I recently co-led a workshop for a group of executives in the finance industry whose work requires making presentations at client meetings. Many had concerns about how they come across during these sales meetings. The issue, for them, wasn’t about what they said, but how they said it.
Even if you aren’t an executive, I’m sure you can empathize with them. Most of us tend to experience some degree of anxiety when we’re trying to sell our ideas, whether it’s in a job interview or an important strategy session with the boss.
As I’ve said before, for good presentations, be they one-to-one or for a hundred people, you need to be well prepared and have worked out your ideas through writing. Yet, there are other important considerations. It’s more than just your words; it’s also about self-awareness and how you come across to people. It’s your physical presence; it’s awareness of others; it’s personality type.
These were some of the concerns that came up during the workshop. And because they’re such an important part of meeting and presentation management, I want to share in this Language Lab blog post what came out of the process that day.
Let’s start by looking at “personality.” It’s easy to assume that the extravert with the “big personality” will excel at getting her/his ideas across. But regardless of where you fall in the Myers Briggs personality spectrum, it’s entirely possible to improve your ability to communicate more effectively. And you can do this by considering the following factors – then strategizing ways to improve areas where you sense a weakness.
Top Five Meeting and Presentation Concerns:
1. Body Language: What your mother told you still is true – stand up straight. Slumping, hunching, nervously shifting around etc. indicate your lack of confidence, whether or not it is true.
2. Tone: Avoid speaking in a monotone, which, as we all know, makes your audience start daydreaming about anything other than about what you are saying.
3. Rate of Speech: It’s important to speak clearly, and speaking clearly means not racing through your sentences or drawling as slowly as molasses in July.
4. Volume of Speech: The simple rule is that the other person or people need to be able to hear you. At the same time, no one likes feeling that they are being shouted at.
5. Facial Expressions: We all respond to a smile. And just as true, we all respond in another, less favorable way, to someone who looks anxious, rushed, or unhappy.
Top Five Strategies…for Dealing with the Top Five Meeting and Presentation Concerns:
1. Practice: Test yourself out in your mirror…or with a close colleague. Record yourself if possible.
2. Mirror Body Language: Discreetly match the body posture/gestures of the person with whom you are speaking. For example, if he or she is sitting back with legs comfortably crossed, do the same. (That doesn’t mean slumping!) This makes the other person instinctively feel the two of you are in sync.
3. Match Speech: Similarly, acclimatize yourself to the rhythms of the other person’s speech. If he/she speaks in clipped, short sentences, make sure you don’t hold forth in long, rambling monologues.
4. Backtracking: Restate the other person’s point of view when possible, using her or his own words. Doing so reinforces you are a) listening, and b) taking her/his ideas seriously.
5. Tactfully Address Concerns: Instead of starting a sentence with “But what about problem X or Y,” reiterate the point the person has made. Then, begin your concern with “however,” a subtler way of expressing a concern. (For example you might say: “I appreciate that you think that the increase in fee for our coaching service is too high. And I do understand your desire to watch your budget. However, we have achieved outstanding results, that are certainly worth more than we are currently charging, with our excellent service.”)
We’ve all experienced that feeling of encountering someone who seems to just “get” it, who “speaks your language.” So when you’re trying to sell that object or that idea, you need to speak the other person’s language, to whatever degree possible.
Think of it this way. Instead of worrying about how YOU are coming across, concentrate on the other person. What is he/she doing? What is he/she saying? Listen, observe; then respond accordingly. You may find that not only are you enjoying the conversation; you’re making the sale, convincing your boss or acing that interview.
Do you have any effective communication strategies that work well for managing meetings and presentations? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish them in our newsletter.
You can also share them right here on the Language Lab blog.