Tag Archives: boston public speaking

A New Workshop From Jack E Rossin…

Physician Leadership Training

Physicians on a leadership track will find value from this comprehensive workshop that teaches Public Speaking, Persuasion Techniques, and the role of Emotional Intelligence in communications.

Jack is an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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Pitch Philosophy and Biz Dev

Guidelines for Making a Zoom New Business Interview

Remember, your audience’s attention span is worse on Zoom than in real life (it’s not great in real life). So, move the meeting along.

-Do a fast introduction of who from your side is on the Zoom call.  Just names, not title and job function.

-Do not have your PowerPoint already pulled up and on the screen.  That takes away from seeing all the people in the meeting.  It may be your only chance to connect with them.

-Before getting into your PowerPoint, do a little preface to say what they are going to see.  It might spark conversation, which is always a goal of an business development pitch

-Go into your PowerPoint pitch

-Every few minutes check in with the audience for questions and comments.

-When the PowerPoint is done, close it up so you can see everyone again.

-Now, say something like “I have a few closing remarks I’d like to make, but first, let’s open this up to Q&A.

-Allow Q&A to run for as long as the prospect has questions.  Then deliver a fast summary of what you presented today and ask for the business.

The most important part of a new business pitch

You have their attention, but not for long. Make the most of it. There are four or five different strategies for an opening and one easy rule: the opening is never about you or the company you represent.   The opening is always about the prospect. Everything you say in the opening should be aimed at making the prospect’s life easier, richer, and more successful.

One strategy for an opening is problem-solution.  Start by discussing an issue you know is important to the prospect (you know because you’ve asked enough questions previously) and talk about how your solution solves that problem.  If you can convey that information by way of an interesting story, even better.

Put Your Best Stuff Into the Opening!

In a trial, the jury sometimes decides innocent or guilty in the first five minutes after hearing each lawyer’s opening remarks. The deciding factor for the jury is siding with the lawyer who seems most confident. Two important lessons come from this: juries make their decisions very early in the process, so put your best stuff into the open.  Secondly, learn the techniques that confident speakers use.

These techniques are relatively easy to master: strong eye contact, powerful voice, good posture, animated face, arms and body, the use of storytelling, command of material, speaking slowly.  Just learn to be proficient and practice 2 or 3 of them in each rehearsal and you will be a much better presenter.

How to Win the Business Pitch

Recently someone told me that while they understand the importance of rehearsal, there is just never enough time to do it.  There’s hardly enough time to prepare the proposal and to think about the prospect’s challenges and solutions.

But, often what wins the pitch is the pitch.  All of the prep work you did needs to be choreographed into a seamless story that the client can grasp, appreciate and, recognize that it is coming from a well oiled team.  To do it best, everyone on the team needs to rehearse together.  Everyone has to make time.

If you don’t want to rehearse, or can’t do it, then don’t waste all of those hours and money. Your chances of winning just dropped.

It seems crazy to put all of that time in schmoozing a prospect and investing in a proposal to waste it all because you couldn’t find time to rehearse.

Crazy.

Selling The Big Idea

Often times in a pitch you are presenting some big idea that your team worked diligently on.  If the idea is truly a blockbuster there are two dangers you should be aware of:

-You’re so anxious to present this killer idea that you don’t fully communicate the thinking that went into it,

-You fall into the trap of believing that because the idea is so good, the explanation doesn’t need to be.  “The idea will speak for itself.”

It is criminal to not sell a great idea because you didn’t package it properly in a solid presentation, and didn’t rehearse thoroughly.

Don’t Rush the Opening of a Pitch

You’re making a competitive pitch and the prospect asks you to hurry along. They have a lot of people yet to interview and want you  to present quickly.  When this happens, be afraid. Be very afraid.

You rush through the opening and leave out important information.  The way you opened sets the fast pace for the rest of the pitch so now everyone on your team rushes.  The big idea that you worked so hard on never gets a fair airing because it was presented at high speed.

There is nothing more important than the opening. Even if your time has been cut in half, do the opening the way you rehearsed.  If you constructed the opening properly it will contain the most relevant information the prospect needs to hear.

Good posture conveys pride in speaking

Good posture signals to your audience that you want to convey things to them that you are confident to discuss. Good posture for meetings and presentations is not a military posture, which can look anything but relaxed. It’s a prideful posture. Chest out, shoulders slightly back. Head held high. Big smile.

If you’re seated, sit closer to the edge of the seat, lean in towards the table but don’t slouch. On Zoom, try to be about 24″-28″ from the lens.

Posture is just as important on Zoom. People are more likely to slouch in a Zoom meeting.  It doesn’t look good and communicates disinterest.

Put Show Business Into a Pitch

Business theatrics is a more accentuated way of presenting. Bigger voice. Broader gestures.  Strong posture. Broad smile.  Dramatic pauses.  Keep your eyes glued on the audience.  Business theatrics adds energy and confidence to what you have to say.

A good pitch must always have an element of show business.

Presenting at a Conference Table

When making a presentation seated at a conference room table, take a power position when it is your turn to present. Raise the chair seat as high as it will go.  Sit on the edge of your seat and lean forward, arms on the table.

You should move and be animated but never stop leaning in. Hold that position through your presentation and any discussion that follows.

That body language says that you are in command.

Make eye contact with everyone in a pitch

When you’re pitching, make sure you look at and talk to everyone on the prospect’s side of the table.  Don’t fall into the trap of just connecting with the CEO.  You never know who will make the decision or how other people on the client’s team will influence that decision.  Some feedback I get from prospects when pitches go bad is that the pitch team only focused on the one in charge causing others to feel slighted.

Same is true on Zoom. When it is your turn to present, look into the lens. Nowhere else. 

Smile in a Pitch

Your goal in a pitch is to have the audience like you.  One step in that process is to smile. When you smile, they smile back.

Oh, and smile.

Delivering Bad News

Sometimes in a presentation you need to deliver bad news. Perhaps the budget isn’t going to work, or some facet of the plan can’t happen, or a valued partner changed his mind.  When is the best time in the presentation to deliver bad news?

In the beginning.

Getting bad news out in some portion of your opening serves a number of purposes: It positions you as an honest person with nothing to hide. It allows the client to evaluate whatever you are presenting in light of this bad news.  It gives you a chance to use the news to build your case in the pitch.

Pitch Like You’re Hungry

James Brown had a valuable piece of advice for young artists — Sing Like You’re Hungry.  I might suggest similar advice when pitching prospects.  This has to be done subtly. The pitch is still about the prospects and how they will benefit, but they need to know it is very important to you and that you’ve put your all into it.

Team Presentation Check List

Presenting as a Team- A Check list

☐ Rehearse as a team. Everyone has to show up.

☐ Plan what each person says in turning the presentation over to the next person.

☐ There is one theme and everyone speaks to it.

☐ Avoid repetitive comments.  Each person doesn’t have to thank the prospect, for example.

☐ If a person doesn’t have a speaking role, don’t take them.

☐ Make sure the people who will work most on the account speak the most.

☐ Don’t speak over a team member’s presentation to add stuff.

☐ Smile no matter how dumb a comment one of your team members makes.

Always End Early

You want the audience to love you and appreciate you and bring you back again and again?  Finish your presentation sooner than was planned.

You don’t need to finish a lot sooner.  But sooner. Even ending 5 minute early will be seen as a positive.  Conversely, going over time is very bad form. I attended a seminar put on by a  presentation training company and one of the main themes of the talk was how important it was to end your presentation within the time allotted.  The speaker ran over by 10 minutes!  We thought that was a) pretty funny, and, b) we’l;l never hire them.

Face to Face Marketing

Whether your marketing is B2B or  B2C, it doesn’t count until it is F2F. Face 2 Face.

Nothing important happens until you are face to face with your prospect presenting ideas in a strong voice, smile on your face and confident as hell.

How do you look confident? Strong posture, eye contact, smile. Get close to the prospect (respecting a zone of comfort).

Pitch With Your Ears

 When making a new business pitch… listen more, talk less.  Research shows that the more you can get the prospect talking, the better your chances of winning the business.  You’ll get the prospect talking by asking smart questions, such as those suggested in Spin Selling.  Don’t help the prospect answer questions.  Allow the prospect to answer.

Avoid Bizspeak. Talk regular.

Stop juicing your presentations with glib phrases like disruptive technologycutting edge, award winning, strategic partnership, synergy, win-win, at the end of the day, drill down, mission-critical, paradigm shift, value-added…

Research shows that the audience responds more favorably to short common words, than long, multi-syllable words. Talk like a regular person.

Focus your presentation.

Focus your presentation on one main point – The Takeaway.

Every sentence, story, aside, example, metaphor and analogy must support the single takeaway you want the audience to get.

Remove everything else. Be ruthless.

A short focused pitch is worth twice what a long, rambling one is worth.

BizDev Excuses

I have heard these pitch excuses 1,000 times.

The other guys have an in. They don’t like us. I get nervous in front of them.  Our work could be better. I wish we had more time to prepare.  The PowerPoint is boring. Our big idea is small. We don’t have enough detail. We have too much detail.  

When you are preparing for a pitch and someone is constantly telling everyone why you can’t win, throw him out of the room.

Instead tell me why you will win your pitch.

Add Creativity to Your Pitch

A strong presentation is 50% logic and 50% creative. The logic is the content which is easy to assemble and can usually be done quickly.

The creative element requires time. Percolate on the presentation for a day and look how to connect dots with interesting metaphors, analogies and stories, especially in the opening.

Pitch no-nos

3 Don’ts in a pitch

-Don’t start with the agenda

-Don’t begin by talking about yourself and your company

-Don’t open with a joke

Lessons from Losing a Pitch

If you lose a pitch have someone* call the prospect to ask specific questions about the pitch.  Did the team seem engaged? Were they interesting? Knowledgeable? Did they talk too much? Not enough?  What did other firms do better?  What one thing should they have done differently?

What you’ll learn will be gold.

*The best person to make this call is someone not associated with the pitch team and who remains neutral throughout the conversation.  It’s too late to be defensive.

Be Great, Not Perfect

Perfect is the Enemy of Great.

People sometimes get so fixated on making a perfect presentation that at the mere flub of a word they crumble. It isn’t worth it and the audience will never notice.  Make a great presentation. Not a perfect one.

Pitch Etiquette

It’s not uncommon when pitching in a team that one person who is not presenting keeps adding information to the person who is presenting. Don’t do this.  It’s distracting to the audience and throws the presenter off. Wait until the end of the segment to add the information, if you must.

Presentations Should Never Go Over Time

At a presentation skills seminar I attended the trainer said  “never run over your allotted time.  Especially in a business presentation, time is precious.”

I agree.

 PS: Her presentation ran 14 minutes over.

Where to Sit in a Pitch

When pitching a new client face to face, the most important people on your team should sit closest to the prospect.  Who are the most important? It varies by pitch, but if the reason for the pitch is for the client to get to know who she will be working with directly, then they are the ones who sit closest, and speak early in the presentation.

When running an interview on Zoom, make sure the key people do most of the talking.

Handling Q&As

Don’t let your pitch end at the Q&A segment.

Leave time at the very end to come back, reiterate the takeaway, thank everyone and ask for the business.

How To Make Your Business Development Interview Powerful

Nothing causes more anxiety than a new business pitch. The folks on your team want to win the business and not be the one who says the dumb thing that scuttles the effort.

Over the years I have been in hundreds of pitches and learned valuable lessons the hard way. Here’s a baker’s dozen of them:

www.jackerossin.com/how-to-make-your-business-pitch-powerful/

What’s In It For Them?

Everything you say in a pitch should be framed as a benefit to the prospect.

-Don’t  give the history of your firm unless you can say why it is a benefit.

-Don’t introduce your team without explaining the benefit to the client of having those people.

A Pitch Blueprint

Most companies, when they open an interview, work from the left to the right.

Who  →    What   →    How →    Why

Companies that are consistently successful tend to open with the benefits the prospect will gain. Right to left. They start with the Why.

Here’s a blueprint for making a pitch…

www.jackerossin.com/a-pitch-blueprint/

Who Goes To a Pitch?

There’s a never-ending debate of how many should go, and who they should be.

Only the people who will have an active role in the pitch  should go to the pitch…with one exception.

If the only contact with the prospect is through a BD person, that person should go and start the meeting by making introductions.  Then, he is done and sits back for the rest of the meeting and the rest of the relationship.

The same is true in a Zoom interview.  The more people you bring, the smaller the video screens, the more confusion from too many people talking.

How To Be Persuasive

Most people try to be persuasive by giving a dozen reasons to buy their product.

Often it is the non-verbal things that are the deciding factors for your audience. People tend to buy from folks who appear confident.

The way to look confident is easy; have good posture, make eye contact, smile, speak in a strong voice and don’t be afraid to move your hands and arms.

The more confident you act, the more likely they will buy whatever you are selling.

 Business Pitches

A friend who shall remain nameless* wrote me the following:

Oh, I’ve been sitting in on presentations from very good agencies this week.  The sameness of them numbs me, however.

            We put clients first

            We have a passion for your business

            We have really really good media contacts

            We are clever problem solvers

Better to demonstrate these things as solutions to the prospect’s issues rather than say them.

* The fabulous Sally Jackson

How to Handle the Q and A Session

The Q and A session at the end of a pitch is an incredibly important part of the overall presentation and should not be left to chance.

Here are a dozen pointers to make your next Q and A a home run: www.jackerossin.com/great-qa-sessions-win-business/

All Pitches Have One Topic

The topic of a pitch should always be the same…how can the audience use your knowledge and experience to benefit their needs.  It’s always about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

Business People Should Be Storytellers

Storytelling is the most persuasive form of communications, yet, business people often shun being storytellers in presentations because they don’t see it as “serious” enough.

Start every presentation with a story.  It’s more interesting and will relax you.It makes the point in a more memorable manner.

Winning at Business Development 101

Your chances of winning a pitch will be much better if the prospect likes you.  Here’s how to do that.

-Smile

-Listen

-Make eye contact whenever you speak.

-Stay within your allotted time.

-Answer questions when asked. Really answer them. No double-talk.

-Follow up immediately after the meeting with answers to questions you didn’t know.

-Be a good host. Make them comfortable.  Have drinks and snacks.

There are 3 things a prospect is looking for: Can you solve my problem? Can you do it in a simple, uncluttered way that is easy for me? Do I like you?

The Do-I-Like you part is crucial, so do all of the things suggested at the top of this blog.

How To Prepare a Business Pitch

When preparing your next business pitch, try not to immediately write how you will open the presentation, or the bullet points you want to cover.  Instead, think of every conceivable question your audience might ask you.  That’s your presentation.

The opening will be what you think the audience would answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?” That’s the only thing they care about. And, the only thing you should care about.

How to Ask for the Business

Even in workshops when practicing how to close an interview, people have trouble asking the prospect for business.  It’s just one of those things people hate to do.

But, if you don’t ask, then the answer is no. Some people start babbling.  They ask for the business but then keep chatting.  After you ask, stop talking.  It obligates the other side to respond.

Find a way to ask that is comfortable for you to say and then rehearse it.  For example, an ask can be: We enjoyed putting this demo together. Of course, we’d love to do real work for you. How do we go about doing that? Or, How do we move this conversation forward so that we might have a chance to work for you?

Ask and you shall be rewarded.

Focus on Prospect’s Problems

In a pitch, don’t waste time telling prospects how smart you are. Focus everything on the prospect’s problems.

They won’t start listening until you tell them how you will solve their problems.

We often want to brag about all of the bells and whistles our company can bring to the prospect.  We want to tell the prospect just how excited we are to be pitching the business.  None of this is heard very well by the prospect until you rephrase that language as a benefit to them.  This includes showing off how smart you are.  No one cares.  It never plays well.

Share Your Expertise

If you have an expertise, share lots of it freely with your audience.

They’ll value it enough to pay for more.

Offer to Help, Not Sell

There is a panhandler who calls himself The Town Crier. He constantly shouts at the top of his voice the time, weather, sports, major news stories, and lots more. The news is timely and useful.

I’ve noticed that The Town Crier’s cup is always filled with dollar bills. I often put one in. The other panhandlers have cups with a little loose change in them.

Sometimes in a pitch we focus too much on asking for the business and talking about ourselves. Create value by giving your audience information they can use, and even profit from. They will reward you with their business.

Get on with it, please!

I saw Monty Python’s John Cleese live the other night. At a Q&A session someone started by saying what an honor it was to be speaking to one of his all-time comedic heroes, etc. when Cleese interrupted and said in his best high-brow British “Get on with it, please”.

It reminds me of business pitches that start by telling the client how great they are, how smart they are, how excited we are to be here, etc. You can look into the clients’ eyes and see them thinking “Get on with it, please.”

Stop Selling

I suppose because we sometimes refer to meetings with prospects sales pitches, we’re selling our company and our differentiation.

Instead, focus on the prospect and their issues and offer ideas to help advance their business. If you have good ideas, they’ll hire you. If the ideas are differentiated, then they’ll understand your competitive advantage.

In the Opening of a Pitch, the Only Subject to Discuss is the Client

When a good server comes to your table he says two things: Welcome, and, can I get you a drink?

A bad server says: Welcome, here are today’s specials, can I get you a drink?

When you open a pitch be a good server. Attend to the client’s needs before you start selling your product.

Presentation Clarity Test

Here’s a good test of your next presentation. When it’s over will your audience know what you want and why they should agree?

Say ‘Cheese!’

Zoom, for better and worse, is becoming more and more prevalent. Eye contact still counts.  Look into the camera lens when you present. Your image on the other end will appear to be looking directly at your clients and coworkers.

Mix It Up

When making a presentation with lots of data and statistics, mix in a heavy dose of empathy. Use personal stories to make dull numbers come to life.

Presentation Tip: Negative Benefits

A powerful technique to use in an opening is to convey what the benefits are to the audience. Sometimes those benefits are negative.  Research indicates that people are more persuaded to protect that which they have than something they may get. They are more persuaded by “if you don’t do this you can lose 10% of your income” than by “do this and your salary will grow 10%”.

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Rehearsals

Zoom Presentations Require More Rehearsals

We’ve long known that when people make a presentation that is not in-person in front of others, that person rehearses LESS.  The reality is you need to rehearse more.  Even if you are presenting a PowerPoint , you need to think through and rehearse all of the animations and transitions that you should be building into the PowerPoint so that it is more effective on Zoom. 

Obviously it is valuable to rehearse the entire presentation a few times so that you feel comfortable, but, make time to nail down and feel good about your open and close.  That’s when the audience is paying their highest level of attention.

If you are presenting with others, it’s particularly important that you plan out the handovers so that the whole presentation runs smoothly asnd you don’t appear to be bumping into each other.

Create a Safe Rehearsal Zone

Rehearsal is extremely important.  It is equally important that everyone on the team feel they are in a safe environment to rehearse.  Safe means that they can fumble through ideas and concepts without people jumping on their every word. Safe means the leader is not trying to micro-manage the entire presentation and everyone’s part. Safe means that people can experiment with what they want to say and change what doesn’t resonate without feeling like a dope.

Fear of Public Speaking

People fear speaking in public more than death. (I’ve seen both things happen simultaneously in my workshops)

I have a theory based on my own speaking experiences. When I know the material, when I know everything about the material, I’m a pretty good presenter.  But, when I’ve memorized the presentation, then I’m nervous.  There’s a big difference between knowing and memorizing.

I get to know the material by discussing it, reviewing it, reworking it in rehearsals and presenting it over and over again —without a script—until I know it in my bones. I focus on the opening, because if I can get past that smoothly, the rest is cake.

You can’t avoid being nervous when giving a presentation, but you can feel very confident knowing the material better than anyone else in the room.

How to Win the Business Pitch

Recently someone told me that while they understand the importance of rehearsal, there is just never enough time to do it.  There’s hardly enough time to prepare the proposal and to think about the prospect’s challenges and solutions.

But, often what wins the pitch is the pitch.  All of the prep work you did needs to be choreographed into a seamless story that the client can grasp, appreciate and, recognize that it is coming from a well oiled team.  To do it best, everyone on the team needs to rehearse together.  Everyone has to make time.

If you don’t want to rehearse, or can’t do it, then don’t waste all of those hours and money preparing the presentation. Your chances of winning just dropped.

It seems crazy to put all of that time in schmoozing a prospect and investing in a proposal to waste it all because you couldn’t find time to rehearse.

Rehearse Like a Basketball Player

Professional athletes practice. They practice all of the time.  Even after playing 6 or 7 games in a row, basketball players come out the next morning to practice.

If you’re making a presentation you need to practice.  You need to think through all of your plays. How are you going to open?  What is the single big message you want people to take away? How will you summarize and what action will you ask of the audience?  Then you need to rehearse all of this in front of real people.

Now you’re ready for game day.

The Best Way to Rehearse

The best way to rehearse your presentation is in front of people. Any people.  Half of the reason we’re all so anxious about speaking in public is — the public. We worry about how our comments will be received, and if we look goofy saying them. So, while rehearsing in front of a mirror can help a bit, the best practice is in front of real people;  colleagues, spouses, children, strangers on the subway. On Zoom, you have the advantage of being able to connect with someone easily so that you can rehearse in front of them, and, you can record the session.  Watching yourself present will be an eye-opener. You’ll feel more confident.

Using notes in a presentation

The most frequently asked question in my workshop is whether the presenter can use notes or not.

If the notes are a couple of words to remind you of each topic you want to cover, then those notes could be helpful.

If the notes require that you constantly look down to keep your place in your presentation, then that’s a problem.  When you look down at your notes you can’t also keep eye contact with your audience.  You’re less interesting because you’re not thinking about what you’re saying, only about what you’re reading. You’re much more prone to get lost in your remarks because if you do lose to your place, you have no life-line. And, the audience loses interest in you when you don’t have eye contact.

Not using notes does require a certain amount of preparation and rehearsal, which most people hate to do.  But, if you’re going to all that trouble to put yourself on the line in front of others, why not invest the time to make yourself great.

Rehearse Transitions in a Presentation

One of the many reasons everyone needs to prepare and rehearse is to have intelligent transitions from one thought to the next.  You may know the subject matter cold, but unless you’ve planned the flow of your remarks, you can fall into an awkward pattern in which you repeat the same things over and over as you search for a bridge to the next part of your comments.

If you have properly revised your PowerPoint to make it works more effectively on Zoom, then you absolutely need to rehearse to coordinate with the various animations you inserted into the slides. 

Don’t assume because you know the topic that you know the speech.

Prepare and rehearse every time.

Video Your Presentation Rehearsals

Much of the work that goes into presentation skill training has to do with very basic techniques – volume, eye contact, posture, smiling, enunciation, etc.  These techniques are so basic that one client, a lawyer, questioned whether he should spend time working on them because he thought he had command of these things whenever he spoke.

But then, after he saw himself on video tape, he realized he didn’t do any of them.  In fact, he scowled and mumbled. His only eye contact was with the ceiling.

“Watching myself on tape changed my presentation style dramatically.  It was amazing.”

You’ll become a better, more powerful speaker fast when your training includes videotaping every exercise, and using the Zoom record system.

5 Body Language Techniques to Focus on in a Zoom Presentation

-Eye contact. Look at the lens of the camera as you speak, not the screen.

-Smile. It’s still an easy way to connect with the audience.

-Get Stoked.  Look like you want to be there.

-Volume. The audio is crucial in a Zoom presentation.  Use a microphone and headset.

-Postures/Gesture. Don’t sit slumped over when you present.  We encourage hand and gesture use, but keep your hands close to your body and don’t flail.   It makes you look wild on the screen.

How to Rehearse a Team Presentation

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”    Muhammad Ali.

Training.  Rehearsal. Same thing. Everyone needs to rehearse. And, everyone hates rehearsing. But, you got to.  If you are presenting with others, they should also be at the rehearsal.  Pay particular attention to how each person opens and closes their segment and how each person hands over to the next person.  If possible, rehearse without notes so you get to know the material and not memorize the script.

Thanks Champ.

Rehearse the Whole Pitch, Not Just Words

Try to rehearse your entire presentation, not just the words.  Rehearse how you will stand, gestures, pauses, theatrical embellishments. Rehearse how you will work the room with your eyes.  If you will be presenting seated, rehearse seated. Duplicate as much of the real situation as possible.

And, always rehearse in front of others.

Presentations Require Preparation

The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.

Bobby Knight, Basketball coach

 Behind every great presentation are lots of hours of preparation.  Lots and lots.

Helping Others Rehearse

If you are helping someone rehearse a presentation, follow Alex Haley’s advice: Find the good and praise it.

It’s more important to make the speaker confident than to nitpick a word or two.

Memory Technique

I’ve found it’s best to learn a speech point by point, not word for word.

–George Plimpton

Weeks of Prep, Minutes of Rehearsal

When I was in advertising, I saw that most teams spent weeks putting a campaign together and minutes thinking about how to present it to the client.

If you create brilliant work but have a dull presentation, it isn’t the client’s fault if they don’t buy it.

If it sounds like a speech, rewrite it.

Your presentation should sound like you, not like a formal, structured thesis.  You are best when you are you.  As you rehearse the text out loud if it doesn’t sound like the you we all know and love…start over.

Rehearsal Etiquette

When helping a colleague rehearse a presentation,  the more positive the discussion, the more positive the outcome.  The closer the rehearsal is to the actual presentation, the less critique and the more praise usually makes for a happier outcome.

How to Give a Presentation Without Note Cards

Instead of note cards use a process called chunking.  When we arrange information into groups, it’s easier to remember. That’s why a phone number is chunked into sections instead of one long 10 digest number.

 617-413-6106

Arrange the content of your presentation into 3 or 4 sections.  It will be a lot easier to remember, and easier for the audience to digest.

 If you need help call me.

Always Have a Dress Rehearsal

Rehearsals are valuable. The last rehearsal, the dress rehearsal, is particularly important.

Here is how to make that dress rehearsal more productive:
-Once you start the rehearsal, it’s game conditions. You don’t stop until the end.
-If someone flubs, they must keep going. In a real presentation you can’t start over.
-The time for comments and fine tuning is over. Be careful of changing any speakers content or role too close to the actual pitch.
-If you are presenting as a team, rehearse as a team.
-Rehearse in similar physical conditions to the real location. Sit and stand as you would in the real pitch. Ditto handovers.
-If using PowerPoint and other presentation visuals, who, on the pitch team, will control the remote and set-up.
-Everyone says their entire part, no “and then I’ll say yadda yadda yadda”
-Have people sit on the other side of the table to present to. If you are going to have a Q&A session, have those people ask questions.
-Check your timing when finished. Allowing for the Q&A period, your total time should never exceed the time allotted.

Finish the rehearsal positive and charged. Avoid laundry lists of criticism. If you are the pitch leader, smile, be positive and everyone will join you and think good thoughts.

Rehearse Like the Greats

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. “Because, I think I’m making progress,” he replied.

You want to make a great presentation?

Practice. Practice, Practice, Practice.

Practice.

Video Killed the Radio Star

In a recent class at Harvard, when we videotaped the presenters for their ‘final exercise’, something  amazing and reoccurring happened.  In a class of 24 doctors, each person commented on seeing something about their own body language that they had no idea they were doing.  What needed to be fixed was always easy to do; like smiling, eye contact, and posture.  Have a friend or coworker videotape your next rehearsal or presentation.  Use Zoom to record your next presentation rehearsal.

Presentation Tip: Rehearsals are Fail-proof, PowerPoint is not.

A former student wrote recently that during a presentation he was giving, the computer crashed. No PowerPoint! Luckily, he’d been taught how important rehearsing is. Not only did he nail his presentation, but afterward a number of colleagues congratulated him on one of his ‘best presentations yet’. This is an important lesson about presenting: Tech will always fail us; rehearsing never will.

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How to Close

Don’t Close with a PowerPoint Presentation

In the Zoom world, it is difficult to get attention, so you need to refresh the audience frequently.  You can refresh with a break in the way you are presenting, showing a video refreshes, asking questions and having a conversation is a good way to refresh.  We need to do  these things because the audience’s attention is straying, no matter how good their intentions.  

One of the most important segments in a presentation is the close.  It could contain a Q&A session as well.  If only to refresh the audience, when you get to the close and don’t need your slides anymore, close the PowerPoint which then allows all of the participants to fill the screen and see each other.  Now let’s talk.  Have a Q&A, then make your close, which might include a call to action of some sort.

A close is much better done connecting with the audience (to the extent you can) and not a more limited view because the PowerPoint is blocking everyone.

Winning Opens and Closes

Richie Havens was a folk rocker and the first performer at the original Woodstock concert.  He was asked how he puts his concerts together. He said he only rehearses the first song he’ll open with and the last song he’ll close with.  Everything in the middle just “rolls out”.

That’s excellent advice if you’re preparing a presentation.  Focus on the first thing you’ll say because it gets most of the attention and sets the table for the rest of the pitch. Then, know how you’re going to close the pitch.  The middle is typically the stuff that you already know lots about and you’ll probably need less time preparing.

Make sure to rehearse your opening number and your closer before you take the show on the road.

Rehearse your exit line before you start

Here’s a really easy tip that will give you more confidence when you speak.

Before you start your comments at a meeting or in a presentation, have a very clear idea of how you want to end your remarks. There’s nothing worse than watching a good speaker searching for some line or story to close his/her talk. And, knowing your exit line is a great lifesaver if you get in trouble and need to bail out early. You’ll have the close ready to go and get you off the stage with elegance!

Write a winning presentation.

1) Identify the one thing you want the audience to remember in terms that are a benefit to them.  Build that into the very opening of the presentation.

2) Demonstrate that benefit in the middle of the presentation

3) The close is an echo of the open.

You Must Ask for the Business

The #1 reason people give to charities is because someone asked them directly to make a donation. Without the ask, there is a lot less giving.
Don’t forget that in your pitch you must ask the prospect to do something: Hire us. Use our services. Adopt our point of view. Whatever it is, don’t assume the prospect knows what you want them to do. Ask them directly and specifically.
The logical place to do that is after the Q&A section and in your close. Summarize the key points you discussed and then look the prospect square in the eyes and ask for the business.

Close With Energy

There are two times in a presentation that the audience is probably listening to you; at the very beginning and the very end. A lot of people run out of steam at the end and don’t put enough punch into the last thing they say. They don’t have the same volume and energy that they had in the beginning of the presentation.   The end of a pitch is a great opportunity to suggest an action step, get a buy-in, or, receive a nod of approval.  But, you won’t get it if you don’t ask.  And you need to ask with energy and a smile.

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Openings

Openings Matter More in Zoom

The challenge we all have in using Zoom is that the audience is highly distracted. Everything we do must be aimed at focusing their eyes and their minds.  The Opening plays a crucial role in that. 

Research indicates that an audience listens more intently in the beginning of a presentation. So, a good opening must grab the audience, communicate the key points, indicate why those points are benefits before you move on to the next section.

Use a Soft Opening

Retailers will often open a new store with what they call a soft opening.  It’s a more casual, less official opening to make sure everything is working.  If you are presenting a PowerPoint in your next presentation, use a Soft Opening.  

Instead of starting with the PowerPoint loaded up on the screen, start with just the video square of yourself and of all the other participants.  This gives you time to connect and chat that you wouldn’t have if the PowerPoint was running.  It also allows you to give a short preface to the audience for what they are about to see. Their attention will probably be pretty good because it is you talking with them, not presenting to them. Then announce that you are going to switch to the PowerPoint and begin your presentation. 

Bring your benefit to life

In an opening, tell the audience what the benefit to them is of whatever you are proposing.

Recently in one of my workshops a participant made the benefit even more personal.  She was proposing a plan to colleagues which would shorten their work day (because of sharing equipment).  Instead of just saying this plan will “save you time” she said “this plan will give you the summer to enjoy because you’ll get out of the office much earlier each day.”

Her audience immediately ran out and bought sunscreen.

Benefits Go Into the Opening

While there are many strategies to consider in opening your pitch, let’s agree that those first 5 minutes can make or break you.  Regardless of the strategy, the direction of what you want to say should be heavily influenced by the benefits you are proposing.

Develop the benefit by asking yourself what challenges lay in the road for your client.  How will those challenges hurt the client’s success. When you find a legitimate challenge that you can help the client overcome, you have the basis for your opening. When you articulate that challenge to the client, they will be all ears.

There are lots of reasons you might not win a pitch — price, chemistry, expertise. But, you should never lose because you presented poorly.

The most important part of a new business pitch

You have their attention, but not for long. Make the most of it. There are four or five different strategies for an opening and one easy rule: the opening is never about you or the company you represent.   The opening is always about the prospect. Everything you say in the opening should be aimed at making the prospect’s life easier, richer and more successful.

One strategy for an opening is problem-solution.  Start by discussing an issue you know is important to the prospect (you know because you’ve asked enough questions previously) and talk about how your solution solves that problem.  If you can convey that information by way of an interesting story, even better.

You’re never going to win every pitch, but you should never lose a prospect because of a weak pitch.

Winning Opens and Closes

Richie Havens was a folk rocker and the first performer at the original Woodstock concert.  He was asked how he puts his concerts together. He said he only rehearses the first song he’ll open with and the last song he’ll close with.  Everything in the middle just “rolls out”.

That’s excellent advice if you’re preparing a presentation.  Focus on the first thing you’ll say because it gets most of the attention and sets the table for the rest of the pitch. Then, know how you’re going to close the pitch.  The middle is typically the stuff that you already know lots about and you’ll probably need less time preparing.

Make sure to rehearse your opening number and your closer before you take the show on the road.

The Secret to a Great Opening.

Say this 50 times. It’s not about me. It’s about them.  It’s not about me. It’s about them.

If you want to get someone’s attention, talk about them. Talk about their issues, their challenges.  Their brilliance.  I guarantee you they will be spellbound.  And, the more you talk about them, the more interesting they’ll find you.

Too many presentations start with the speaker talking about themselves, their company, the agenda and introductions.  Forget it.

It’s not about you. It’s about them.

3 Things to Make Your Presentation Better.

1) Tell a story. Most people are much calmer in telling a story than “delivering” a speech.  So, if you start your presentation with an appropriate story, you’ll be less nervous and more confident. Stories happen to be a great technique in a Zoom presentation.  Audiences like to hear stories and give the presenter more attention when they are being told a story, than they would with any other kind of narrative.

2) Smile. There is nothing that you can do to the rest of your face that communicates more powerfully than a smile. It’s a way of connecting with the audience. You smile. They smile back.

3) Be stoked.  If you don’t look like you are interested to be in the pitch, don’t expect the audience to be interested. Big voice. Gestures.  Strong posture all communicate how excited you are to be speaking.

Put Your Best Stuff Into the Opening!

In a trial, the jury sometimes decides innocent or guilty in the first five minutes after hearing each lawyer’s opening remarks. The deciding factor for the jury is siding with the lawyer who seems most confident. Two important lessons come from this: juries or prospects or clients make their decisions very early in the process, so put your best stuff into the open.  Secondly, learn the techniques that confident speakers use.

These techniques are relatively easy to master: strong eye contact, powerful voice, good posture, animated face, arms and body, the use of storytelling, command of material, speaking with passion.  Practice 2 or 3 of these techniques  in each rehearsal and you will be a much better presenter.

Audience Participation

Some speakers like to start their presentation by asking the audience a question or in some other way involving them in a two-way conversation.  “Hi Everybody, how are you all feeling today?”

Have you ever noticed how awkward that technique can be?  The audience isn’t ready to participate. They want to gauge you and get their bearings on the topic.

It’s OK to get involved with the audience, just not at the very beginning. That’s the time when you need to demonstrate you are the most confident speaker in the universe.

On Zoom, you need to ask for more involvement than you might normally do.  Promote using the Chat button or just have them raise their hand with a question.  You need to keep getting the audience to focus on you.

Write a winning presentation.

1) Identify the one thing you want the audience to remember in terms that are a benefit to them.  Build that into the very opening of the presentation.

2) Demonstrate that benefit in the middle of the presentation

3) The close is an echo of the open.

Don’t Rush the Opening of a Pitch

You’re making a competitive pitch and the prospect asks you to hurry along. He or she has a lot of people yet to interview and wants you and your crew to present quickly.  When this happens, be afraid. Be very afraid.

You rush through the opening and leave out important information.  The way you opened sets the fast pace for the rest of the pitch so now everyone on your team rushes.  The big idea that you worked so hard on never gets a fair airing because it was presented at high speed.

There is nothing more important than the opening. Even if your time has been cut in half, do the opening the way you rehearsed.  If you constructed the opening properly it will contain the most relevant information the prospect needs to hear.

There are lots of reasons you might not win a pitch — price, chemistry, expertise. But, you should never lose because you presented poorly.

Ask for action in the beginning of a pitch

The purpose of most presentations is to motivate the audience to take action.  Sometimes that action is obvious, as when a prospect is interviewing competing companies and will choose one.

Sometimes, though, it’s valuable to inform the audience in the opening of the action you want them to take. ”Today I’m going to make a case why we should go in direction A , why that direction is most beneficial to your long term interests and how you can make this happen.”

Even people responsible for making decisions need to be reminded when they have a decision to make. When not asked, most people will not take action.

Delivering Bad News

Sometimes in a presentation you need to deliver bad news. Perhaps the budget isn’t going to work, or some facet of the plan can’t happen, or a valued partner changed his mind.  When is the best time in the presentation to deliver bad news?

In the beginning.

Getting bad news out in some portion of your opening serves a number of purposes: It positions you as an honest person with nothing to hide. It allows the client to evaluate whatever you are presenting in light of this bad news.  It gives you a chance to use the news to build your case in the pitch.

Getting the bad news out early is the good news this week.

Front Load the Opening

Some presenters like to tease out the information over the course of the presentation, and then make a big reveal at the end.  It’s much better to front load your presentation with the key information people need. Give your audience as much information as soon as possible. Don’t hold them in suspense.  If on Zoom, assume you will lose their attention pretty quickly.

The more they know, and the faster they know it, the more they’ll pay attention.

Status Report Presentations

If your presentation is reporting on the status of things rather than a pitch or formal presentation, use the 6 O’clock News opening technique.

Give all the headlines first then dive into the specifics, usually starting with  either the biggest story or the most controversial.

Don’t Waste the Opening

The speaker had a seemingly terrific opening – self deprecating and charming – although it had little to do with the rest of his presentation. A day later I could repeat the opening verbatim but had no recall of what the presentation was about.  What was this firm bring to me. What problems did they solve. What challenges did they overcome? 

If You’re Excited, Show It.

We’ve all seen speakers who start by blandly saying “how excited I am to be here today”.

To paraphrase a bit I saw on The Daily Show,

Are you really excited?

Really? Excited?

Would you mind telling your voice, face and personality that you are really excited?

How to Get the Audience’s Attention

“It is becoming increasingly clear that attention is the new currency.” And this was before Zoom.  You can only imagine how bad it is now.

Your audience will listen better when what you say is immediately seen as a benefit to them.  We used to think the challenge in a presentation is to be interesting, but in today’s world your audience is multi-tasking even as they sit staring at you.

Tell them how what you are espousing is a benefit to them.

Great Opens and Closes

None other than The Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan, said “You begin with a hell of an opening, you coast for a while, and you end with a hell of a closing.”

Two Things Guaranteed to Put Your Audience to Sleep as an Opening

-Introductions of your team/company

-Agenda

Instead, start with the challenge you are solving for the client said dramatically then circle back to all of these housekeeping items.

Open in Character

A great opening cures a multitude of sins. One is that it gets the speaker in character faster. Much easier to be personable when, for example, you open with a story and not an agenda.

Never start with an apology

When you open with “This might be a bad idea, but…,” or “I’m not an expert, however, ….” or ”I’m sorry this took so long…” it gives the audience permission to dislike your presentation.

Storytelling Abuse

One of the big trends in opening presentations these days is storytelling. Stories are the easiest way for most people to communicate. We are more relaxed when telling stories.  Audiences seem to like stories. Nervous speakers are less nervous when telling a story.  And all speakers who start with a story have a higher degree of confidence.

So.  What’s the problem? More…

How to Own the Audience

The other day in my workshop, a participant had a sensational opening:

“So, I’m sitting in the emergency room when the doctor says to me, ‘You know, that’s the cleanest cut I’ve ever seen from a chain saw.’”

Now you own the audience.

Presentation Myth: Funny Openings

While it is true that you need to get attention, being funny doesn’t always do that.  Grab the audiences’ hearts and minds by telling them something that will make their job easier, or make them more money, or make them look better in their boss’s eyes.

Then they will be mesmerized.

I’ve been asked to speak about…

You’ve all heard presentations that start with “Today I was asked to speak about…”

 That kind of opening has at least two major problems: 

  • The audience must wonder just how passionate and committed you are to the subject.  You were asked to speak. What did you really wish to speak about?
  • The opening softens your body language too much.  You’re not strong and passionate, you are motionless and unsmiling.  

Try it yourself. Start a presentation first with “I was asked to speak..” then try it again with a more passionate opening “I want to talk about something that will change your life…”  It’s a night and day difference.

Pause Before You Open a Pitch

Lots of speakers start talking as soon as they get to the front of the room, and leave immediately when they finish.

The power of the speaker would be much stronger by pausing 4 seconds before you start speaking to settle and make eye contact. Then, after delivering your closing line, take another 4 seconds to look at the audience again before you turn and leave.

If you are making a presentation on Zoom, don’t follow this advice.  No pauses.  Get into the subject quickly.

Open Like Sondheim

A great opening is motivating for the speaker and the audience; it’s like the overture of a Broadway show. It puts everyone into a positive frame of mind and establishes a theme that runs the rest of the way.

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