Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What if You Can't Answer a Question?

Have you ever had the experience of presenting at the front of the room to prospects and someone throws a curve-ball question, catching you off guard?  It happened to me, early in my business marketing career and I'll remember that uncomfortable moment forever.   Here's my advice if this ever happens to you.

Rule one is DON'T FAKE IT. If you get caught making up answers or providing inaccurate information, it could hurt your credibility. First, acknowledge the person who asked that question for asking a great question. Then, admit that you don't have the answer but confidently declare that you will find out. Offer the person asking the question your business card and ask him or her to follow up with you at a later time for the answer to the question after you've had time to research it.

In my situation, it wasn't about providing inaccurate information. I made the awful mistake of using a handout that I didn't develop and someone offered me. Basically, I didn't review all of the information on it. Someone had a question on information that was listed on the backside of the handout and I had no clue what it was referring to. I must have had the deer in the headlights look and learned a valuable lesson that day; always know what's on your handouts!

Friday, May 23, 2014

When Someone Violates My Right to a Break!

Doesn't it drive you crazy when attending a meeting or a conference and the speaker/expert goes over his or her time? As soon as they have met their time requirement, I find myself looking at my watch and wondering if I've going to get the break I've been waiting for to get another cup of coffee or make it to my next appointment or not.

Audiences don't appreciate it when a speaker goes beyond the time frame they've been given. If the meeting agenda indicates that the speaker will speak for 45 minutes, they expect them to NOT go beyond that time limit. And when a speaker does violate that time expectation, the audience begins to lose interest in the presentation. To your audience, a speaker going over time could mean a long running meeting for them and a loss of their next break. 

Practicing your speech with a timer will certainly help you pair your talk with the time slot you've been given. Place a visual and silent timer in front of you that you can watch. There are some great FREE apps for smart phones and tablets that are easy to use. At the very least, seek out a volunteer at the front of the room to keep time for you and to discretely notify you when your time is running out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to be More Engaging When Speaking in Front of a Business Group

A more engaging speech means ENGAGING your audience. Adults like to be a part of a presentation so use techniques that draw them in to it.  For example, ask your audience questions they can answer by raising their hand. Be sure to remain silent while you appear to be counting hands for just a few seconds. Audiences get annoyed when speakers ask a question and don't take a moment to acknowledge their response to it. 

Provide one-page handouts that have missing information. In other words, instead of just providing a one-sheet that has a summary of your points, replace key words or phrases with blank lines for them to fill in the information they'll get from your talk. You can also engage your audience by gradually moving about the front of the room, using anecdotes or personal stories to support your main points, and using props that you've had a chance to practice with. 

Whenever I refer to a book in my speech, I make every attempt to get that book physically and bring it with me.  Sometimes I even read from a book I'm referencing, but be sure to keep the excerpt brief. Finally, Power Point is certainly engaging and embedding videos or illustrations make your speech visually engaging.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Should You Outline or Write a Speech?

A sales manager approached me following my presentation at a chamber breakfast event. He said he was going to be giving a speech at a business networking event and he was working on constructing his talk. He wanted some speaking coaching from me. He asked me, "What works better: making an outline or writing out the whole speech?"

There are many different solutions to this question, and many based on the speakers style or learning ability. So I suggest doing both. In preparation for your speech, sit down and write it all out, word for word, imagining yourself speaking it to an audience. Then, go back and create an outline from what you've written. Once your outline is finished, destroy the full speech you wrote. Doing a presentation word for word from memory is discouraged because memorized speeches don't usually come out natural. But having seen your presentation on paper and then having an outline to go by, your memory will retain the major components of your speech to give you talking points.

Whether you're speaking from your soapbox (a small and informal group gathering) or the stage (a formal business event), marketing yourself in front of your audience means being confident in yourself, your products or your services. Get to know yourself and practice developing and giving presentations. Find your local Toastmasters chapter to practice your talks and get some networking in at the same time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Keep Nervousness from Losing Business Opportunity

If a large percentage of your potential customers are local to you, using Web 2.0 channels to market your business is only going to provide a portion of your capabilities. So if you haven't done it yet, you're going to have to add SPEAKING to your marketing platform. When I say speaking, I mean that you must seek opportunities to get in front of your prospects and get noticed. Why?  Because your competition is already doing just that.

Getting up and in front of your prospects means doing business presentations, speaking at networking event, presenting at chambers of commerce breakfasts or even doing talks at Rotary and Kiwanis Club events. And have you thought about breaking into the conference speaking circuit? Speaking to your prospects does not mean selling your products and services from the front of the room. It means proposing solutions to your potential customers' challenges to make them investigate your company and what you have to offer.

So what if you get nervous speaking in front of small or large groups?  How can you deal with your nervousness so that it doesn't interfere with business growth. Recently I was interviewed and asked questions to help those who are contemplating adding speaking their marketing plan.  The First question was, what tips did I have for someone who is nervous about public speaking and what suggestions could I offer to help them feel more comfortable and confident?

Before stepping onto a stage: Make sure that you know your material forwards and backwards; it's a huge step in tackling nervousness. When a speaker is confident with his or her knowledge of the subject matter, it helps to ease nervous feelings. Also know that your audience DOES want you to succeed. 

Just prior to a speaking event: Take time to visit the room where you will be presenting, before anyone arrives. Stand at the front of the room and envision the room full of people. Practice speaking in that room, moving about. Hearing your own voice and practicing your presentation. Successful speakers imagine their presentation before they actually give it.

During your presentation: Take deep breaths frequently. The more oxygen you get to your brain, the clearer you can think and the more relaxed your body will feel. As you look at your audience, look for familiar and friendly faces. Focus on them and look for as many of those faces as you can. Avoid looking at those with discouraging facial expressions.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are You Using Video as Part of Your Marketing Plan?

If you aren't using videos as part of your marketing plan, you may be missing out.  Your competitors are doing just that and attracting more attention from prospects.

When small business owners hear about videos, they think about having to spend thousands of dollars to hire a video crew, but it's more inexpensive than you might think.

The best kinds of videos are less than 2 minutes and feature you speaking to your customers.  People have very little time to watch anything elaborate in fact, the shorter the better.

Get noticed by posting short videos of you or someone representing your organization, offering solutions to your customers problems.  Here is an example of a short but effective video that I made.