The Speakers Practice has invited Australian Small Business owners to submit articles on the topic of the Presentation Skills in the workplace. Contributors are experts in their industry , discussing the value of presentation skills in their field of expertise.
Introducing John Millar –
John Millar, Managing Director
More Profit Less Time Pty Ltd
The business owner gets up to speak. Everyone there needs to hear what he/she has to say but within ten minutes, they are either hopelessly confused or falling asleep. What is the business owner doing wrong?Any business owner who sets out to present, persuade, and propel with the spoken word faces 9 major pitfalls.
1. Unclear Thinking.If you can’t describe what you are talking about in one sentence, you may be guilty of fuzzy focus or trying to cover too many topics. Your listeners will probably be confused too, and their attention will soon wander. Whether you are improving your own skills or helping someone else to create a presentation, the biggest (and most difficult) challenge is to start with a one-sentence premise or objective.
2. No Clear Structure.Make it easy for people to follow what you are saying. They’ll remember it better–and you will too as you deliver your information and ideas. If you waffle, ramble, or never get to the point, your listeners will tune out. Start with a strong opening related to your premise; state your premise; list the rationales or “Points of Wisdom” that support your premise, supporting each with examples: stories, statistics, metaphors, and case histories. Review what you’ve covered, take questions if appropriate, and then use a strong close.
3. No Memorable Stories.People rarely remember your exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images that your words inspire. Support your key points with vivid, relevant stories. Help your listeners “make the movie” in their heads by using memorable characters, engaging situations, dialogue, suspense, drama, and humour. In fact, if you can open with a highly visual image, dramatic or amusing (but not a joke!), that supports your point, you’ve got them hooked. Then tie your closing back to your opening scene. They’ll never forget it.
4. No Emotional Connection.The most powerful communication combines both intellectual and emotional connections. Intellectual means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned arguments. Emotion comes from engaging the listeners’ imaginations, involving them in your illustrative stories by frequently using the word “you” and by answering their unspoken question, “What’s in this for me?” Use what is called a “high I/You ratio.” For example: Not “I’m going to talk to you about customer average sale,” but “You’re going to learn the latest trends in improving your customer average sale. You’ve pulled the listener into the story.
5. Wrong Level Of Abstraction. Are you providing the big picture and generalities, a sort of pep talk, when your listeners are hungry for details, facts, and specific how-to’s? Or are you drowning them in data when they need to position themselves with an overview and find out why they should care? Get on the same wavelength with your listeners.
6. No Pauses. Good music and good communication both contain changes of pace, pauses, and full rests. This is when listeners think about what has just been said. If you rush on at full speed to crowd in as much information as possible ( and generally this is a challenge for the newer coaches), chances are you’ve left your listeners back at the station. It’s okay to talk quickly, but pause whenever you say something profound or proactive or you ask a rhetorical question. This gives the audience a chance to think about what you’ve said and to internalise it.
7. Irritating Non-Words. Hmm–ah–er–you know what I mean–. One speaker I heard began each new thought with “Now!” as he scanned his notes to figure out what came next. This might be okay occasionally, but not every 30 seconds. Record yourself to check for similar bad verbal habits. Then keep taping yourself redelivering the same material until such audience-aggravators have vanished.
9. Misusing Technology. Without a doubt, audio/visual has added showbiz qualities to our presentations. However, just because it is available, doesn’t mean we have to use it! Timid speakers who simply narrate flip chart images, slides, videos, overheads, or view-graphs can rarely be passionate and effective. Any visual aid takes the attention away from you. Even the best PowerPoint(r) images will not connect you emotionally. Use strong stories instead if at all possible. Never repeat what is on the slides. If you do, one of you is redundant. Make technology a support to your message, not a crutch.
10. Not Having A Strong Opening And Closing. Engage your audience immediately with a powerful, relevant opening that has a high I/You factor. It can be dramatic, thought provoking, or even amusing, but never, never open with a joke (unless you are a humorist with original materials). Get your audience hooked immediately with a taste of what is to follow. And never close by asking for questions. Yes, take questions if appropriate, but then go on to deliver your dynamic closing, preferably one that ties back into your opening theme, and has your prospects wanting to sign up for your services. Last words linger. As with a great musical, you want your audience walking out afterwards humming the tunes.
When you can avoid these 9 common pitfalls, you’re free to focus on your message and your audience, making you a more dynamic, powerful, and persuasive communicator, getting more clients.
Thanks John. You raise some great points. Clarifying our business concepts and being able to articulate them clearly is essential. There are some great recommendations here!