Archives For Sell Ideas

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The two deadly sins of public speaking are 1) confusing the audience, and 2) boring them.

Both are common. I’m not sure which is worse.

I’ve dealt with how not to confuse your audience elsewhere (7 Ways to Clarify Technical Material without Dumbing It Down). So let me suggest…

 

7 Ways Not to Bore Your Audience

1.Never talk about something that bores you.

If you’re assigned a topic that doesn’t excite you, either beg out of it or dig deep into it and find something interesting about it.

2. Never talk to an audience you don’t like.

If you don’t like the people you’re talking to, you’ll find them boring. And you’ll be boring in return, or peevish, which is just as bad. (Okay, you many not like everyone you talk to, but you can’t dislike them.)

3. Don’t give so many presentations.

A presentation is not the only way to communicate ideas or information. Often, it isn’t even the best way. Find other means of sharing what you know. Make people want to hear from you, not tire of listening to you.

4. Be brief.

It’s easier to maintain your enthusiasm and your audience’s interest in short installments. When’s the last time you wished a speaker had gone on longer? Exactly.

5. Use humor.

Laugh at yourself or at the absurdity of life as we know it or a peculiarity of your topic. Levity is always welcome, especially when it is least expected (as in a speech).

6. Tell a story.

I love stories. You love stories. We all love stories. So tell a story. It’ll help, of course, if it pertains to your topic and somehow illustrates it. But I’ve been known to tell a story just for the heck of it, and no one was the worst for it.

7. Promote a novel idea.

A speech is only as good or as interesting as the idea it proposes. So come up with a good idea, an original. Being original is hard work, especially in today’s business environment where everyone is too busy to think, which is one reason I suggest giving fewer presentations. If everyone already knows what you’re talking about, why talk about it?

What are your suggestions?

Don't tell jokes in a speech.The stupidest piece of advice ever given speakers is “Always begin a speech with a joke.”

Don’t do it!

Unless you’re a professional comedian and the audience is already warmed up and primed to laugh, do not — I repeat, do not — start your speech with a joke.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll bomb. The other 1% of the time you’ll get a polite, halfhearted response. And where do you go from there?

Humor in a speech, on the other hand, is almost always appreciated.

When you tell a joke, you’re trying to make people laugh. When you use humor, you’re wanting to amuse them. You’re happy if they smile or chuckle.

Humor makes people more likely to like you. It weakens their resistance. It’s like Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar: it helps the medicine go down.

To be humorous without trying too hard, follow these rules:

  1. Laugh at yourself, your foibles, your mistakes.
    Self-depreciating humor is the safest and surest way to win people’s hearts.
  2. Write it out.
    A sense of surprise, clever wordplay, exaggeration and embellishment, amusing anecdotes, and ironic twists get better with the kind of refinement and precision that comes from writing and rewriting.
  3. Rehearse.
    Paradoxically, it takes practice to use humor so well that it sounds spontaneous and unscripted.
  4. Keep it clean.
    Avoid embarrassing, insulting, or offending your audience. Don’t laugh at others or make them an object of ridicule.
  5. Don’t tell listeners what’s funny.
    Saying, “This is really funny” is a setup for failure. Simply tell your story or make your witty remark and allow the audience to respond. If they laugh, great. If they don’t, move on.
  6. Follow the AT&T rule.
    Is your humor Appropriate to the subject and the audience? Is it Tasteful? Is it Timely?

Even if your humor meets those criteria, remember: Less is more. So keep it short. Avoid long stories or complicated setups. And limit how often you use humor in a speech.

After all, as humorous as you may be, you still want to be taken seriously.

People who aren’t even in sales — project managers, engineers, analysts, programmers, construction workers, designers, architects — make sales presentations all the time.

They may not be the lead presenter. They’re often part of a presentation team.

And the presentation may not be called a sales presentation. It may be called an interview, or an oral proposal, or a pitch.

To prepare yourself or your team for a successful sales presentation (whatever it’s called), begin by answering three sets of questions:

  1. What does the customer/client want?
    Why do they want it?
    How acutely do they want it?
    How will you help them achieve or obtain what they want?
  2. What does the customer/client NOT want?
    Why do they not want it?
    How badly do they not want it?
    How will you help them avoid or minimize what they don’t want?
  3. How is your solution (your product or service) different from / better than the competition?
    What is the difference?
    How does the difference benefit the customer/client?
    What evidence proves both the difference and the benefit?

There are, of course, other questions to ask (and answer) when preparing for a sales presentation. (See How to Plan an Oral Proposal.)

But these three questions get at the heart of any successful sales pitch: knowing what prospects want and don’t want, how you will help them, and why you’re better than the alternatives.

How to plan a technical presentationWhen you prepare a technical presentation, there’s one question — the most important question — you need to address.

The single most important question for a technical presentation is: What will the audience do with the information or idea you’re presenting?

Answering that question will require you, of course, to understand your audience. What are their roles and responsibilities? What do the already know about your subject? What do they need to know? How are they are affected by it?

Answering that question will determine everything you say and show during your presentation.

Answering that question will determine the level of detail you present. Do you give a high-level overview (an executive summary), or a comprehensive and detailed analysis, or something in-between?

What will the audience do with the information or idea you’re presenting?

  • Will they give or withhold permission for you to proceed with a project?
  • Will they decide whether to purchase your product or retain your services?
  • Will they make a report about it to their superiors or to a regulatory agency?
  • Will they implement a new process or carry out a new procedure?

Technical presenters often want to explain what they know in great detail and at great length. That’s what makes so many technical presentations confusing and boring to most audiences.

Most technical presentations — especially those in the business world — are not about educating audiences in-depth. They are about giving people in the organization the information and insight they need to get their jobs done.

The executives of a healthcare organization, for example, don’t want the IT director to educate them about the intricacies of the latest software update. They want to know just enough to be reassured that operations won’t be negatively affected, and to be able to reassure regulators that people’s medical records will remain confidential. The analysts in the IT department, on the other hand, may need detailed instructions about working with the update.

Knowing how the audience will use the information or idea you’re presenting will keep you on target. It’ll help you prepare your presentation. And it will help you determine whether you’ve been successful.

The success of a technical presentation can be determined relatively easily. Are people able to do what they need and want to do as a result of listening to you?

Check out How to Plan a Persuasive Technical Presentation.

about PowerPointI’m the author of Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint (Crown Business), so you might think I’m always and everywhere opposed to its use.

I’d say I’m critical of it, but not opposed to it. Many of my clients–subject matter experts of all stripes–use PowerPoint, and they should.

But these days it’s assumed, at least in the business world, that everyone should use PowerPoint every time they give a presentation. And that’s a mistake.

I begin with the assumption that PowerPoint is a tool for organizing, formatting, and projecting information visually.

If that’s the case–you can disagree with me–then there are three questions you can and should ask about it.

1. Is PowerPoint a good tool?

Does it make organizing, formatting, and projecting information easy, efficient, and effective?

Opinions vary.

Continue Reading…

Influence is the ability to bring about some change in people’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perceptions, values, actions, or behavior.

Whenever you give a speech you are, essentially, trying to influence your audience.

The purpose of a speech is, after all, to change how your audience feels, thinks, or acts. (If you’re happy with the way they are and what they’re doing, for God’s sake don’t give them a speech. Leave them alone.)

How to Make Yourself More Influential when Giving a Speech

First, be the kind of person who inspires trust.

Who you are as a person — your character, experience, reputation, values — is, in large measure, the message you communicate.

Put yourself and your vision, your hopes and dreams on the line. Make yourself vulnerable. Invite, rather than command compliance.

Second, align yourself and the change you’re proposing with their deepest held values.

You’re not going to change what people care about most, and you shouldn’t try. Instead, show them how what you want them to feel, think, or do affirms, protects, or advances their loves, values, dreams.

Third, challenge them to be more or better than they are.

Making people feel guilty or inadequate or wrong won’t incline them to change their ways. If anything, it will make them resent and resist you.

But at the same time you don’t want them to remain complacent, satisfied with their status quo. Not if you want them to change. So ask them to go beyond, to grow bigger than, to love better than who or where they are already are.

Chris Witt Speaking to the UK Speechwriters Guild

Chris Witt Speaking to the UK Speechwriters Guild

Ask any author.

One of the hardest parts of being an author is selling your book.

Yes, writing it was taxing and time consuming. But selling it can be even more challenging.

Selling your book means bringing it to people’s attention, making them interested in it, and finally moving them to buy it.

Other people—with some prompting on your part—will make your book available. They may even take people’s money in exchange (and give you a percentage of their take). But they won’t publicize it and they won’t market it, unless you give them a lot—and I mean a lot—of money. They won’t make people want to buy it. They won’t, in short, sell your book.

That’s your job.

There are many ways to make people aware of your book, to make them want it, refer it to others, and buy it.

Here are some of the most effective strategies:

Continue Reading…

Expect more of an audienceWe don’t make enough demands on our audiences.

We assume, with ample justification, that audiences have a limited attention span. They are easily distracted and quickly bored.

We assume, rightly, that it is our responsibility as speakers to prepare, rehearse, and deliver a speech that engages our audience’s interest and involvement.

But we assume, wrongly in my opinion, that a speech’s success depends entirely on our efforts.

A speech is like a conversation. It only “works” if both parties participate.

Yes, as speakers, we work harder than the audience does. We’re the ones, after all, who did the research, formulated the message, rehearsed, and–if you’re like me–obsessed about it and lost sleep over it in the days (sometimes weeks) before. We’re the ones who put ourselves on display, risking an anxiety attack and rejection.

But we have the right to expect something of our audiences in return. As speakers we do more of the work, but for a speech to succeed audiences have to do some of the work.

Two things happen when we expect little or nothing from an audience. And they’re both disastrous.

First, as speakers we tie ourselves up in knots. We work way too hard. And the strain makes us less spontaneous, less engaging, less alert and able to respond to what’s happening in the moment.

Second, we allow audiences to stay disengaged, making them less willing to take action.

The goal of any speech is, after all, to move the audience to act. If they’re not willing to give you their attention at the start, they surely won’t give you their cooperation at the end.

I expect a lot of myself as a speaker. I’ve noticed, over the years, that I get a better response from audiences when I expect more from them.

What’s your experience?

To improve a speech keep it sortThe single best way to improve just about any speech is to make it shorter.

5 Reasons Shorter Speeches Are Better

1. Shorter speeches have a better chance of maintaining your audience’s attention.

Today’s audiences have the attention span of a gnat. They have too many distractions. And they’re trained not to sit still and listen.

Even a masterful speaker with a well-prepared speech will have trouble keeping an audience engaged for long. So keep your speech short.

Continue Reading…

Problem/Solution FormatThe most common form of a presentation is both easy and effective: 1) identify and discuss a problem, and 2) propose a solution.

But there’s a problem with the problem-solution format. A big one.

I noticed it, again, as I sat through a recent presentation about climate change and alternative energies.

You already know from my brief description what the problem was: climate change. And the proposed solution is equally clear: alternative energies.

The speaker had impeccable credentials in the eyes of his audience. They knew him, respected him, and believed him. His knowledge was wide-ranging, in-depth, and substantiated by multiple, credible sources.

His presentation was well-structured and logical.

The picture he painted — the problem — was bleak. Really, really, really bleak.

He spent at least 45 minutes defining the problem, analyzing its causes, and spelling out its implications (i.e. impending doom in all its various forms).

Then — with only 15 minutes remaining — he turned to the solution.

Continue Reading…

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