Presentations and Communication

Increase Your Visibility

Are you one of the people/companies standing at the “post-pandemic” starting gate, anxious to gain new or increased business from potential clients? In this crowded field, it’s difficult to become visible and stand out in the crowd.   Here are some easy-to-follow rules that will help you succeed.

Two decades ago, when we launched Presentation Excellence to help presenters  who were already visible to close more deals,  we also launched PortfolioPR, an investor and public relations firm focused on the first problem: gaining visibility so you would be invited to make the presentation.  At the time, we created our own rules for doing so:

  • Conduct a perception scan – who knows about what you do and what do they really know
  • Determine a unique branding proposition to fill the blank
  • Present your brand in contexts where you’re different than the others around you
  • Reinforce your unique brand as often as necessary until feedback tells you that you’ve succeeded

For instance, a public company with a market capitalization of $500M, wanted to achieve a market capitalization of $1Billion+, so the largest investment banks would make investments.  The perception study told us that most potential investors didn’t know the company was even an option; they though other larger companies had acquired them years ago. At the time, the aerospace industry was in a recession and it provided products to the industry. But since it also provide other industry products, we branded the company as an expert in “highly-engineered solutions”. We promoted the company with a focus on the breadth of the product line, through a mix of public and private investor programs – which allowed us to engage in strategic partnerships with colleagues in all the industries. Eighteen months later, we accomplished the goal – and turned over the strategy to a newly created team within the company to continue the process.

Lee W. Frederiksen offers a different framework for professionals who want to increase visibility. In Visible Expert, he identifies four levels of expertise that a person can promote:

  1. The Resident Expert:  Establishing yourself as a thought leader and expert within your firm.  Focus on what you know and what people need, and keep developing outstanding content for anyone who reaches out to you.
  2. The Local Hero: With an eye on future career development, you begin to specialize within your domain of expertise. You rely on referrals, speaking engagements, social media and websites.
  3. The Rising Star: Using your entrepreneurial energy, you focus on your niche and start promoting yourself more actively to reach larger audiences and become recognized as a market leader.  Issuing white papers, publishing a book, participating in podcasts, etc., are strategies you use to create buzz.
  4. The Industry Rock Star: Visibility as an expert has taken a life of its own and continues to generate new opportunities. You become more selective in your niche expertise and audience, and channel existing buzz into reputation (and income) management.

Now is the time to launch your career or company growth. Harness the strategy that will enable you to achieve your goal of being a recognized expert and leader!

Communications Need to be Compelling

How compelling are your communications? While the focus of our work at Presentations Excellence is on helping leaders to deliver winning Board, sales, investor, marketing and organizational restructuring presentations, we’re often asked to help make the communications that lead up to the “big” presentation more compelling. If the email, panel speech, networking introduction, whitepaper, website, etc. don’t grab the audience’s attention, you may never get asked to make the presentation that wins a deal.

For instance, Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language, recently surveyed 3,000 people in he US workforce and found that 70% reported poor digital communications to be a problem. The Digital Communications Crisis report estimated that lackluster communication resulted in an average of four hours wasted per week – valued at $188 Billion.

Some of the email-related solutions offered by experts (including Sam George who wrote I’ll Get Back to You: The Dyscommunication Crisis) include:

  • Craft more enticing subject lines. If a recipient doesn’t read your email right away, it’s likely to be ignored. Make them witty, engaging, personalized or urgent. Credibility and timing also matter
  • Pose questions and ask for simple yes or no answers, so the reader can decide whether he/she agrees with you.
  • Structure the message so it leads to the Course of Action that you want to the person to take: send more information or agree to attend to a meeting.
  • Address people by their first names; people are 27% more likely to open a personalized email.
  • Address the message to the user; remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the user.
  • Create visual impact by breaking up long emails into bite-size paragraphs and subheads. Instead of overly long paragraphs, use bullet points.
  • If you’re looking for a response, simplify the request so it’s almost effortless to do so.

Use these solutions to increase the power of your emails – and you’ll have more impact!

When Context Matters, Win with ADAP

First, thanks for sharing: We love it when Presentation Excellence members share with us their example of how our ADAP formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) solves a presenters’ dilemma. When people make presentations, we focus on content, format, media, and delivery skills; but sometimes the key to impact requires focusing on Context.

Investor Business daily recently shared an observation by Retired General Stanley McChrystal (who led the successful “surge” in the Iraq war) on leadership.  “Leaders have got to be able to understand the context in which they’re operating. You lead a group of soldiers differently on Monday morning than you do Friday afternoon.”

For those of us who are “office warriors”, we know that’s true. People come to work at the beginning of a week, looking forward to starting a productive week. By Friday, their focus is more likely to be bringing the week to a successful conclusion. When we started in Vietnam, there was all kinds of optimism and a willingness to keep investing in the cause. In the end, we just wanted to get out quickly. We’re seeing a similar scenario in Afghanistan.

It made me think of how I train my presentation warriors to win their battles when their goal is to motivate and energize an audience. Here are three examples.

·   If possible, pick a time slot when the audience is most receptive to engaging with you. For instance, the first speaker at a conference has that advantage. Whereas the speaker after lunch is likely to have a more distracted (and tired) audience. And if you’re chosen for that slot, you need to compensate by creating keeping your audience engaged. (At a conference for emerging growth companies, they asked me to be the key after-lunch speaker. Why that slot? “Because you know how to engage a lethargic audience.” (They were right, by getting off the podium and walking around the audience and I stayed energized.)

·   As an IR specialist, I help CEOs design powerful investor presentations. At an investor conference, speakers usually get a 30-minute slot. My clients usually present for 20 minutes so the audience can ask the questions we want them to ask, and demonstrate our expertise. However, in about 25% of the cases, something changes the schedule (e.g., a fire drill, equipment failures). Most presenters then rush their 25-30 minute presentation in the 15-minute allotment – and are less effective. My clients use a second, 15 minute, presentation that is power-packed and eliminates the need to rush. The contrast blows the audience away!

·   An executive engaged us to solve a problem: survival. His department was being moved; one potential supervisor was a fan of his; the other wasn’t. His once chance to influence the decision was at the upcoming Board meeting at which he was going to present for the first time ever. After working on the presentation itself, we took a look at the meeting room. The Board table had 40 seats, with the chairman at one end and the speaker platform at the other. We needed to bring the two together. So we arranged for him to stand at the middle of the table – bring in him closer to the Chairman and also to the Executive for whom he wanted to work. As a result, all three were engaged in the conversation that accompanied the presentation – and he became his boss. (Unfortunately, a few years later, that boss left and he moved to the other person’s division – and was let go within months!)

So, when you plan your presentation focus on the presentation itself, your skills, the audience’s needs, and the context in which the presentation will occur. Do it right, and the ADAP formula will work for you, too!

It’s Time to Increase Your Executive Presence

You’ve always needed a strong Executive Presence to Influence people. Now is the time to make sure your effort is on full-throttle.

Throughout the second half of this year, people are returning to offices based on one of the many patterns that management chooses. During this “fluid” stage of the post-pandemic period, lots of “return-to-work” models will be adopted. Like water that “settles”, this offers an opportunity for company and individual experimentation to determine what  is the best policy for safety, individual lifestyle and corporate performance, team collaboration, innovation, and longer-term profitability. Our team has been monitoring the many changes in prior stages of the pandemic since March of 2020, and will continue to do so.

There are two key things you need to concern yourself with during the “fluid” stage.

  • With a distributed work pattern – some at home and some in the office, micro-management of individuals won’t work. Instead workers should adopt self-management systems so they are “accountable for success” in their jobs. We have to execute on the company’s strategy for performance, culture and leadership. We also need to keep our eye on professional and personal growth by improving our skills in areas where we want to make more valuable contributions.  (We’ll soon be posting information on the web about our “Accountable for Success” (A4S) system that gives the worker-supervisor team tools they can use to do so. (To request advance information, send a note to JerryCahn@PresentationExcellence.com.)
  • Second, this is the opportunity to step-up your Executive Presence, so you can make a larger difference in your company and industry. Now that we’re going to interact with others both virtually and digitally, this is the time to make sure you’re projecting your expertise and forge important new relationships.

Dr. Brooke Vuckovic, a clinical professor of leadership at the Kellogg School recently noted in a podcast, that “Executive presence doesn’t measure your merit. It doesn’t measure that intellect or horsepower; it measures your capacity to translate out all of your creativity, all of your good ideas, all of your deep expertise.” She offers this formula: “Executive presence is equal to credibility, plus ease, divided by ego.”

For those of you who have been following us for years know, our formula for winning presenters is to deliver ADAP: Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Once you’ve developed expertise, you always need to present it authentically. To influence each audience, you need to control the content and format of the message and the format, style and power of delivery to resonate with the audience’s ability to receive the message and perceive you as trustworthy, credible and expert.

Listen to the podcast and use this opportunity to increase your executive presence!  Attend one of our workshops or request coaching if you think it will help. Remember, often you only get one opportunity to make a superb first impression!

OnBoarding Presentations: ADAP Wins Again

Based on our experience with over 5000 presentations, the Presentation Excellence team created a simple guiding formula to help presenters become more effective. ADAP – Audience-Driven Authentic Presentations. Over the next decades, our clients consistently report that understanding the audience’s real needs and meeting them with an authentic presentation is the key to success. 

In a study cited by Jon Levy in You’re Invited: the Art and Science of Cultivating Influence, he demonstrates that it also applies to how we onboard new recruits. Given the Talent Management challenges of post-pandemic 2021+, it’s something every organization should heed.

Wipro BPO, an Indian-based provider of telephone and chat support, noted in 2010 that turnover was reaching 50-70%. Committed to reducing this disruptive result, they hired 605 new employees and created an experiment, by dividing them into three groups, two experimental and one control. 

  1. First Experimental: the Individual-Identify Group spent an extra hour of training focused on the person. It included both individual work and group discussions on how they solve problems, how they describe themselves, what makes them happiest and perform best at work, and how they can bring their best self to the work group. At the end, they received a badge and sweatshirt with their name on it.
  2. Second: the Organizational-Identity Group. The extra hour focused on “pride in their organizational affiliation and (acceptance of) the organization’s norms and values. It included a discussion of Wipro values, why the company is great, and star performer discussing the same. Then, employees reflected on what was shared and discussed it. At the end, they receive a bade and sweatshirt with the company name on it.
  3. Control group: They received the standard onboarding process without an extra hour intervention.

What differences, if any do you expect?   

The Control group’s turnover rate was higher than the experimental groups (no surprise); but it was 47% higher than the first group and 16.2% higher than the second. Additionally, they found that turnover was 26.7% higher for Group One than Group Two.

Driving home the general perks offered by the company had a minor effect. What had the most impact was the one hour conversation, just once, “about you, what matters to you and what you can bring to the team’s success.” In other words, the one hour audience-driven communication that the company truly cares about the individual had the greatest impact.

If this single experience can have that much impact, then it is likely that a culture that continues to communicate caring about each individual worker’s growth is going to make a big difference!  So make sure that your corporate messaging elevates the importance of each individual and her/his growth while with the company in years to come!

What are your experiences?  Share them with us. 

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