As I said in my last column, like it or not we are all salesmen. Our lives are made up of a series of “sales presentations”, otherwise known as presenting ourself in the best light possible. Whether we’re out for a job interview, trying for a raise, or just convincing our employees that a job must be accomplished – you are making a presentation.
To become masterful at it can be summed up in the acronym IPRESENT! In my last column we covered the steps “I” through “E”:
- I – involve your audience
- P – prepare your audience
- R – research your arsenal
- E – explain “Why?”
Let’s finish the acronym today.
“S” stands for State (mental) Management. The mental state of the successful presenter must be congruent with the message. If you don’t believe that, try giving a pep talk to your sales force when you’re depressed – it won’t work! You must be aware of and manage your own mental state and that of your listeners or communication channels will not be open. I don’t have space to elaborate on methods of doing this, but here are a few key hints. First, “AAI” – act as if. Act the way you want to feel, it’s amazing how this works. Use music to set the mood if necessary, dress the part, and reduce your anxiety by whatever method works for you. Remember that you’re the one in charge, and presentation mastery isn’t about being perfect – it’s about achieving your objective.
“E” is for eliminating the unknowns. Fear of public speaking ranks high on most people’s list of worst fears. You may find you’re unusually nervous, develop poor voice tone or negative body language, and be unable to respond to audience feedback. Managing your anxiety permits you to focus on your audience and their needs. The basic approach to do this is the asking ourselves a list of “what if?” questions. Another way to overcome our fear is to take ownership of the situation. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Double check your notes, and prepare yourself.
“N” is fudging a little by using the second letter of the word “know” – as in kNow Your Audience. Whether it is one person or many that you are presenting to you must do three basic things: Meet their needs, reduce tension, and avoid mistakes. A good knowledge of the listeners will give you a chance to tailor your objectives to meet their needs. This also allows you to reduce the “audience-presenter” tension so they will focus on what you’re saying. With a clear knowledge of your audience’s views you’ll be sensitive to potential “hot buttons”.
“T” stands for “Tailor Your Presentation Throughout”. Boring listeners leads to missed objectives or total failure. You must be flexible and responsive to your audience. To do this you need to use techniques that will give you audience feedback; you must diagnose the cause of the problem you’re addressing, and finally you must choose the solution to act upon.
When you’re presenting watch for non-verbal behavior such as clock-watching, foot-tapping, and cat-napping. When any of these are present get some feedback with, “Is it too warm in here?” or “Should I pick up the pace?” That breaks the attention or lack of, of the audience and brings them back to your talk. One important thing to remember is that the mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure. Sometimes a simple thing like taking a short stretch break will solve the problem.
The techniques for achieving your most desired outcomes are at your fingertips, when you remember that life is a series of presentations.