Thursday, June 10, 2010

4 Tips for a Successful Presentation

Whether embarking on a road show to raise equity in the private or public markets or preparing your comments for participation in a panel discussion, these tips will help you be more relevant and successful in connecting with your audience.

#1: What are the two biggest problems in a presentation?

The material is too technical and the presenter is disorganized and ill-prepared. We form impressions and make up our minds (positive or negative) within seven seconds of meeting someone!

Rambling Q&A session – A great presentation can fall apart in Q&A. Always be prepared by anticipating the questions and drafting insightful and organized answers.

#2: A client comes to you for a presentation or road show – where do you start?

We start by honing the core message of who they are, what they do and why the people/audience should care, down to the critical elements. We must understand quickly what you do or make, and then we will listen.

#3: For communication to be successful, what must be mastered?

You must touch me emotionally. An audience is always asking,"What is in it for me?" Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept in this way:

Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I might remember
Involve me and I will understand

When you engage an audience, you create an image that endures in the heart, mind or soul.

#4: What surprises people the most when they seek professional help with a presentation?

In short, how long it takes to create a good presentation that includes dialogue/script, transitions, slides/graphics, delivery, and Q&A development and practice. The presentation must be designed and edited again and again until it fits the presenter like a glove.

Next step? Go to work and turn these tips into action!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

On a rainy Sunday morning in March, having secured the newspaper and with a Starbuck’s “tall” coffee, I quickly leafed through The New York Times Book Review. My purpose was to scope out reviews of interest for reading later in the day. The title “How to Be Brilliant” and a strange illustration caught my eye, and I stopped to read Annie Murphy Paul’s review of David Shenk’s book The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ Is Wrong.

Shenk’s thesis played out in his book is that genetics and practice, and lots of it (He calls it discipline.), play a greater role in achievement than anyone had previously thought.

I have to admit I have always had more than a passing interest in understanding how and why Yo-Yo Ma became the greatest living cellist. His father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma, a talented musician and skillful music teacher, appears to have played a significant role in developing his son’s musical ability. Yo-Yo Ma and his sister began studying first on the violin and, at his request, Yo-Yo Ma progressed to a larger instrument, the cello. He had his first recital at five, performed at Carnegie Hall at eight, and was by then on his way to being described as a musical prodigy.

This same scenario can be seen playing out not only in music but in sports as well. Tiger Woods started his career under his father Earl Woods’s tutelage and daily practice sessions. By the time Tiger was eight, he was considered very proficient at golf. When he was 21, he won the U.S. Masters at Augusta, Georgia.

Shenk talks about his own struggle to improve his writing: “I will routinely write and rewrite a sentence, paragraph and/or chapter 20, 30, 40 times – as many times as it takes to feel satisfied.” The reviewer concludes that given the content and importance of The Genius in All of Us, Shrenk may also become a writing genius, given time.

I see this all the time in my practice. A person can have decent presentation skills, but to be a fantastic communicator you have to be willing to put in the practice so you can deliver a flawless presentation that engages and informs your audience every single time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Focus and Understanding

If I had lived in the 18th century, I would definitely have liked being in Benjamin Franklin’s circle of friends. He was obviously a cool dude, for he was one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers (a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), prolific author, inventor, musician, leading diplomat and a persuasive speaker who believed in the concept of an American nation.

From his writings it appears he grappled with some of the same communication issues we face today. A quote – perhaps first articulated by Confucius, but today credited to Benjamin Franklin – is one I use often to illustrate the importance the mind and emotions play in understanding and comprehension.

Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I might remember
Involve me and I will understand
-Benjamin Franklin

Getting an audience to focus and stay focused on your message is difficult. The normal attention span ranges between five and 20 seconds. Complicating matters is new research that suggests that the brain may actually be wired to wander. Because someone is sitting in a chair and looking like she's listening doesn’t guarantee she necessarily is.

An audience is always asking “What’s in it for me, and why should I listen to you?” Effective communication is a dialogue between you and your audience. You need to go deeper to make an emotional connection because eyes and ears have lousy memories.

The following tips will help you capture and maintain attention to get people to listen.

1. You must link your message to needs or self-interests to involve an audience.
2. Use internal summaries to tell where you've been and where you're going
3. Create word pictures to illustrate a point.
4. Use clear visuals to support and enhance your words.

Remember, communication is not a one way street, and it's hard work!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shanghai Quartet

Traditional Chinese folk songs are usually performed with Chinese instruments such as a Pipa or Erhu. Yi-Wen Jiang grew up hearing these melodies and decided it was time to arrange them for Western instruments so the music could be played and heard internationally. Chinasong (Delos) is a 24-track collection of traditional and recently composed folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang and performed by his group, the Shanghai Quartet.

Listen carefully to how they communicate - you will hear the sound of birds, experience the energy of the people and feel the warmth of the sun!