The Cost of Poor Presentation Skills

The other day I stopped in at my local furrier. I had a wool coat with fur trim which I love but the lining was ripped.  Since Fall is coming, I thought I should replace the lining before the cold weather arrives. The manager was sitting at his desk and buzzed me into the store. Years ago I had bought a coat there and thought they might offer this service. After a brief hello, and with coat in hand, I asked him if he could put in a new lining. He wasn't sure. He said, "The person who does this won't be in until Monday. I don't know if we put in warmer liners. Maybe Dawn would know if you call her". "Warmer liners?" I asked incredulously.  "I didn't ask for a warmer liner".   "Oh, people sometimes want warmer liners in their coats," he explained.  He sounded ditzy and was not presenting himself in a way that inspired confidence. "This lining is ripped and I want to replace it", I told him.  "A regular lining? We can do that," he said and proceeded to grab my coat and put it on a hanger. "It will be expensive," he stated. "It will cost $215 dollars."  "No thanks," I said, and left the store with my coat. I was so turned off by his poor presentation. He didn't listen, didn't ask a question, didn't look at the coat, and didn't seem to know what service was available. There was no way he was getting my business. People will pay more for value, but based on his presentation I didn't value him or his service. So I visited my local dry cleaner who had done some tailoring for me in the past. She looked at the coat, determined how much it would cost to purchase the material and the time to construct the lining  and gave me a price. It was a lot less. Done. She got my business.

Had the first vendor been a better communicator I might have done business with him. After all, I didn't know the standard cost of a lining. But because of his poor presentation he seemed dispassionate and uninformed.  I walked out.  He lost $215 in five minutes because of his presentation and he probably thinks the reason was strictly price. I've come to realize that I show people how to monetize their mouth. People gain and lose business opportunities every day because of how they present themselves. Speaking is the new competitive weapon.

What are your stories about the impact of presentation skills on business opportunities?

Maximize Your One-to-One Communication

One-on-one conversations happen more frequently than any other kind of communication. One of the biggest mistakes people make when speaking one-to-one, is not treating it as a presentation.  While people prepare extensively for group presentations, when it comes to one-to-one, they wing it. Even the most casual conversation benefits from preparation. An effective tool for one-on-one communication is the DiSC Personal Profile System. DiSC helps you to understand your communication style and recognize the communication styles of others so that you can get the results you want. Contact us for a FREE sample report.

Here's an excerpt from Knockout Presentations about one-to-one communication.

Speaking to an individual is different from the group experience. Whether you're training someone, selling, coaching, or asking for a raise, here are some tips for speaking one-to-one.

  • Eliminate distractions. Choose a comfortable setting-perhaps your office or a conference room with good lighting. Block off distracting window views and minimize interruptions. Clear the table of clutter.
  • Sit next to the person at eye level. Sit side by side rather than across a desk from each other. This has psychological and physical effects. It creates a feeling of being on the same side and allows both people to look at materials from the same perspective.
  • Maintain good eye contact but don't stare. In a group, you make eye contact with everyone. With individuals, you don't want to lock eyes. Break eye contact from time to time. A good guide is to look at the person 70% of the time.
  • Use visual aids. Props, pictures, and objects can serve as effective visual aids. Visuals are important learning tools, and you shouldn't overlook them in a one-to-one situation. Be sure your visuals are appropriate to the situation. A few carefully placed props and occasional use of a table easel can enhance your presentation.
  • Clarify but don't repeat questions. In a large group, you repeat the question so that everyone can hear it. But in one-to-one settings, the same technique would be silly. You may ask for clarification: "Are you saying that you need more practice?" Or you may restate the question in your answer: "The procedure for this project is..."
  • Maintain a comfortable physical distance. Don't invade the other person's space. When sitting side by side, don't lean in or take over the person's materials. Ask permission to demonstrate with or alter their materials.
  • Pause. The brain needs a few seconds to process information. Don't overload the learner with too much data. Pause between thoughts to let the information sink in.
  • Use smaller gestures. Show enthusiasm and get involved with the learner. Allow yourself to be natural and expressive. But contain your gestures, because the physical space is smaller in one-to-one situations. Wide, sweeping movements will seem out of place.
  • Prepare and organize. It's easy to lose track of time when you're working with only one person. Whether you train one person or a hundred, the preparation is the same. Without adequate preparation, you'll seem disorganized and unprofessional. Prepare an outline and establish time frames.
  • Watch for nonverbal cues. In a group, different personalities react in diverse ways. Someone in the group will often say what others are thinking. In a one-to-one situation, however, the person may feel reluctant to tell you that he or she needs a break or doesn't understand. Watch for body language and continually check back: "You look like you disagree." "Are you ready for a break?" "Is this something you can use on the job?"

Whether you're speaking to one person or a thousand, communication happens one- to- one.  It's all public speaking.

Contact us for a FREE sample DiSC report to learn your personal communication style.

What I Learned About Presentations from Starbucks

This morning I stopped in a Starbucks on W43 Street and Avenue of the Americas in New York City.  I was expecting the usual long line that doesn't move. Instead, we moved quickly and the server asked for my order before I approached the cashier. Then she gave a coffee to the man in front of me and told me someone was delivering my tea right now.  That was pleasant! Then I sat down and watched the baristas behind the counter. They called each person by name-"Ron, here's your grande. Adam, you have a latte. They actually wrote the person's name on the cup.  It was a good presentation and that prompted me to compliment them on their personal service.  This was the first time I had seen this approach at Starbucks. It made me wonder what it would be like if our presentations were that personal. What if we spoke directly to individuals and made them feel special? Well, we can. It's called engagement.  Public speaking is personal. Simply by doing some homework to get to know the audience members in advance we can tailor the message to include their individual challenges and experiences. Arriving early can accomplish the same thing. When I talk to audience members  as they enter the room, I hear their stories and situations. I can then refer to them by name. For example, "When I was speaking to Laura this morning she told me..."  Steve, you'll appreciate this story. I know you've been there."

Nothing impacts an audience like a personal message just for them. It's not difficult to do. It engages them, creates a bond, and makes them feel special.

Face-to-Face or Virtual? Which is Better?

Communication is 55% visual. Most speakers would agree that face-to-face contact is the most beneficial form of communication. Even on the phone, you're losing the important non-verbals that add richness and meaning to the message. Yet, when it comes to workplace productivity, virtual may be more effective than on-site. Compared to office employees, tele-workers experience higher job satisfaction, less work-life conflict, fewer interruptions, and less stress from meetings and office politics, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Northwestern University.

The main benefit from the study was work-life balance. Virtual workers had more flexibility and as a result were more productive. Although there were concerns about getting accurate information in the absence of face-to-face communication, this was not the case.

It appears that constant communication is unnecessary. Working virtually enabled employees to focus and get their work completed.

So what are the implications for speakers? Are webinars or online learning methods more effective than face-to-face events? If the purpose is to convey data and facts, online learning can be very effective. But in many cases, it can never replace the relationship, connection, and learning that comes with face-to-face communication.

The role of the speaker is to model, inspire, make meaningful connections to the workplace, stimulate thinking, and facilitate community. High tech does not trump high touch; rather, they are a partnership. Technology is the servant of the speaker. What have you found to be most effective?