Your company's pitches and presentations are key to your business success. Learn these 5 essential skills for moving and activating stakeholders.
Like any business, your company depends upon spoken communication to influence stakeholders. Pitches, presentations, client updates, and speaking at industry conferences are necessary components of any successful enterprise, big or small. If you're like most organizations, that probably means you'd better pay closer attention to your team presentation skills.
You may be a leader in your industry with world-class employees. But have you given any thought to how you come across as a team when you talk to stakeholders?
It's difficult enough to be persuasive when listeners are generally receptive to what you're saying. But what about when you're facing a tough audience, challenging questions, and push-back? Learn how to handle yourself with my essential cheat sheet, "7 Tips for Overcoming Audience Resistance."
Presentations are hard enough without neglecting to work out beforehand and to practice how your individual speakers will hang together as a cohesive unit. Does your team presentation present your company as a whole in a beneficial way? Is there a balance of speaking assignments, expertise, and seniority? Do prospects and clients get the sense that working with this team is going to be a productive and enjoyable experience?
For one thing, a cubicle mentality—with employees too busy putting out fires to spend the time learning how to present together—can result in your team coming across as virtual strangers to each other. Here are 5 ways your organization can speak with maximum impact and influence, rather than giving the impression that your outfit hasn't taken the time to think strategically.
1. Cast Roles and Rehearse for a Great Performance. Your hiring decisions are based on talent and the ability of an individual to fit into your organization. Why should your thinking on participants in a team presentation be any different? Think carefully think about how your "cast" will fit together in terms of styles, personalities, and speaking ability. And rehearse as a team! Nothing is worse than finding out at the moment of presenting to an important client that you really haven't figured out a way to make this whole thing hang together.
2. Pay Closest Attention to Your Purpose. Mediocre teams deliver content; great teams zero in on their purpose. That means knowing how to stay fully focused when speaking. I recently trained the global marketing team of a biotech firm. Each team member was a subject expert. But the task they were given by the C-suite was to persuade those same leaders on the need to pivot from R & D to marketing and sales. Content wasn't important here, and I worked with them to put together a pitch that anticipated and neutralized resistance. Without paying close attention to the reason why they were speaking, their talk would have failed.
3. Give Your Presentation a Theme. Presentations consisting only of information are rarely interesting. That's especially true when the content or outcome desired are known beforehand. Instead, think in terms of the concept or insight your team is trying to get across. For instance, think of the "headline" that will appear in tomorrow's (imaginary) newspaper. Your team's job is now to put together a presentation that makes that headline possible. Not too long ago, I trained the management team of a municipal housing authority, each member of which had a particular expertise. The presentation was like a crazy-quilt until we began to work on a theme for the talk. Then everything suddenly made sense in terms of meeting listeners' needs.
4. Tell Your Organization's Story. Few things will take your team's performance from the mundane to the memorable than telling a great story. What should that narrative entail? Anybody's story that you think is appropriate: your customer's, your industry's, the product or service, even your understanding of your prospect's needs. So learn the skills of storytelling and how to use stories to boost your own authority. It's a great way for your team to add drama to your speeches and presentations.
5. Use Body Language and Nonverbal Communication. Content is the tip of the iceberg in your team's presentation. The vast area of your influence floats unseen below the surface. It consists of the tremendous influence nonverbal communication has on any audience. (In that regard, learn about the 5 body language errors that will sink your presentation.) So how are your employees in terms of using body language when they speak? Does your team videotape their practice sessions so they can see for themseles how they're coming across? Finally, are they practiced in reading the audience's body language so they can adjust their approach?
Rehearsing how your employees look, sound, and present themselves as a team will go a long way toward helping you achieve the influence you're looking for with stakeholders. After all, an individual pearl is an attractive object. But a pearl necklace creates a different effect altogether.
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