When it comes to closing more sales, nothing is more powerful than when you give a business presentation that connects with your audience. Whether you are at a seminar, business conference, or at a meeting, the ability to be able to speak in public and convey your message is a vital skill every sales speaker must learn.
Many factors can inhibit people’s ability or willingness to be good listeners in a corporate or organizational meeting. Some of these factors are under a confident speaker’s direct control, while others are beyond it. However, an effective speaker can manage the negative impact of distracted listeners on his/her presentation with understanding and a few smart public speaking tips.
Public Speaking Is Not Easy
Public speaking is no walk in the park for most people. In fact, statistics show that people fear public speaking more than flying and even death.
We’ve all felt sorry for the flustered, nervous, hand-wringing guy (or gal) who “um’s” and “uh’s” his way through a speech that he’s trying to read from a crumpled paper. It’s worse if there’s a microphone involved.
Worse still if the unfortunate fellow doesn’t have the crumpled paper because the boss has put him on the spot to give a report. Yet we’ve also seen individuals who are able to captivate an audience with the driest of information, even on a moment’s notice. What is the difference?
Many good speakers have a great deal of experience because they have spoken in public on numerous occasions. Things like good preparation, illustrations and visual aids, having people write things down, and simple relaxation techniques all help to make you a dynamic public speaker.
When you know that you’re going to have to speak in public, start preparing immediately. Find out how long you will have to give your presentation, so you can plan accordingly. Gather any relevant materials into a folder. You want interesting, up-to-date facts that your listeners can put to immediate use. You also want illustrations – short stories and humorous anecdotes that make a point.
If you want to close any sales, then you need to be persuasive. A persuasive speaker should always be working to find the right balance between all three of the modes of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos), while ethos is always critically important. The amount of logo’s vs. pathos necessary for a speech can depend on the topic and the audience.
Research tells us that audiences who are opposed to a topic are more likely to be persuaded by facts and evidence, meaning that you should lean more heavily on Logo’s. If an audience is already in favor of your topic, though, you can use persuasion to cement their stance more firmly.
To do this, a speaker should boost the pathos in their speech to stoke the fire of the audience’s resolve. Now that you understand the fundamentals of persuasive strategy, you can consider which specific organizational pattern will best allow you to apply the modes of persuasion.
Listeners Can Be Distracted by Their Own Concerns
When listeners come into a meeting or a presentation with “bulging brains,” they will be hard pressed to be good listeners. Because these concerns are important to listeners, they will tend to concentrate on their own concerns, not on the presentation.
As a result their engagement, understanding, and processing of information will be weaker than it would otherwise be. Sam Miller, a public speaking coach from the Coaching Institute tells speakers, “What does your audience care about? Figure that out, and you’re well on your way.”
If people’s concerns are at least recognized upfront, they will usually set them aside temporarily and give their attention to the presenter. For that reason, in effective speaking, especially in a corporate or organizational setting a presenter deals with audience concerns up front. The speaker recognizes these questions and concerns publicly, acknowledges their importance to some or all of the listeners, and helps the listeners put them aside – at least temporarily.
Plan to Address Audience Concerns at a Presentation
Step 1: At the start of the meeting or presentation the speaker announces: “Before we begin, are there any questions you need answers to or concerns you want me/us to address this (morning/afternoon)?”
Step 2: The speaker takes a few minutes to list concerns/questions on a white sheet or white board visible to all.
Step 3: The speaker reviews each item briefly to ensure the listeners that their question or concern has been understood correctly.
Step 4: Politely, but firmly, the speaker tells the audience that there is no available time to discuss these items at length, but it is important, nonetheless, to prioritize them. The speaker asks the audience to place each question or concern in one of three categories:
- Must know!
- Need to know but it can wait.
- Nice to know.
Step 5: With a marker, the speaker now checks off those items (if any) that he/she will address during the presentation. If some of the items have a quick, easy answer, the speaker addresses them briefly and checks off the item. If some of the items are beyond the speaker’s knowledge or his/her ability to answer, the speaker will say so.
Step 6: The speaker acknowledges the unchecked questions, issues, and concerns and promises to deal with them after the presentation.
Step 7: After the presentation the speaker returns to the checklist on the board or white paper. The speaker is especially interested in those concerns or questions in the category Must know! An effective speaker will want to deal with all concerns in that category un-addressed during the presentation.
For this to work, the speaker must have planned the presentation to accommodate several minutes at the beginning for this activity. The speaker must also exhibit genuine sincerity during this activity rather than irritation that some of the time has been robbed from the official presentation.
In ideal situations, audiences come prepared to engage the speaker, but in the real world ideal audiences seldom fill the seats in front of the podium. For that reason effective speakers in a corporate or organizational setting should be ready to assist listeners in unburdening themselves of their concerns and feel comfortable giving their full attention to the speaker.