily weave in information about themselves to show that they are willing to be vulnerable and are transparent.

Breakthrough communicators impact change. They gain attention. Understand where your listeners are and then guide them to where you want them to be. Show them value, have good follow through and be yourself. You will be successful.

Question: What issues are you still unsure of related to being a Breakthrough Communicator? 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 | Presentation Communication Skills
3
Nov

Captivate, Motivate, Educate

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Creating a “knock your socks off” business presentation can seem overwhelming. Regardless of whether you’re making a formal presentation at a conference or sitting across the table with a client or your boss, there are three key things to remember.

  • Captivate
  • Motivate
  • Educate

Many of us assume our only responsibility is to educate. Educating is just part of the equation. People get bored easily. We also need to captivate our listeners, otherwise attention will drift. After all, they have a lot going on in their personal and business lives, and this affects how well they will listen. Right from the get-go, we have to bring them into our world. With attention, we get retention. So how do we do that?

First, your introduction should pack a punch. As you set context for the meeting, be sure it sparks interest. Strong verbs and descriptive words are just the thing. For example, an opening statement, such as, “We are bleeding customers,” would definitely make heads rise. Personal stories and startling statistics also command attention. If your listeners feel what you say shows value, you will hook them.

Another way of starting strong is to be very energetic. Passion is contagious! Move towards your listeners if you are standing. Don’t stay tethered to your laptop. Sustain eye contact. Do big, meaningful gestures and smile. Poker faces make people uncomfortable. The more dynamic you seem, the more engaged they will become.

It is easy to assume that people will know what they should do as a result of listening to you. They don’t! We have to motivate them to take action. Upfront, tell them your position or feeling on the subject, product or service. If they see you as the subject matter expert, your position can be very motivating. Additionally, clearly state what action you want them to consider and the benefits. Be sure to stress the benefits; otherwise, they may not connect the dots. If you are clear on your position, any recommended actions and the payoff, you focus your listeners and motivate them to pay attention to what follows.

There is no doubt that we have to educate our listeners. Your listeners need to understand your message from start to finish. In the simplest language possible, explain your ideas. Back up your assertions with proof. Provide examples. Examples are essential when influencing. Be careful of going into unnecessary detail or discussing too many points.  Three main ideas are ideal. Always, always consider the knowledge level and needs of your listeners.

Captivating, motivating and educating are critical elements in any message. They need equal consideration. As you review your message, evaluate how effectively you have considered these issues. Remember, it is a disservice to bore busy people.

Question: What do you do to captivate your listeners? 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 | p) Large Group Presentations | p) Sales | p) Technical Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Oct

Why Your Ideas Don’t Get Accepted

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Photo Inserted Here

There are three reasons ideas don’t get accepted according to Rick Maurer, author of Why Don’t You Want What I Want?

Reason #1: “I don’t get it.”

Reason #2: “I don’t like it.”

Reason #3: “I don’t like you.”

Reason #1 “I don’t get it.” If customers don’t understand your argument, they certainly aren’t going to buy it. As you plan out your next presentation, very carefully analyze your audience and how much they know about the topic. Put yourself in their shoes. Then, think about the best way to explain these ideas to them, based on what they know and who they are.

Consider whether there is a logical flow to your argument. If you are explaining a process, are the steps in the right order? If you are explaining the benefits of a program, do you state your points in the order of importance?

One of the biggest reasons people get their ideas rejected is that they overload listeners with information. The more you say, the less people hear. While you want to create the evidence, three key points are plenty. Too much information frightens people. So does speaking in generalities. When explaining your points, don’t use adjectives; use stories or examples. This will not only help to support your case, but also, it will minimize confusion. Word choice is also critical. Simple, clear language, devoid of jargon, insures that everyone gets the point, not just those with technical expertise. Remember what happened in the O.J. Simpson case. People didn’t understand the evidence.

Reason #2 “I don’t like it.” When customers don’t like your idea, typically it means you didn’t show value. You didn’t relate your ideas to their needs. You didn’t give them one good reason to buy. The acid test to preparing any presentation is to ask yourself “Is there any good reason why they should say no?”Even if you feel a positive reception is a sure thing, don’t overlook that timing may be an issue. The sluggish economy or a behind the scenes projection may cause an idea to be rejected today when it might be applauded six months from now.

If there is anyone in the organization who might champion your ideas, be sure to approach that person ahead of time so they can promote them behind the scenes. An “insider”can also help you to better understand the audience’s primary needs and understand where the resistance might come from. Once you know this, you can anticipate objections and be ready to answer them.

Reason #3 “I don’t like you.”  First, impressions are lasting and are formed within a few minutes. A nervous presenter almost always scores poor marks. If you believe in what you say, listeners need to see it in your body and hear it in your voice. They need to feel you are looking them in the eye so that they can trust you. It is important to get feedback on your delivery style. Video tape feedback is ideal. Sometimes, people can come across as arrogant, insincere or even unfriendly without even knowing it. It is only after they see themselves on video tape that they realize there are some things they need to change.

Every speaker has a natural style. When presenters capitalize on their natural style, they win people over. When they try to imitate the speaking style of a boss or a colleague, they come across as fake. Be sure that when you speak, people feel they are getting the real “you.”

Selling your ideas requires a lot more than showing up and plugging in your power point. Doing your homework so that you can understand your listeners’ needs is critical. So is being a strong communicator and relating to your customers. If your ideas are rejected, take a good look in the mirror. Analyze where things turned sour so that the next time, you can convince people to move forward.

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) Communication | p) Delivery Tips | p) Speaking Style | p) Technical Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Sep

Achieving Expert Status as a Communicator

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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

The Grave Diggers Shift: Presentations after 3 p.m.

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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

Tune Them in by Involving Them

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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

Tips for Seamless Team Presentations — A Baker’s Dozen

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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