How to Improve Your Business Presentation Skills – Part1

Many moons ago, when I first started presenting in front of groups of people, I used to wonder with awe at those seasoned presenters who seemed to just ‘have the gift’ of being able to stand in front of an audience and effortlessly present their ‘message’ or ‘ideas’. To hear them talk, I’d swear they were natural born ‘presenters’. Well guess what….they weren’t. In fact, even the world’s top presenters all began their public speaking careers as rank amateurs. I then learnt that, along with most things in life, it’s all down to practice.

It’s amazing what practice produces – in all areas of your life and business. The very best presenters today once all started in the same place. That first presentation, reading from notes and being terrified to try presenting without notes (we’ve all been there). It’s all down to confidence.

In a nutshell, the idea is that for any skill – from such a simple thing as tying your shoelaces to presenting in front of a group – there are basically four levels:

1st Level – Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know that you can’t do it!

2nd Level – Conscious Incompetence – you now know that you can’t do it!

3rd Level – Conscious Competence – You now feel ‘confident’ at doing it but you’re still thinking about it!

4th Level – Unconscious Competence – You are ‘highly confident’ – striving to continuously improve and become an expert in your field. Most of the basic actions you employ are now automatic.

We all begin new things as incompetents – that is, we ‘don’t know what we don’t know’. Recognising this incompetence, however, is the first step in the learning process. Feeling OK about it is the next. It is only when we are willing to demonstrate our ignorance – to ourselves and others (without fear of failure) that we can move through this stage to a level where we can perform a task with a certain amount of competence. Can you remember as a child trying to tie your shoelaces? Wasn’t it so complicated the first time? How many times do you even consider thinking about that now? It has become totally automatic has it not? This is the same with ANY new skill that we learn.

Imagine that it could take about 500 hours of practising a skill to become really competent at it. You might radically reduce or ‘fast track’ that time if you have the advantage of good feedback. One of the most rewarding areas I have experienced when working with businesses is the radical acceleration of the business growth by implementing tried and tested methods that are already proven, rather than the business owner going alone and trying to ‘re-invent the wheel’. Many people are happy with being what they consider as ‘competent’. If they see themselves as “ok”, they stop practising. Others would like to be ‘outstanding’ – to be widely known as an expert in their field. It may, however, take even longer to go from being competent at something to being a real expert in your field.

So why would you want to be more than ‘ok’ in the field of presenting? Here’s 3 reasons:

1. The satisfaction of doing something very well.

2. To be rewarded accordingly (both socially and financially). To stand out above the competition.

3. There are two crucial areas in any business. The first is being able to deliver your ‘product’ with outstanding consistency. The second is being able to sell yourself to your prospects. To achieve this will requires a honed and well practised presentation. You can have the best product in the world, however if you have a poor presentation you simply won’t sell it. At best you will have a low conversion rate from prospect to client.

The 5th level – Excel at what you do. It’s more than ‘Unconscious Competence’. More than ‘just practice’. It is a level that only the really determined will ever achieve. Add passion and perseverance in the face of all odds. It also allows you to ‘niche’ your business and your pricing accordingly.

So here’s a thought or two:

  • 1) When you present yourself and your business – consider THREE areas where you have reached level 2 i.e. you are currently ‘consciously incompetent’. List THREE things you could do to get you level 4 i.e. ‘unconsciously competent’ in all three areas.
  • 2) When you present yourself and your business – list THREE areas where you have reached level 4 i.e. you have become ‘unconsciously competent’. Now list THREE things you could do to further add passion and improvement…
  • 3) Then the important part! Do something today to ensure that you act on just one of your six new ideas…

Look out for Part 2 on ‘How to improve your business presentation Skills’

How Many Slides Are Ideal in a Sales Presentation?

When I conduct a Presentation workshop for sales and marketing professionals, the one question I always get is – How many slides should you use in a presentation?

The opinion ranges from 3 slides to 25 slides.

The reality is that there is no study that suggests that short presentations are more successful than long presentations or vice versa. But, there are a couple of suggestions about slides to help you make clear and convincing presentations.

Suggestion 1: Don’t spread a single idea over multiple slides

I have seen presentations that drive the audience crazy by dividing a single sentence over multiple slides. What is more, in these types of presentations – the presenter keeps moving the slides at break neck speed, while reading the sentence to the audience. Unless you wish to insult your audience’s ability to read English, don’t use this method in your sales presentations.

It always helps to put all the relevant elements of an idea onto one slide, so that the audience can see the connection. If you divide your message into multiple slides, the audience needs to strain their memory to recollect the details of the previous slides.

Suggestion 2: Don’t put more than one idea on a slide

A slide is like a paragraph in a novel or newspaper. You should always start a new paragraph for a new thought. In the same way start a new slide to convey a new thought in a presentation.

This ensures that audience gets the time to absorb your ideas completely, and build their understanding in gradual steps. It also allows you to use meaningful diagrams to convey your ideas visually.

So, crunching your entire sales presentation into 2 slides – is NOT a great idea.

Conclusion

When you follow these two suggestions, you will automatically come up with the right number of slides for your professional presentations.

Remember what matters are whether you are able to influence your customers to make a purchase decision, by giving them sufficient information. It doesn’t matter how many slides you use.

Happy selling!

Membership Sites – Finding and Presenting Valuable Content

In our last article, we talked about making the focus of your membership site narrow. As an example, we took a wide-open, generic topic like “cars” and narrowed it down to focus on owners and fans of the Ford Gran Torino, a muscle car from the late 1960′s. We noted that niche content has a higher perceived value than general information.

You could start a membership site about something you know, or about something you’d like to learn about. But it’s actually easier and faster to make the site start paying if you don’t create any of the initial content. As a matter of fact, there are experts in almost any field who are full of information and would love to pontificate on a particular topic, but they have no platform for doing so. That’s exactly what you’re creating – a meeting place for experts and people searching for their expertise. You will be getting paid for providing and maintaining that meeting place.

So, if you’re not going to create the content yourself, where are you supposed to find valuable content for your membership site? (Again, we’ll be using our fictional Gran Torino membership site as an example in this article.) Here are several type of content. Don’t limit yourself to just one type, or one source. You need to be constantly on the lookout for content.

Written Information:

There are several sites on the web where authors and experts post information they’ve written, with the hopes that publishers looking for experts in their particular area of interest will come along and find them. EzineArticles is just one of many free article repositories. You could also do a search of blogs for your particular topic, using a blog search engine such as technorati.com or blogsearch.google.com . If you know that your particular niche has one or more professional organizations, you might search their site for authors or even contact a trade association and ask if they could recommend an expert willing to write for your new site.

If you hang out in an organized club or informal group of aficionados, ask one or more of your friends to write articles. Go ahead, make that shade tree mechanic famous! He’s always spouting off about how he tinkers with his car – offer to put your money where his mouth is. Have him write a feature article, or give him a column.

Video:

What’s better than a written article? Video! We’re conditioned to think of people who appear on TV and in movies as celebrities. Look at the late Billy Mays, or Offer “Vince” Shlomi – the “ShamWow guy.” They’ve garnered a species of trust simply for appearing in commercials, even though viewers see them in their true vocation as pitchmen. If you put your information out on video, people are even more likely to believe you than if they read the same information.

“Talking head” videos are almost as good as true product demonstration videos. We trust people who tell us things “to our face” while we can see theirs. While putting together a small video production setup can be done for well under $1,000 there are enough folks out there who already have the equipment, space and time. Troll video repositories such as YouTube.com and MetaCafe.com for people who have already posted videos pertaining to your niche, or strike deals with people who have something educational (or simply novel) to say to your target audience.

Audio:

Podcasts are audio segments that people can listen to on-line, or download to their MP3 players. These can take the form of interviews or talk shows. You can even recycle written articles and blog entries by reading them into a microphone and offering them up as audio files.

There are a number of people who create what are essentially “radio shows” that only appear on the ‘net. If someone else has produced podcasts about your niche, talk with them about making them available inside your site. Podcasts are great for interviewing experts and presenting information that people can listen to while they drive.

Go deep – and wide:

Let’s use our imaginary Gran Torino site again. It’s true that you need to produce deep sets of information about the main topic. Articles, videos and podcasts all about where to find original parts, who makes replacement parts, and where the best place to buy either of them might be a good example. Building a membership site with content management software like Caribou CMS allows you to offer all three types of media.

However, don’t stop with just one or two topics. Think about auxiliary topics that would compliment your membership’s main interest. If I were a subscriber to the site, I might want to show off my car at a rally or some other physical gathering. Now you’ve got tons of potential articles on: the rally location, how to buy, set up and use a car trailer, how to make money renting your car to photographers. The list is limited only by your imagination. It’s good to run an in-depth series, but don’t forget about other helpful topics.

Hire an expert:

Several times I’ve mentioned putting your friends to work, producing content for your site. But what if you don’t know anyone? What if your particular niche isn’t interested in self-taught gurus? Then go directly to the source – hire yourself an expert. They can write stand-alone articles under their own name, or you can interview them in text, audio or video formats. Experts know other experts, and might be able to suggest complimentary experts, or even opposing ones (mild conflict is always interesting). Look up professional societies, visit seminars and conventions, and read trade publications to find experts. You can also look for them on employment sites like Guru.com and oDesk.com . Friends will be happy to help you out a couple of times for free, but experts are in it for fame and fortune. You have an opportunity to offer them a little of both.

Our next article will deal with setting up various membership levels, and the one important level that will guarantee you get a constant supply of new members.