Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

As an entrepreneur or business owner you’re going to find yourself in positions where you are presenting – Fact. This could be for any number of reasons including raising finance, selling a service/product or simply marketing your business. At Optix Solutions, a large part of our marketing plan is devoted to giving seminars & talks where we aim to educate and give our audience value while not over selling our services. No one likes to be sold to, it’s important therefore that our presentation skills are good. I never stop learning this subject – there is always room for improvement.

Over the last 10 years I’ve provided countless seminars and presentations for pitches, so today I thought I’d share with you my ten strategies for a successful presentation.

1). Watch Others – I’ve learnt more from watching engaging speakers and noting down things they do, than from reading any written material on the subject. Find motivational speakers and absorb everything they do; how they move, what they say and how they interact with the audience. I strongly suggest looking up conferences that have good keynote speakers – Seth Godin (marketing guru) is as good a start as any. There are lots of videos of him on YouTube.

2). The Fear – You’re afraid right? Yeah, most people are but a bit of fear can go a long way (did I just make that saying up?). Seriously though, some nerves can be a good thing; they heighten your senses and pump adrenaline round your body, allowing you to work at an optimum level for the time you are presenting. Admittedly, if they are completely overwhelming it might be wise to work on them with a professional, especially if you’re going to be presenting a lot. There are loads of tactics for getting over nerves but the one I use is to keep reminding myself that the people I’m presenting to are only human – they got up that morning and pulled their socks on just like I did! It’s amazing how that Board Director or Chairman just suddenly got a lot cuddlier.

3). Prepare – The old faithful – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin. I would never dream of rocking up to a seminar or presentation unprepared, it’s asking for trouble. Make sure you’ve rehearsed a few times and you know the length of time you’ll take. Obviously this should fit in nicely with the time slot you’ve been given. I also try and second guess some of the questions that could be coming at me if it’s a Q & S format so I’m as ready as I can be for them. Be careful however, not to ‘over prepare’, you don’t want to be reading parrot fashion off slides if you can help it and sometimes if you rehearse too much that’s what can happen. I usually run through a presentation twice before hitting the main event for real.

4). Turn up early – There is nothing more stressful than rocking up to something you’re speaking at late, not to mention how unprofessional it looks. Make sure you are there well in advance of the first attendees and ready to setup. You know it’s not going to be simple to connect your laptop to that projector, so why leave it till the last minute? Turning up early also allows you to work out the room: What the acoustics are like, how the seating is laid out, the lighting and anything else that could put you off or make you uncomfortable in your presentation.

5). Summarise your presentation early on – Telling your audience what you are going to talk about upfront is beneficial as it sets the scene and their expectations. Always begin with what you’re going to cover later and keep it simple as possible. If you’re making a short presentation then try and keep it to only a few points.

6). Aim your presentation at your audience, not yourself –
Although you could be an amazing keynote speaker that people would pay to come and watch, I’m guessing that like me, most of my readers will be using presentations to build their personal or company brands in one way or another. If this is the case then remember one thing – your audience want solutions to their problems and needs – they don’t want to hear you babble on about how amazing you are and how great your services could be for them – aim the material at their needs. Understand your audience before the presentation if possible.

7). Long Wordy Slides? No Way Jose! – Long slides with lots of boring text won’t be remembered. If you’ve prepared well, as I mentioned earlier, then you should be able to talk around the content of a slide. Less, in my opinion, is better. In fact, this last year I’ve watched many more presenters using single slides with just one graphic (we all know that visuals work well – picture/thousand words blah blah blah) and a one or two liner to bring home their points. These are fantastic and certainly a route that I intend to adopt on my quest for better presentation skills in the future.

8). Humour – Try, where possible, to inject humour into your presentation. This will break down the barriers with your audience and engage them more. Once your audience is laughing it will help no end with those nerves I mentioned earlier. People connect with humour, if you’re struggling, then why not get others to look over your work and see if they can see opportunities for the occasional jokey image or funny reference. A caveat here though – be careful with humour and public speaking – the last thing you want to do is offend your audience. Steer clear of taboo subjects for jokes.

9). Connect with your audience – No-one wants to listen to a boring, stiff, monotone presenter. The best speakers I’ve seen work the room – it’s an art I tell you. At the most simple level make sure you connect (eye line) with as many people as possible. Focusing on one individual will alienate the rest of the room. If you want to take that a step further and feel comfortable doing so, then engage with a few people one on one (and by name if poss). If you aim a question at one or two people you’d be amazed what that does to the rest of the audience – they soon start listening, thinking it could be them next! I always try and move about a little in order to inject a bit of life into my talks (I have a habit of pacing) – I also use hand gestures as much as possible to control the room (one very effective one is to put your own hand up when you want others to respond in the same way). If you are going to pace about, then it’s good that you got there early so you can test if your shoes will make a distracting noise on the floor – I kid you not, it’s one of the first things I look for. :)

10). Be unique – You want to be remembered don’t you? You didn’t just get up and spend all that time in front of that frightening audience for nothing did you? Do something unique if possible – give value away where you can (especially if it allows you to follow up after the event). If there’s a call to action for your audience, make sure they know what it is. Thank them for listening.

Although I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, I’ve learnt a lot about presenting and public speaking in the last 10 years – I’m fascinated by the art of it and intend to continue honing my skills over the rest of my business life. I hope this article will help a few people with their own fears or questions about the subject. Good luck…

Start by Selling Yourself

Well once again I find myself apologising for the time taken to write this post – At least I’m now settled in my new pad and have a computer at home so no excuses anymore :)

If you’re starting a business then I’m sure that like me, you’ll probably be selling something – either a product or a service. The majority of start-up owners have to be sales people (whether they like it or not) purely because they are often the only people in the business.

Now let’s put aside this theory that you are selling a product or a service – you’re not, you’re selling yourself!!! *Queue dramatic music*

‘People buy People’ – It maybe an over-used saying but it’s very true. So my advice is this, think about who you are and how you present yourself both physically and through your personality. You may need to do some soul searching for this. Consider how people perceive you, maybe even ask for feedback from clients and be ready to take the constructive criticism. If you’re willing to invest in this process selling will become easier.

There are many types of sales people – from those who are in more direct hard sales, to the other end of the scale who are slightly more fluffy – Some organisations may class these as ‘Hunters and Farmers’. A hunter typically drives for sale after sale, moving on after each one while a farmer, ‘farms’ their relationship with people for long term gain. My own personality is quite fluffy and I’m definitely a farmer (I even have a flat cap now but that’s another story!) but I do try where possible to match my personality to whomever I’m speaking to.

So, if people buy people then what does this mean to you? What can you do to give yourself a better chance of making a sale and more importantly getting repeat business? Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips:

1). Emanate positivity- Lets be honest things are not always great in business. There will be days when you feel like you should of just stayed in bed. When starting up, its even harder because you have all the pressures of money as well; ‘where will the next lot of money come from to pay that bill’ etc… Unless you get really lucky, this is something we all go through. My point here, is that HOWEVER you feel, you need to emanate positivity when out and about, talking to someone on the phone, networking and at meetings etc…basically anywhere you’re interacting with people not directly involved in your business. If you turn up to a networking meeting and I come to speak to you and the you start telling me that business is slow and you’re not very happy and blah blah blah, two things are going to happen – 1). You’re going to depress me and probably everyone else you talk to that day and 2). This is highly unlikely to make me want to give you my business. If you take one thing from this post please let it be this: BE POSITIVE in public. There is one guy, who I see around Exeter regularly and every time I ask him how he is, his standard response (and its been the same for about 8 years now) is “Fantastic” – said with a huge smile. I’m certain that in those 8 years there must have been a few times when it wasn’t fantastic but he certainly knows the benefits of acting positively in public. On the same note there are people who moan about everything each time I see them out. These people don’t tend to stay in business very long or certainly don’t do very well from it.

2). Dress like the person you’re meeting/doing business with. This sounds strange and possibly a bit obvious but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes. If you’re meeting with an Accountant/Solicitor then make sure you’re wearing a suit and look smart and clean. If you’re meeting a plumber then a suit is probably a little OTT, maybe smart jeans and shirt are more sensible. Clearly if your business means you must wear certain threads (like a uniform) then this may not be applicable.

3). Mimic Body Language – One of the most interesting things I’ve learnt in my time in business is the importance of body language in sales. If you mimic the person you’re talking too (and I don’t mean repeat what they say or anything silly) then you’ll be surprised how much easier a meeting will run. I’m not a body language expert but I can tell you this puts people at ease and will help the sales process. I quite often find myself mirroring the person I’m talking to at business meetings instinctively, especially if  I’m getting on well with them.

4). Consider your audience – This goes for all types of sales but when selling yourself, you need to consider the person you’re selling to and adapt your persona to theirs. This might mean trying to pick up on elements of their personality, language or dress as mentioned above. To give you a really obvious example, would you act the same around a workman on a building site as you would with a solicitor or accountant? I consider it a real skill to morph yourself so that whomever approaches you, you can very quickly determine what type of person you’re dealing with and then change various aspects of yourself to suit them.

5). Build a relationship (will deal with more in future posts). A relationship will yield far better results in the long run. People will warm to you more if you spend time getting to know them and their business before telling them what you can do for them. I mentioned this in my networking post as well as I truly believe it to differentiate good sales people from poor ones. Concentrate on building relationships with everyone you know and mark my words (oh dear I sound like an old teacher), it will help you sell yourself.

I really hope this has been helpful – much of it is common sense but if you’re new to business then next time you’re due to go out to a networking event or meeting, just skim over this post first and try and implement some of it and see what results you get – I’d be keen to hear your feedback :)