Last week, a financial adviser friend of mine invited me to attend a presentation she was giving to a group of her current clients and prospects. She invested a lot of time and resources to develop the presentation, and she spent many hours rehearsing it to ensure its success. However, I could not help but notice a number of common shortcomings that seem to be the most common traps speakers fall into when delivering presentations or speeches. Let me share some of those traps with you:
Failing to Emotionally Engage Your Audience
During a presentation, just stating the facts could increase the risk of losing your audience. Powerful and effective communication is a symbiotic interaction of emotional and intellectual powers that aims to engage your audience’s hearts and minds. While the scope of emotional power is to stimulate an audience’s imagination, intellectual power should be used to pique your listeners’ interest by using reasoned arguments and backing them up with data. Even when dispensing data and statistics to your audience, add some emotional color with an appropriate anecdote or a short story to make your delivery more powerful and meaningful.
An emotional connection is established only when you can satisfy your audience’s unspoken million-dollar questions: “What’s my takeaway here?” A clear answer to that question provides the emotional hook you need to captivate your audience. For example, instead of stating “Today, I will talk to you about the importance of establishing a spending rule while in retirement.” say “Today, you are going to learn how to reduce the risk of outliving your retirement savings.”
Not Being Genuine
The success of any presentation is also a direct function of the authenticity of the presenter. Do not waste time and energy trying to be and act as the person you believe your audience wants you to be, but rather focus on who you are and the message you intend to deliver. By trying to be someone else you will most certainly lose your most effective persuasion asset—your authenticity. I believe it was Judy Garland who once said, “Always be a first-rate version of you, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.”
When it comes to creating content and visuals for a presentation, nothing is friendlier than technology. PowerPoint can be a powerful tool, but only when you know how to use it. I continue to see a significant number of advisers who misuse this medium, as they cram too much content into their slides and often overload them with images, videos and animations.
The written content of a slide should be limited to very brief sentences or single words that act as placeholders for the thoughts and ideas you articulate during your presentation. Slides crowded with long sentences and dense paragraphs will lead your audience to think “this is a slow and tedious read-along.” The important fact that must be remembered is that a visual aid like PowerPoint is just an aid, and as such, can only help you get your point across. That’s it! The most important task must be performed by you: connecting to your audience in an emotionally engaging manner.
Omitting Stories and Anecdotes
A study conducted by well-known author and psychiatrist William Glasser determined that people retain 20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, and just 50 percent of what they both hear and see. These statistics should provide strong encouragement to intersperse a presentation with clever anecdotes and relevant stories. Narratives help audiences give life and meaning to the movie that is going on in their heads as they listen to you. To facilitate this, use powerful human interest stories, memorable characters, and engaging, dramatic and amusing anecdotes relevant to your presentation. Fire up their imaginations and keep them interested. Ultimately, that’s what they will remember.
Speaking in Jargon
At one point during my adviser friend’s presentation, I realized that although she sounded very smart, a many attendees were having a hard time following and understanding what she was talking about. For the past 10 minutes, her speech had been filled with industry jargon and acronyms. This is a mistake too many advisers continue to make. When delivering a presentation or conducting a client event, you’re better off avoiding highly technical or industry-specific language. When preparing your speech, try to emulate the type of language that mainstream newspapers use to craft their personal finance columns. It may sound like the reporter is writing for sixth graders, but it is the clarity and simplicity of the language that enables everyone to understand it. Don’t forget the basic rule: If your audience cannot follow what you’re saying or understand what you’re offering, they won’t adopt or buy it.
As always, I welcome you to pose questions, leave comments or share any experience you had with presentations.
i-Impact Group Inc.