By Joan Bowling
So many presentations, so little time – to prepare! Sometimes it feels like that, doesn’t it? You just run out of time. Or, you are so experienced at your specialty or topic that you don’t feel the need to prepare. You could speak about it in your sleep. Either way you don’t prepare and just wing it! More often than not, you don’t fly, you flop.
In real estate the mantra is: location, location, location. In speaking, the mantra is: preparation, preparation, preparation. Preparation prevents you from rambling, repeating yourself and getting the timing wrong. It prevents you from leaving out key points. Preparation helps you connect with your audience which boosts your confidence and credibility. Thorough preparation is always good for your reputation, for your career and for furthering your relationship with key people in the audience - as well as the possibility of being asked to speak again.
Whether you want to share an idea, close a deal or educate an audience, here are four things to do to prepare for your next presentation to ensure the audience loves you:
1. Stick to the topic. Have you ever listened to a presentation and thought “What does this have to do with what I came here for?” Without structure or a framework for the points you will cover, you over instruct, forget or confuse the audience. Don’t be the wandering speaker, have a plan to stick to the topic.
2. Clear message content. Know exactly from what frame of reference you will discuss the topic. This allows the audience to easily follow you through your presentation and not get confused. For example, if you are presenting to a group of medical assistants, research what is going on in their industry. What do the audience attendees fear the most or want the most from their job? How is the economy affecting their day-to-day relationships?
3. Do your homework. An audience can tell if you have done your homework and truly know the topic. And if you haven’t they assume you are incompetent and they will disengage and wonder why they bothered to come.
4. Audience-centric presentation. You have researched the crowd to know what matters most to them concerning your topic; not what matters most to you about your topic. By referencing an audience member or organizational report directly, you immediately create connection and reinforce that it’s all about them.
For a bird in flight, “just wing it” makes perfect sense. For a speaker who is well grounded in his/her audience, a little structure with a lot of preparation makes better sense, and for a better talk. With a prepared talk, you score high with the audience and they get what they want from you. It’s an Olympic Gold Medal moment! You receive glowing feedback and more importantly, the possibility of securing additional business, the green light for a new project, the request for training, or more!
About Joan Bowling
Joan Bowling is a top motivational sales trainer. Her witty style and easy communication inspire others to make the changes they need to close more sales. Her devotion to selling was recognized with a coveted Sammie award for broadcast sales. She is a five time Sterling Club winner for direct marketing sales and is the recipient of the coveted National Speaker’s Association/Virginia 2011 Idol Virginia award. To find out more how Joan helps individuals and organizations improve their bottom line through successful selling, go to joanbowlingpresents.com.
Photo and article used with permission by Joan Bowling.
By Mary Foley
So many people hate networking. Hate it! Because they don’t want to feel awkward, look stupid, or know what to say. But, they do it anyway and they try, they really try. Still, they stumble all over themselves, can’t wait for it to be over, and don’t realize they are likely punishing others for the experience.
Is that you? It was me once. Today, people have a very hard time believing I was very shy as a little girl. In fact, as a first grader, my mouth was shut for so long, my lips dried together!
How did I overcome my awkwardness? I realized when I went to college that if I didn’t get more comfortable with starting conversations and getting to know people I wasn’t going to have much of a social life. One of the best things I did was join a sorority because they hosted “rush” parties for women to get to know them and see if they’d like to join. In time I figured out how to start talking to people I didn’t know and because we were “rushing” all the time of course, I had tons of practice. By the time I was a senior my networking skills had so improved that I was asked to teach the new gals. And when my boyfriend called our school Mary Foley University, I know there was no way anyone was ever going to believe that I used to be shy. I had transformed, and you can, too.
“What is networking?” asks Devora Stack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking. “Networking is the art of building and maintaining for shared positive outcomes. Real networking is connecting.” I couldn’t agree more! In fact, I say we rename "networking" to "netconnecting". Meeting and getting to know new people is about gathering - netting - several good connections.
Here’s my simple N-E-T way how:
N – Focus on what the other person NEEDS
Contrary to what you may have heard before, networking is NOT about you. That’s where I used to get uptight and where I see so many other women get uptight when it comes to networking. They are so worried about how they will come across and what they will say and what they will do, that they forget what’s most important is the other person.
The #1 immediate need of every person at a networking event is to feel emotionally comfortable.
Let’s say you’ve just walked into the networking event and right away you’re in the presence of someone you don’t know. Someone’s got to make the first move. If too much time goes by it feels uncomfortable, doesn’t it? So, in making this about the other person, you immediately smile, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. I might hold out my hand and say, “Hi, my name is Mary. What compelled you to battle our crazy traffic to get here today?”
What not to do: Don’t launch into what you do or the Cliff Notes version of your career. Simply say your name and immediately ask a light question to begin to build rapport. By asking a simple question, you make it easy and emotionally comfortable because they only thing the other person had to do is respond.
E – EXPLORE how you can help solve the other person’s problems
Here’s when you want to move into more specific questions about their position, their company, or their business. You want to ask questions that help you paint a picture of what their company does, what role they play, and, most importantly, what problems they are trying to solve.
You could start with the proverbial, “What do you do?” but it’s such a tired question! How about a fresher version such as “What role do you play in your company?” or “What do you do every day to keep out of trouble?”
Then listen and ask more questions such as “What do you mean by…?” or “Oh, why is that…?” A simple “That’s interesting, tell me more” works well, too.
While you’re listening, be thinking, “How can I be of help?” Perhaps it’s an article or website. Maybe it’s sharing how you solved a similar situation. Or, maybe there’s someone you can put them in touch with that could help them.
Sometimes just asking questions so they can think out loud and better understand their own situation is how you can help them. They get clarity or an idea that hadn’t occurred to them before.
If you’re not sure how you can help, ask! Simply say “How can I help you?” Asking them creates such good will and they will remember it because not that many people ask such a question.
T = Stay in TOUCH by following-up
After your conversation jot down something about them and what they need so that you can send a follow-up e-mail or make a phone call that’s personalized. This is extremely powerful because most people NEVER follow-up and if they do, they are very generic and only say “nice to have met you.”
Keeping in touch also means you do what you promised. You send them the article you mentioned, or e-mail them the link to a particular website, or put them in touch with another person that you said you would. And, continue to keep in touch by sharing additional resources or ideas that may be of help.
By using this simple NET approach, you can stop feeling awkward, stupid or speechless when networking and start creating and building relationships with others. Over time you will have a whole web of contacts and people you know in your industry and in business. As your connections expand, so will your learning, influence, and power!
|By Patti DeNucci
If you’re like me you have more professional development books, CD’s, podcasts, and DVD’s in your library than you can keep up with. After surveying my inventory, getting intentional, and weeding out the items that no longer interest me, I’m on a sincere quest to get caught up.
Today I was listening to one of the National Speaker’s Association’s Voices of Experience CDs with a segment where Brian Walter interviews fellow NSA member Jim Mathis. During the interview, Jim mentions that he likes to shake things up when he presents to get his audiences really thinking. Often he asks thought-provoking questions. Here’s one:
“How are you punishing people for doing business with you?”
Even Walter, the interviewer, did a double take. What’s more, he kept circling back around to the question to make sure he had heard it right.
Mathis explained that people and businesses who really care won’t find this question odd or crazy at all. They’ll understand its irony and take the time to think about it carefully. How are we making it anything but easy and pleasant for our customers (and prospects) to get information, get in touch with us, communicate with us, get their questions answered, place an order, get what they need quickly, solve issues, and so on?
As I listened I began thinking about this question in terms of networking, connecting, and building business relationships: How are your punishing people for networking and building relationships with you? What are you doing that makes others feel uncomfortable, confused, frustrated, disrespected, alienated, offended and sorry they met you?
I noodled on this for a bit and composed a list of 27 things that have made me feel uncomfortable when networking — and that I know I may have been guilty of and could change or improve on. Maybe some of these will resonate with you.
1. Do I make it easy for people to approach me and talk to me? Or do I give off a vibe that’s unfriendly, standoffish, or disinterested?
2. Do I fully understand that networking is about connecting, being generous, and building long-term relationships, NOT going for the quick sell?
3. Do I remember that networking isn’t about me, but about others?
4. Do I present and conduct myself professionally – in my appearance, grooming, demeanor, words, and behavior – so others get the impression I’m serious about my work, building relationships, and serving my customers impeccably?
5. Do I always carry (and generously utilize) those exquisite little miracles known as breath mints?
6. When attending networking events do I mingle, reach out, and introduce myself to others? Or do I bolt for my seat or cower in the corner, feeling sorry for myself?
7. When introducing myself do I say my name clearly, slowly, and confidently?
8. In case my name is tricky to pronounce or remember, do I cheerfully offer tips that will make it easier for others say, learn, and remember?
9. Am I patient when people don’t remember me or my name? Or do I get offended or defensive?
10. Am I kind, polite, and gracious to everyone?
11. Do I show up with a smile and a great attitude? Or am I known as an Energy-Sucking Black Hole of the Universe?
12. Am I following good business protocol and etiquette, not to be stuck up or superior, but so others feel comfortable in my presence?
13. Do I know how to explain to others who I am, what I do, and who I serve?
14. Can I do #13 in a way that doesn’t take an hour and leave others feeling bored, trapped, exhausted, or flummoxed?
15. Do I act needy or cling to those I already know like a life preserver? Or do I reach out and engage in conversation with people I don’t know, thus opening up to possibilities?
16. Do I go to events prepared with a few conversation-starters in mind?
17. Do I uphold my end of the conversation, thus avoiding awkward and uncomfortable silences?
18. Am I a courteous and attentive listener?
19. Do I know when it’s time to move on from a conversation and excuse myself graciously?
20. Do I set intentions and goals before events and meetings so I’m clear about how I can help make it a positive and valuable experience?
21. Do I promise to be interested, not just interesting?
22. Do I have clean, up-to-date business cards with me (always) so I have an efficient way to share my contact information?
23. Do I remember to offer friendly and gracious (never salesly or pushy) follow-up notes or emails?
24. Do I use social media authentically, respectfully, and courteously?
25. Do I promise (cross my heart and hope to die) not to add people to my email or blog lists unless they have knowingly and willingly opted-in?
26. Do I promise (with an equal amount of sincerity) not to trick people into having coffee or lunch with me so I can put an unexpected and equally unwelcomed sales pitch on them?
27. If I say I will do something for someone, do I keep my word and actually do it?
What else would you add to this list? What do others do in networking situations that is a turnoff and feels like “punishment” to you? As you reflect on how you network, what could you improve on? What best practices and habits can we adopt as networking protocol and best practices to make the world a kinder, friendlier and more respectful place to connect and do business?
About Patti DeNucci
Patti DeNucci is an award-winning communicator, connector, and author who is passionate about inspiring others to Live, Work & Connect at a Higher Level™. Her book, The Intentional Networker™: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business was chosen as a Finalist for ForeWord Review’s 2011 Book of the Year and also took the top prize for non-fiction in the IndieReader 2011 Book of the Year. For less than the cost of most networking meetings, with The Intentional Networker you can gain access to hundreds of secrets, tips, and ideas that will prevent you from punishing the people with whom you are trying to network (and maybe even prevent them from punishing you). For more, go to IntentionalNetworker.com
Photo and article used with permission by Patti DeNucci.