Aviva Shiff

Article Summary:

Versatility is the key to developing good presentation skills.

Good Presentation Skills: Versatility Is The Key

Sue was presenting to financial advisors about her company’s new fund.  Her slides were spectacular and the numbers spoke for themselves.  It was a very lucrative product to sell.  So why did she feel like the advisors couldn’t wait to get out of the room? 

There are two basic reasons for giving presentations:  to educate and to inspire.  Either way, like it or not, when you are making a presentation, you are selling–your ideas, products and services, results; and most importantly, your competency and credibility.

There are many different styles you can adopt when making a presentation, but the best style is versatile.

Here are some tips to develop versatility and successfully educate and inspire audiences to buy what you are selling.

Before you prepare your presentation, consider the prevalent style of your audience.  Do they want to be there?  Why should they care?  What’s in it for them?  What resonates with them? 

While the intention is not to pigeon-hole anyone, there are some general principles that you can be aware of to ensure that your presentation caters to everyone in the audience.

For example, if your audience is comprised of accountants, chances are they are analytical; you must be prepared with numbers and charts. Your arguments will be more effective if they are based on fact and logic.  Sue’s audience of financial advisors spends the majority of their time engaged in sales activities.  Salespeople are usually quite expressive and respond well to emotional appeals and anecdotal evidence.  Sue’s presentation should have focused less on numbers and more on stories about successful salespeople who sold her funds. It’s also a good idea to hedge your bets and vary your presentation to appeal to more than one style.

Focus on Need
Adapt your presentation to focus on what your audience needs and how you can help them reach their goals.  Do they need to earn greater income?  Save time?  Reduce stress?  Be reassured?  Your capabilities or product benefits should answer their needs or propose a solution to their problems.  For example, the easy tracking features on Sue’s funds could be communicated as less time spent on administration; which means more time to spend on revenue generating activities or leisure.

Speak in Verse
While most people are a combination of the four different communication styles, they exhibit a preference for one style over another to understand the information they receive.  The key is to recognize your audience preferences, and be versatile in how you appeal to each different style.

  1. Visual.  The majority (60%) of communicators hear by visualizing pictures. Therefore your language should appeal mostly to this type.  Use phrases like, “I see what you’re saying” or “picture this client”.  Use visually descriptive words so your audience can “see”, such as “this oversized chair is chocolate brown and will look fabulous in your living room.”
  2. Kinesthetic.  One quarter (25%) of communicators are motivated by feeling.  They emotionally interpret what they hear.  Tell how buying your product will make them feel.  Say “I feel that this is the right fund to recommend to your risk adverse clients.” or “this is a comfortable chair that you can really relax in”.
  3. Auditory.  Ten percent of all people are motivated by sound.  They listen and process by hearing tone and inflection.  Say, “That sounds right”, or “I heard about this amazing chair!” 
  4. Auditory Digital.  Only five percent of people are motivated by information.  This is actually contrary to the way just about everyone presents.  When you base your presentation solely on facts and figures, you are actually only appealing to the minority. When you present to this type, say “this fund is rebalanced monthly according to strict criteria indicated in this chart” or “this chair has been rated by Consumers Report magazine as the most logical choice”. Have accompanying charts and graphs ready.

If you deliver information the way your audience prefers to receive it, they will more readily pay attention, retain the information better and find you more trustworthy. 

Prop up your Presentation
Have something for everyone.  Since most people are visual communicators, your props should be mostly visual, like pictures. To appeal to kinesthetic people, hand out samples for your audience to touch and feel.  Insert a minimal amount of sound effects in your PowerPoint to highlight important issues for the auditory types.  To help auditory digitals learn and make decisions, hand out relevant graphs and charts with extra space for note taking.

Mirror Mirror
Subconsciously, people like people who remind them of themselves.  Try not to be too obvious, but match your audience’s pace of speech, degree of animation, volume and body language.  Dress like your audience too.  Bankers are more likely to listen if you are suited up.  If your audience is casual, dress up a notch.  While it is important that your audience relates to you, they will not respect you if you are not dressed appropriately for your age and profession.   Include something in your presentation that effectively communicates on some level that you are or once were “one of them”.  Find common ground and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.

Open the Can
Canned presentations may be a time saver, but are not nearly as effective as those customized to your audience.  Use your “off the shelf” presentation as a template, and invest the time to inject some personalization.  Your audience will appreciate it and find you far more credible than the jerk who forgot to “find and replace” the previous company’s name.

You are the Star
This is your opportunity to shine.  PowerPoint and props are meant to enhance, not be, your presentation.  Your audience is judging you as a person as much or more than they are judging your message.  Understand that you are not the only one who is tense.  Your audience wonders what to expect, and worries that the presentation will be a waste of their valuable time.  Your star will shine brighter if you develop rapport with your audience the moment they step in the door. Welcome them warmly with a smile. Introduce yourself, shake hands.  Use this opportunity to learn about your audience so you can apply your versatility to make your presentation a smashing success.

Aviva Shiff, co-founder of Spark Training & Coaching Associates, helps businesses discover and amplify their talent through insightful assessment tools, relevant training workshops and strategic coaching. With over 15 years of corporate leadership experience in the financial services industry, Aviva is strongly focused on the development and implementation of training and coaching programs that are rigorously aligned with organizational purposes, values and goals. Aviva, a certified Expert in North American Business Etiquette, holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree and has also been certified as a Human Resources Manager. She currently serves on the Board of Directors and chairs the Marketing Committee of Muki Baum Treatment Centres. For more information, visit: www.sparktac.com.

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