Stupid Mistake #9: Conclude Your Speech Abruptly

March 29, 2008

Here’s the situation:  As my husband and I were watching a movie, I was reminded of an important rule about how to conclude a presentation.  We were watching the movie, The Manchurian Candidate.  As this film came to its close, I felt my jaw drop open. Beside me, my husband shook his head in disbelief, “Is that all?” The movie had ended abruptly. The hero (Denzel Washington) stood gazing blankly over the ocean, his feelings and his future unresolved. There we were, still on the edge of our seats, and the movie was over. It had stopped on a dime.

Shuffling out of the theater, I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. A thoroughly suspenseful movie had left me hanging at the end. Testing out a theory, I asked my husband about his feelings, “Do you feel angry?” “Yes,” he answered, “I do.” I realized that I felt angry too.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  What holds true in a movie holds true in a presentation. An audience expects an ending. In fact, an audience expects a cohesive package that moves smoothly from beginning to middle to end. A good presentation does not end on a dime.

Here’s the solution:  As you prepare the close of a presentation, keep the following points in mind:

  • Audience members expect you to provide closure or tie things together at the end.
  • Audience’s perceive an unspoken contract with speakers.  When you start a story or a line of logic, they expect it to come to a satisfactory conclusion.  
  • The conclusion is the final impression of your speech.  If you do a great job throughout and then flub the conclusion, the audience is left with a negative impression.
  • The most powerful speeeches end with an action statement.

Now I invite you to view a free longer version of this article–with practical suggestions for closings: http://www.incrediblemessages.com/Articles/pp-10-dime.htm.

 For more stupid mistakes that sabotage your speech, check out this special report: http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.


Add Power to Speech with the 7-Second Rule

March 25, 2008

On television, images change approximately every 7 seconds.  Yet, in organizational settings and conference presentations, we expect audience members to watch the stationery body of a presenter, speaking from behind a podium, for an hour or more.  No wonder people dread these presentations!

To be effective as a speaker, you have to recognize that our culture is increasing fast-paced and increasingly visual.  Here are some tips to build changes into your next presentation:

  Give up the podium.   It’s okay to use the podium as a home base.  Just don’t plant yourself there!  When you move with purpose, you add interest and variety for your audience.  For example, try moving away from the podium when you make a key point, or when you ask for audience participation. Of course, random pacing, due to nervousness, doesn’t count as purposeful movement.  Think:  walk, plant your feet; walk again, plant your feet again.      

Make your PowerPoint visual.   An agenda for the presentation is helpful for the audience as well as the speaker.  Overall, however, words on a slide don’t work as visual stimulation—no matter how often you change them.  If you choose to use PowerPoint, add changes with photographs and dramatic graphs.  Show brief video clips that support your points.  Just make sure that everything you use is relevant and easy for the audience to grasp.        

 Add vocal or auditory changes.  Raise the volume of your voice to emphasize a point.  Try a stage whisper to draw the audience into a little-known fact.  Practice a powerful pause.  If possible, add brief musical transitions between points.

Give your stories the stage.  Concrete examples, brief case studies, and stories are powerful ways to add variety, interest, and practicality to presentations.  Make these gems stand out in the midst of a PowerPoint presentation by hitting the “b” key on your laptop.  “B” will give you a blank slide, so that you, the presenter, can move forward and connect with your audience in a powerful way.  The change will be refreshing to audience members.  When you wish to return to the slides.  Simply hit the “b” key again.

Use natural gestures.  Use the gestures that come naturally in conversations.  These include suggestive gestures like shaking your head and demonstrative gestures like showing the height of an object.  Even a shrug will create a brief change for the audience.  For a bigger change, consider using a prop or two as natural extensions of your gestures.

It’s hard to compete with a change every 7 seconds.  Unfortunately, this is what your audience members have come to expect, even if they don’t realize it.  Build changes into the content and the delivery of your next presentation.  You’ll be rewarded with a more engaged and attentive audience.


Law of Persuasion: Is Likeability Really Important in Business?

March 7, 2008

Technical whiz kids, scientists, and others professionals focus on increasing their skills:  the goal is to be an expert in their chosen field.  While education and expertise are important, researchers now insist that more is needed for success.  The highest levels of achievement come to those who mix expertise with likeability.

Research studies consistently reveal that people respond positively to others whom they like.  People prefer to do business with and to buy products from people they like.  Mitch Anthony, author of Selling with Emotional Intelligence,puts it succinctly, “Likeability is as important as ability.” 

While you may not officially be in sales, you must sell your ideas, your credibility, and your recommendations every day.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Accept the fact that developing likeability is an important success strategy.
  •  Find and mention the points of contact or similarity you have with others.
  • Learn to listen respectfully and to demonstrate an open mind.
  • Engage in small courtesies and expressions of appreciation, regardless of the other person’s formal status.      
  • Learn to keep gossip, unkind words, and disparaging remarks unsaid.
  •  Take time to laugh with others.
  • Choose a likeability mentor—observe and learn from someone who excels in likeability.

Persuasion Technique: Imagine This!

March 3, 2008

An article on the power of suggestion in persuasive communication relays an important lesson for business communicators.  Most of us approach persuasion as an exercise in  logic and statistics.  According to Don Price, we’ll get much better results if we appeal to a person’s imagination (http://searchwarp.com/swa119495.htm).   

Price claims that the power in the words of politicians, sales, and marketing professionals just might be hypnotic.  These folks can mesmerize us, moving us to fall in love with a product or a position by stringing words together in a way that “fires off your imagination” in a persuasive way.  Is this hypnotic?  You decide!  Can it help your next business pitch?  Absolutely!

Price compares a salesperson’s “pitch” to classical hypnosis, as follows (in italics with slight adaptions):

A Salesperson’s communication may go like this:

  •  When you own this home you are going to love holding her in you arms, late at night, while sitting by this fireplace. You’ll create memories to last a lifetime.      
  • Imagine coming home on a cold winter night and snuggling up in front of the warmth of this fireplace.

Classical hypnosis may go like this:

  • As you relax more deeply on the object you’re on, it will begin to feel like you are floating back deeply into a wonderful journey.     
  • You’ll soon discover that your mind will readily absorb all the positive suggestions that I have given you just like a sponge absorbs water.

The structure is the same in the sales communication and classical hypnosis, but the content and verbal suggestion is quite different. All the suggestions set up expectations in the mind of the listener. Our imaginations fill in the blanks as to what the expectations are. The choice of words and the order in which you use them has the power to change how people think and influence the actions they take. 

For the most part, business communicators don’t work to “fire” the imagination.  We say things like, “This fireplace is an asset during cold winter nights.”  There’s no trigger for the imagination, nothing to “grab” the listener’s attention.  In short, there’s no persuasive power. 

Competent business presentations will always contain logic and statistics.  The most powerful ones, however, will also appeal to the imagination, to the deeply held values and desires of individuals and the organization.  In your next formal or informal business presentation, insert the words, “Imagine this. . . !”  You just might tap into some true persuasive power.