Archive for December, 2008

Public Speaking: Presenting to Executives – Top Five Tips

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

While basic public speaking skills are usually relevant, there are some special circumstances that apply when presenting to executives, especially if you are not a fellow executive.

The circumstances:  Executives typically have less time for “filler”.  They will appreciate a direct approach.  Executives are much more likely to interrupt you with questions, instead of listening until you’ve completed your presentation.  Stakes: If you are not typically before a group of executives, they will tend to make a quick judgement about your ability to do your job based on your ability to present before them.  Unfair, but true.  Pressure: Understandably, most people battle the nerves a bit more when presenting to executives.

Five Great Tips:

1) Work on your PACE:  NO DEAD TIME. This is a magicians trick.  As a sleight-of-hand expert, I can tell you that amateur magicians almost always get caught because of pacing.  Why? A pro presents at a natural pace where there is NO DEAD TIME.  Thus, it is rare to get an interruption such as “let me see the other hand” or “can I check what’s in the card box before we start?”.  An amateur’s pace has moments of dead time where the heckler will jump right in and through the presenter off kilter.  This is exactly the cause and effect when you present to executives.  If you are confident and brisk (not rushing, but owning every moment) you are likely to face much less interruptions that through you off track.  The only way to do this is to prepare and have everything you need at your fingertips.

2) Simplify: This may sound counterintuitive, but most executives don’t care about the details; they want the bottom line.  However, bring supporting data that you can refer to should they ask for the details.  This will make you shine when they question, “where did you get the $2.9mm figure?” and you have a handout showing its breakdown.  Even if you don’t use this extra information, you’ll feel confident that you have all bases covered.  Some use the strategy of a question hook, where you present a fact that will naturally lead to a question; and when questioned you have the supporting information at hand.

3) Time:  If they give you a time allocation, tell them after your power opener: “You’ve given me 15 minutes to cover . . . and I’ll keep it to that.  I’ve budgeted a little time at the end for discussion as well”.  In some cases I advocate telling the audience, “I’ll answer many of your questions in the presentation; so please note yours for the end.”  However when speaking to executives, a good tip is to avoid that strategy because of the power structure.  By saying you’ve budgeted a little time at the end for discussion, you provide a subtle suggestion that they wait until the end to ask questions.  Also, they will be grateful that you are aware of your time frame and intend to stay within it.  Few things annoy executives more than a protracted presentation that goes well beyond allocated time.

4) Eye contact: Okay, nothing new here, BUT . . . you will set yourself head and shoulders above your peers when you have a conversation directly with the executives.  This is to say, look directly at the CEO, make a point to her, then move on to the next person and act as if you were telling him something directly.  In this way, you are having a bunch of mini conversations.  It is likely that your peers will never do this.  They’ll make eye contact with everybody at the same time by scanning, yet they will connect with nobody.  This is your chance to distinguish yourself.

5) Visualize and Rehearse: Rehearsing comes after practicing.  Rehearsing means you give your presentation with your eyes closed, visualizing the room and audience.  If you make a mistake, you keep going, there is no second chance, just do what you would do were you public speaking for real.  Once you’ve done this a number of times, when the big day comes, you will have the “been there done that” feeling.  The executives will certainly notice your preparedness.

There you have it – Top Five Tips for Public Speaking to Executives.  But we know there are many more.  If you are an executive, would you please share the qualities you look for?  If you are not an executive but present to them, please share your stories and tips.  Your participation will be greatly appreciated.

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Power of Persuasion: Thank You Notes

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

dreamstime_7536653Here is a great blog about the power of thank you notes. Enjoy and benefit!

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Public Speaking: Entrepreneurs – Top 5 Tips

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

It’s cheap and delivers results!  Many entrepreneurs don’t have budget for radio, TV and print advertising; so they invest in networking.  There are tons of great networking organizations that are affordable and effective.  Everything comes at a price, though, and in this case – networking consumes a great deal of time.

How do you ensure you get a good ROI?  Take every opportunity to present before networking and civic organizations such as Chamber of Commerce, BNI (Business Network International), Lyons Clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.

Public speaking alone, however, is not enough to ensure results.  Entrepreneurs need to have strong presentation skills.  Here’s why: When an entrepreneur speaks publicly, the audience assumes a relationship between the speaker’s ability to deliver a great product/service and his ability to deliver a presentation with confidence.  Many in the audience assume that if the presenter does not speak with confidence, he may not be competent in his core expertise. Conversely, if an entrepreneur speaks to the audience’s challenges and aspirations, and he does so with confidence and enthusiasm, many will assume that he delivers not just great presentations, but also great products/services.  While this is an unfair assumption, we all know the power of perception.  

Getting back to ROI, in many networking situations, you will spend hours of time to earn a few minutes to stand before a group.  We have already discussed some tips for maximizing those minutes.

Here are your Top Five Public Speaking for Entrepreneurs Tips

1) Build confidence by memorizing your opener and closer.

2) Power openers:

a) Pause for seven seconds.  They’ll pay attention.

b) Give them a starling fact.  You may then ask for a show of hands “how many believe that?”

c) Avoid rhetorical questions: “How many people here would like to save money?”

3) Relate what you do with a relevant story.  Show them how you helped someone like them to overcome a challenge or achieve her goals. For better or worse, most people are more moved by stories that stats.  

4) In your power closer, have a call-to-action.  “Show of hands: how many people here would benefit from 10 more tips on . . . ?  Great, those of you with your hands up, please take out your business card and pass it along to me.”

5) When other entrepreneurs are speaking, look at the audience.  How many people are really listening?  If the speaker is “average” it is probable that very few are really paying attention.  If the speaker is stellar, then many will be engaged.  When you see an audience engaged with the presenter, note what she is doing that others fail to do.  Every time you network you will be learning more secrets to being that stellar speaker and earning a great return on the hours you invest to speak for a few minutes.

There you have it.  Five simple tips for entrepreneurs to maximize public speaking opportunities.

For the networkers reading this entry, we’d love to hear your stories of great or abysmal entrepreneurial performances you’ve witnessed.

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Public Speaking: Good Content is Like an Ironed Shirt

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

iron-shirt-mainI remember going to my first college internship wearing a wrinkled shirt.  It was embarrassing when one of my co-interns took me aside, pointed to the wrinkles and told me “Frank, you need to press your shirts so no one notices these”.  I always thought that was interesting . . . “so no one will notice?”  Hmm, do something right and no one notices.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the affirmation: “it’s not what you say but how you say it”.  Not true.  Both content and delivery count, albeit in different ways.  Content is like the ironed shirt.  It is simply expected and assumed that you know your stuff when you present.  If your audience detects you are unprepared or not knowledgeable on your topic, bitter resentment will result from you wasting everyone’s time.  In rare cases of genius, a presenter’s content can make her shine, but in most cases solid content is simply expected, and if it’s not delivered, the presenter is wearing a “wrinkled shirt”.

Strong delivery is neither assumed nor expected.  How do I know this? Most presenters have very little skill in delivery; so that low-level becomes the norm.  If you present with weak delivery skills you simply look like everyone else.  Unless you are blatantly bumbling, there is no “wrinkled shirt.”

What does this mean to you? It means it’s easy for you to shine when you present.  Even basic delivery skills will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

Look forward to our upcoming blog entry on making a great first impression.

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