How Influential Are Your Business Presentations?

Just over a year ago I attended a large Sales Force Effectiveness conference and was attracted to attend for a number of reasons. Firstly, I like to keep up to date with progress within the sales industry, particularly within sales representation and sales management. Secondly, it gave me the chance to network and meet new contacts; and thirdly, as I have a very keen interest in the power of effective presenting, this would be a chance to learn from two days of watching a total of around eighteen presenters. The purpose of this article is to highlight that based on what I observed over the two days, I now believe that the level of influential presentation skill is not what it should be and to that end, I will offer a framework for sales representatives and managers to work with in order that they can develop their business presentations.

Of the eighteen presenters (all of them at a fairly high executive level in the sales 7 marketing industry) there were only two who I would consider to have above average influential presentation skills. One executive was excellent, spoke with passion and had me listening to his every word while the other, although not quite so passionate, presented in a very effective, cool, calm manner which had me engaged due to the stories that he related. The other sixteen were at best average and at worst totally ineffective.

The most common failures were:

o Too much data and information crammed on to unreadable slides.
o Talking too fast and rushing through the slides.
o No attempts to engage the audience.
o Death by Power-Point. One person attempted to go through over sixty sides in twenty minutes!
o Lack of preparation was very evident in some cases.
o Some presentations were almost identical to the previous speakers.
o Some presenters came across as ‘arrogant’ experts.

I was not impressed and wondered exactly why such senior executives were not able to present effectively. In my twenty years in the sales industry I attended numerous presentation skills courses and I felt that at the time that most of them were effective with the result that I was a good presenter. It has only been in the last few years that having to present for a living as a self employed consultant that I have realised my level of skill was not exactly what it should have been. This has been reinforced in that since becoming an elected member of the Professional Speakers Association and now having seen some serious professional speakers in action, I needed to develop further my skills. I now believe that perhaps the traditional approach to developing presentation skills may be slightly flawed. Let me explain.

On all the skills courses I have attended much of the focus of the training has been on the speaker or presenter themselves, in terms of their body language, voice pitch and tone. There has been a huge emphasis on the use of video so that participants can see themselves on the ‘replay’ and in ‘slow motion’. A coach or trainer will assist in the video analysis thereby reinforcing that the presenter has some unique ‘mannerisms’ that desperately need changed! The end result of this is that I believe the presenter remains focused on their various body movements or ‘mannerisms’ such as what they do with their hands or feet and as such this switches the focus away from where it really should be – the audience. The best presenters I have seen concentrate fully on the audience, engaging them with both the content, their energy and their enthusiasm. Some of the best presenters I have encountered would have been ‘destroyed’ by the video analysis in that their hands were doing this or their feet doing that! In terms of the excellent presenters, these ‘mannerisms’ were not picked up by the general audience because they were not evident to them due to the nature of the presenter’s content and the overall skill and energy that they projected. One aspect of presenting that every professional presenter agrees must be a priority is that of planning, preparation and practice. This is a must for anyone who presents and the old adage, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ is very apt! Planning, preparation and practice builds confidence and with confidence comes the automatic reaction of focusing on your audience and not on yourself.

I have developed my E5 Presenting with Influence formula and this I believe will give sales executives and managers a framework to base the preparation and execution of their presentation around, whether it is to a group of customers or within a team business meeting situation.

ENGAGE How do you engage your audience from the start and how do you keep them engaged?
How do you manage that engagement and still keep on track?

ENLIGHTEN What does the audience know about you?
How will you manage their expectations as to what you are going to present?

EDUCATE Does your content meet the needs of the audience?
How are you going to present new information?
What evidence do you have to back up your claims?

ENTERTAIN Even the most ‘serious’ audiences want to be entertained, perhaps not through jokes (dangerous tactic!) but through real life stories and anecdotes. Do you have real life scenarios to reinforce your key messages?

ENCOURAGE In every presentation you will want the audience to react in a way that is positive. If it is a sales presentation you want at the very least a follow up meeting to discuss the opportunity further, at best, a clear commitment to buy. Your presentation must deliver encouragement to act.

The best way to deliver presentation skills training is not to emphasise the use of video but to create a learning environment whereby a training course is based around regular practice in front of peers. The feedback from peers, in the role of the audience, is far more powerful than reviewing the video footage with a trainer or coach. Presenting is about planning, preparation and providing your audience with a powerful, passionate message that will make them feel motivated to act as you would like them to. So, if you have had feedback that you stroke your nose, twiddle your thumbs, or stand at the ‘wrong’ side of the stage then provided your audience is engaged, enlightened, educated, entertained and encouraged to act then so what!

Negotiating Ethically Is Not For Sissies

Negotiating isn’t easy, no matter what your style. Negotiating to get what you want takes brains and backbone, regardless of whether you’re gunning for your negotiating counterparts, or focusing on designing equitable solutions. You have to think through what you want and the most effective way to get it. And you have to have the moxie to follow through with your plans. Sometimes just asking for something takes nerve. After all, some of us were taught as children not to ask for anything; instead, we were to wait until it was offered. That courtesy may have won you points with your second-grade teacher, but it’ll kill you in the real world. We usually have to go after what we want. And to get what we want, we have to be shrewd negotiators, even when we try to maintain high ethical standards. As a matter of fact, negotiating on a mature, adult-to-adult basis is even more demanding than slipping around and trying to manipulate or trick the people you’re negotiating with.

First of all, being open and honest takes guts. It takes nerve basically to say to the people you’re negotiating with, “I want to play fair. How about you?” or “This is what I want. How about you, and how can we both get what we want?” You’re challenging them to meet you on your level, and you’re asking them to focus on more than their individual needs. You can get some strange reactions because people aren’t used to an open approach to negotiating. Some people don’t want to negotiate that way, which brings me to a second reason ethical negotiations can be so challenging. Making sure that you don’t get manipulated by someone who is not so honest takes savvy.

How to Avoid Being Manipulated

A difference in standards can cause serious problems when negotiating. Just because you follow all the principles I outline through Negotiate Like the Pros, that doesn’t guarantee that everyone you negotiate with will be as mature and fair-minded as you are. (I know that once you’ve learned all my negotiating secrets, you’re going to be mature and fair-minded, right?) You have to be prepared to run into less-than-honest bargainers, people who have their eye on the prize and have no qualms about running over you to get it.

These people have no interests in forging mutually beneficial agreements. They are only interested in what’s good for them, and they don’t mind abusing others to get it. They are the hardballers. They want to play rough. They don’t care if there’s such a thing as principled negotiating. They think they can get more by bullying the people they negotiate with. They believe they’re stronger than their opponents and think they can walk away with the spoils if they go for the jugular vein.

Don’t misunderstand me. Not every person you meet at the negotiating table is going to be an unscrupulous rogue. Some people don’t share your high standards for negotiating because they don’t know any better. Before reading this book, what were your attitudes toward negotiating? Did you see it as a “me-against-my-opponent” proposition? Did you feel like the only way you could win was for someone else to lose? Some people don’t realize there’s a better, easier way to negotiate.

I have a system for negotiating that can handle any of the problems that inevitably crop up when I’m with people from either group.

Defense Tactic 1: Maintain your standards.

If a person approaches negotiations aggressively out of ignorance, I can eventually win him or her over to my style. Most people don’t want to be enemies. They just don’t want to get ripped off. If you can demonstrate to them that you’re interested in a fair deal, they will usually drop the aggressiveness routine and start to work with you.

Defense Tactic 2: Protect yourself by not fighting back directly.

When you meet with the people who don’t want to play fair, you can protect yourself – and you don’t have to resort to trickery or manipulation to do it.

If you think about it, most sharks are propelled by three basic drives – greed, self-centeredness, and an exaggerated ego. And any of those three drives makes them extremely vulnerable to a smart negotiator.

Roger Fisher and William Ury call this approach “negotiation jujitsu” in their book Getting to Yes. Jujitsu is a form of martial arts that focuses on deflecting attacks rather than engaging the enemy. If someone is running toward you aggressively, you don’t stand your ground and hit back when they run into you. You step to the side and let them run past.

Defense Tactic 3. Call in a third-party arbitrator.

Rarely in my experience as a lawyer and a businessman have I ever had to call in a third-party arbitrator because the people I was negotiating with insisted on using less-than-honorable techniques. It almost never reaches this point. But probably most of us have been involved in situations where we needed someone who was completely impartial and had no links to anyone in the negotiations to help guide the negotiating process.

The benefit of bringing in a third party is that they can shift the negotiations from positional bargaining to bargaining based on interests. A third party can look at all sides objectively and weave together a plan that takes into account everyone’s interests.

Defense Tactic 4. Bail out.

When all else fails – you can’t persuade the other party or parties to negotiate honestly and openly, and a mediator doesn’t work – abandon the negotiations, at least for a while.

Maybe a deal just wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes you get a gut feeling telling you to get out of a certain negotiating situation. Go with it. Remember, you will be negotiating from a much stronger position if you are willing to walk away from the bargaining table. Maybe both parties need more time to think about what they want and what they are willing to give for it.

In Conclusion

Negotiating is a complex process, even under the best of circumstances. Every person involved in a negotiation brings to the event a different background, culture, perceptions, values, and standards. Breaking through these differences can seem impossible, yet it is crucial to creating a mutually beneficial agreement. Maintain your standards throughout negotiations.

If you can’t win cooperation, chances are you will gain nothing from the negotiations. When you encounter people who aren’t negotiating ethically, try to bring them up to your level. If the other party doesn’t respond to your attempts to do so, be willing to walk away. You won’t have lost anything.

Retirement Presents For Men

When considering retirement presents for men, it may being a good idea to think outside the box in consider purchasing the man something that he would not expect. Many retirement gifts, quite frankly, are rather boring and unimaginative. Engraved plaques make for a lovely memento, but they are seldom actually displayed. More than likely, such a present will end up shoved in a drawer and forgotten in a short period of time.

When a man is about to retire, he is happy to look back all the accomplishments he achieved during his lifetime. He does not however, want to be pushed into a rocking chair and sentenced to a life of sedentary boredom. For this reason, it may be a good gift idea to choose something that will actually add some type of excitement to the retiree’s life. Of course, the gift must fit the individual. Choosing some activity that is dangerous to the man’s health is certainly not appropriate. You can however give a gift that will help a man to realize that he still has a life ahead of him that is worth living and enjoying with family and friends.

A fine gift idea for a recent retiree, may be some type of modern gadget that he does not even realize exists. Many times, older individuals caught up in the rat race of going to a job and living their everyday life, have not had the opportunity to keep up with all of the modern technological advances going on in the world around them. A fun idea might be some type of modern convenience related to some activity he enjoys. A golf course GPS or a digital camera might be an entertaining and welcomed gift.

Whatever you may choose to give the man who is retiring, be kind. There is certainly a place for a novelty gift or two, but receiving nothing but gag gifts can be boring and border on being disrespectful to someone who has put in their full portion of work days. Help them to start the next chapter of their life on a positive note and give them something that will help them to make use of and enjoy the increased amount of free time they will soon have on their hands.