Presentation Breakthrough: How To Stop Boring Your Audience

bored audience

Do you hate public speaking?

Most people who do have some fear of essentially making a fool of themselves or the audience not listening. These are absolutely valid fears, and can be overcome with the right strategy.

Here are two solid tips for the often overlooked key to a great presentation: content.

Tip One: Immediately ask two important questions.

   1. What is your goal?

What is the point of your presentation? Is it to inform or influence? The bottom line is what do you want your audience to do after you have spoken to them? It is critical to know your end game. It is the foundation of your presentation.

   2. What does your audience need/want to hear?

This is not what you want to tell them. They do not need to hear everything you know about the subject. This is solely focused on your audience – what do they need?

This is the biggest culprit of losing an audience. How – by trying to put too much information into your presentation. Do not exceed your audience’s ability to absorb information.

Tip Two: Keep your points to no more than five (general rule of thumb).

Yes, really, five. If you scoff at this number, try a little test. Ask people around you to list off as many points as they can from presentations they have heard. How many points did they remember? I will be dollars to donuts that five points is the most.

How to get to those five. First, list of all the important factors your audience needs to know or hear. Write as many things as you can think of in this first list. After you have compiled this list, rank the items in order of importance.

Your top five are you’re your critical points and the structure of your presentation. Other points may be important and can be used as bonus collateral, like handouts or follow up emails.

Bonus Tip One: Say more with less.

We naturally write more words than we speak when conveying a message. (A lot has to do with not being able to use our voice or body language, but that is another story.) When compiling your presentations, focus on key words. Do not memorize whole streams of thought or sentences. If you don’t say them exactly as you practiced or memorized, you might feel like you ‘messed up’ and it will throw you off.

Know the key concepts and practice a natural flow between them. Let your words change, get comfortable with a bit of variation.

Bonus Tip Two: Practice, practice, practice – with a twist.

The best practice is videotaping yourself once you get comfortable with your content and delivery. But throw this into the mix: ask a friend or colleague, akin to your audience, to listen to your presentation.

Here is the key: after you present, don’t ask them how you did. Ask them what they got out of it or what they thought were the main points.

If their points match yours, awesome! If their list does not match yours – go back for ruthless editing. Look at the points they missed – did you say too much, is there a simpler way to convey your message? Is it really important? Were you rushing through and not allowing them to absorb all the points?

Boring presentation breakthrough starts with knowing your goals and the audience’s needs. Do the heavy lifting of strategy and your audience will hear and remember your message. And not looking like a fool? Confidence through practice and a genuine interest in your topic will prevent that.

 

 

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I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career that renews their brilliance.

I am triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Social Brand Analyst and Career Coach. My clients learn to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

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Craft Your Communication Wisely – Rarely Do We Know 100% of Our Audience

who-is-reading-your-communication

Several years ago as a leader, I got my hand smacked about an email in which I added a touch of effervescent witticism.  It was appreciated by my staff, but not my director.

In the very large organization it was not uncommon for updates to fail leaving my staff completely frustrated. During staff meetings and one-on-ones we began adding humor while implementing contingency plans to make the best during these situations.

An update was not successful and another was schedule, I sent out an email to my staff to keep them apprised of time-frames and the situation. The problem is I added a sentence with something similar to “I know you are surprised” after the not working part.

My biggest mistake (and there was more than one) was not realizing my audience was not only those on the email list.

It was a poor reflection of me as a leader supporting another team and the organization as a whole. My communication was not consistent or positive for all who could have seen this communication.

I was young at the time and had a good director. I took appropriate action and accountability. it was a good lesson.

Some companies and representatives do not get the benefit of good coaching or bad mistakes that are good lessons.

I heard a reminder of this and of not being aware of your audience and the misalignment of communication.

There are parts of the south that have experienced quite a winter storm after the holidays. During the weeks of December 26th and January 2nd most services in one small town were pushed back at least a day due to holidays.

The winter storm closed schools, government offices and businesses everywhere and created an even greater delay to some services effectively cancelling them for a week.  Ice covered streets made travel extremely dangerous.

One of these services was trash service, which is provided by a contractor to the town. Many residents passed their trashcans at the end of their driveway day after day for nearly six days after the originally expected delayed pick up date. Then they received communication.

A voicemail was recorded by a representative of the municipality and sent to all customers.

This was the good part – there was communication.

Here is the not so good part – the communication itself.

  • It detailed, in length, the timing of the holiday, how that week and the prior trash had been delayed due to the holidays and in even more detail the storm that hit the town.
  • The representative’s statement threw the service provider under the bus. It was stated that: “we are at the mercy of the service provider, so to speak”. The provider’s name was used only when speaking despairingly about them.
  • It was pretty easy to surmise that the communication came after numerous calls, questions or complaints about the trash not being picked up, that frustration came through.
  • Nearly a minute into the voicemail the most important elements came to fruition: the new collection dates, ability to handle two weeks worth and credit for the missed week.
  • Not only was it was nearly a minute and half long (I am wondering how many listened to the entire message) the tone and delivery was very, very casual.

I believe the communication was to inform and ease. Yet the delivery and dialog delivered a different message: stop calling us, it is not our fault.

If the intent was to address 98% of the complaints, there was a better way. I say 98% because there will always be about 2% who will still complain no matter what you do.

A positive impact could have been had by simply stating: “Due to the holidays and recent winter storm, our service provider delayed trash service for the safety of their employees and those in our community. You will receive a credit for last week and they will resume pick up on X and Y dates with the ability to pick up any additional trash caused by the missed week. Thank you for your patience and understanding, we and the service provider apologize for any inconvenience.”

In twenty seconds this addresses the majority of concerns while demonstrating professionalism , courtesy and appreciation.

When crafting a message we do not always know our entire audience.

If it is an informative message there may be others that the communication touches than the original distribution.

If it is a blanket message (websites, LinkedIn profiles, biographies etc.) the audience is limitless.

If it is a reactionary message, there may be more than one concern. The other thing about reactionary messaging is that it is very easy to slip into blame mode or be a bit testy. Neither is appropriate and either or both will not be viewed well by your audience.

For a more positive, impactful communication, keep these points in mind:

  • There will be the 2%’ers who will not be satisfied or will complain, not a lot you can do about that.
  • Even though there may be one glaring issues or topic, there may be underlying concerns. Your communication should be holistic to cover beyond the most obvious, but not the realm of minute possibilities. In other words, look at it again before you send it out, could there be another concern, are you addressing to many and diluting your message?
  • Speak to the entire possible audience. This means you may have to be less personalized in order to effectively communicate the entire message. Remember throwing in a quip – one group of the audience was okay with it, another was not.
  • If it is a message representing an organization, the voice of the organization should prevail, not an individual.
  • Do not throw anyone under the bus. It does not make you look better by making them look worse.
  • Be brief when you can to maintain the attention of your audience and not dilute your points.

Communication in every form is a representation of the organization, teams and individuals.

For the greatest positive impact, your communication must align in both message and delivery for every person it touches. Reevaluating before distribution can mean the difference between engagement and disengagement of your audience; even those you do not know are listening.

 

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

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LinkedIn – Pick Your Voice and Stick With It

coffee house conversationWriting your LinkedIn profile can be a little intimidating. After all you have 2,000 characters to convey who you are, what you do and why someone would want to connect to you.

No pressure there.

Then there are all sorts of tips, tidbits, articles and training on how to write the best profile, including summary, to accomplish these goals.

It does not help that many are contradictory.

Not really helping to alleviate that pressure, now is it?

The best way I can describe the voice and feel of the summary is this:

Think about sitting across from your ideal audience at a foo-foo coffee shop on one of those big fluffy chairs and they asked you, “So, tell me about yourself”

How would you answer that question in that environment? The environment is relaxed, but at its core still business.

Your answer is your summary.

Picture yourself in that situation. Now, to help facilitate the creative juices and help you get a start on that summary, let me offer just a few quick tips on answering that question:

This is not your resume

In a normal conversation you would not reply, “Well, I am a business professional with over 20 years’ B2B and Sales experience leading and blah, blah, blah”. Let’s be honest, no one really talks like that in face to face conversations. That language and style is best suited for your resume.

Answer that question out loud. Practice, just like you would a sales pitch, elevator speech or interview. Practice out loud to see how it sounds. If it sounds like you are reading from a cue card then it is too closely related to your resume.

Be authentic

If someone is reading your summary, they are looking for insight into you – not the resume you, the real business you. Use words that represent you. If you are a passionate, driven go getter then you should use words that reflect that and create that image in their mind. If you are a behind the scenes, quite in your box kind of person then using dynamic, over-reaching words will be completely contradictory to who you are and come across forced, unnatural and uninviting.

Be creative

One of the great things about your summary and the style in which you write it is that you can infuse your personality, passions, hobbies – things that mean something to you – and tie them into your business value. I have a client that is in charge of IT for a school system. A little dry and boring; however, he is also an umpire for college baseball. Aha! We created a profile from a baseball perspective and used statements and concepts like the three strikes you want to avoid, preparing for the big show etc. We gently and sparingly sprinkled these references in to give it personality while absolutely showcasing his value.

Not too cute

Given the above, I do need to advise not to get too cutesy with it. A little creativity goes a long way, no need to beat them over the head with it. It is similar to Tabasco sauce. My son loves that stuff and puts it on and in everything. A little bit enhances the food; a lot burns your mouth.

Demonstrating not selling

This is a conversation, not a sales pitch. Relax. Simply tell the other person what you do by explaining the value of what you do and demonstrating it in describing how you do it and who you serve. It is perfectly fine to suggest they contact you or reach out, but again, let’s not beat them over the head with it. How would you suggest in a conversation that they call you if they need your services or want to talk further? Incorporate that into your summary for a much more authentic, natural progression.

Pick your voice and stick with it

You are speaking directly to your audience, having a one on one conversation. When you speak to someone directly you use “I”, “me” and “my”. You do not speak of yourself in third person. Speaking about yourself in third person makes you sound like that guy at the party. Don’t be that guy.

Also, if you are going to use “we” be careful and be sure to set it up, please. If you are a leader, then speaking about your teams, their value and accomplishments will easily lead into something like “…together, we elevate the client experience.”

I read a profile of an individual that started talking in first person, switched to “me”, went to “we” and ended with “I”. Me, I and we were all confused by the end.
Get yourself situation in that foo-foo coffee house, take some time to think about how you would answer that question and play with it a little bit. Tweak it from time to time to see what feels right to you. Let the creation of your summary flow naturally for you and you will find that it will engage the right audience.

Stop Trying to Please Everyone

square peg round hole

It does not work.  Period.

 

Well, this could be a short blog today…

 

 

Let’s just take a look at this in terms of communication – your business or personal communication.

 

By this I mean your resume or business communication, i.e. websites, promotional material, business bios etc.

 

Stop trying to herd the masses and focus on your intended audience.

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see with these types of communication is trying to make yourself a one-size-fits-all.

 

Resumes

 

Let’s take someone in sales as an example.  This individual could take a position as a Sales Representative, a Sales Manager or a Sales Trainer.  They have the skill set and experience for all three positions, it is just a matter of opportunity.

 

They should utilize a different resume for each type of position.

 

Each resume should focus on the specific position at hand and speak directly to that position, even thought the resumes are going to be similar.

 

Think of the 80/20 rule.  If this person was targeting a management position then the resume should focus 80% on their management qualifications, value and deliverables and 20% on actual sales/training background.  Of course the training can be rolled into the management side.

 

If they want a Sales Representative job without the management aspect then the resume should focus 80% on their sales experiences, results and value and 20% on the additional value, skills and abilities from their previous positions.

 

The resume should speak directly to the position for which you are applying making it easier for the reader to see you in that role.  This makes them more inclined to call you.

 

Sending out a broad based resume is putting the work on the reader to try to determine where you fit in the organization.  Honestly, they do not have time to do this.  More importantly, if you don’t know what you want why is it their job to figure it out for you?

 

Business Communication

 

If you are in sales or running your own company you know your market.  If you don’t you better figure it out before you attempt to communicate with anyone.  If you don’t know who you serve then you don’t serve anyone.

 

People  hire you because the service you provide, value you offer and positive treatment of your clients.   Know your value, know your audience and speak directly to them.  Stop trying to sell yourself across all lines of business, groups, individuals and industries.

 

Be honest – not all prospects are ideal clients for you.  Know who your ideal audience is and address their concerns.  Let it go that you will not appeal to everyone, remember, you don’t want everyone, or just anyone – you want your ideal client.

 

I am not staying offend the unwanted audiences, but write your message in a way that does not engage them.  How: by not speaking to their needs.  Using broad, overall comments or proclamations gives the indication that you will take anyone on as a client.  Not true.

 

Let’s use the example of a Financial Advisor.  Their target audience is established individuals or couples in a specific age range in an income range who work in the health care industry.  If they presented themselves as the solution to everyone they might get a hit on their target market every now and then, but they will also get a lot of hits from a wide audience that does not fit this criteria.  This means a lot of time “weeding out” the leads that do not match their criteria.

 

That is a lot of wasted time, on both sides.

 

Writing their website, bio or promotional material in such a way that speaks directly to their audience helps them align with their targets because they are speaking their language, know their needs and demonstrate their expertise in being able to address, and solve them.

 

It will narrow down the number of contacts they receive, but it is worth it to get fewer, quality leads rather than numerous, dead-end inquiries.

 

 

You are a unique individual with specific skills, value and abilities.  Present yourself as the solution to the audience you want to engage rather than a possible fit for just anyone.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com