The Exceptional Presenter, Time Koegel, Presentation Academy

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Tough Times Call for Clear Communication

By Tim Koegel

 
 
 
 
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Tough Times Call for Clear Communication 
 
The recent Wall Street meltdown is a wake-up call for leaders in every industry.  In difficult times it is critical for leaders to communicate with clarity, certainty and confidence. 
 
A leader with exceptional communication skills can calm frazzled nerves, articulate an effective plan and inspire confidence and certainty in that plan. 
 
A leader with infinite insight yet average communication skills can appear inept.
 
In uncertain times leaders need to step up and face the music/audience.  Take a look around and see who is out there communicating with the public about our current conundrum.  Watch the Senate hearings, the Presidential debates or the talking heads and executives on TV.  As an exercise, evaluate their communication skills.  What do their communication skills say about their expertise, experience, believability and ability to lead?
 
Business is a contact sport.
 
We're seeing it in just about every industry.  Companies are pairing back, retrenching, cutting the fat, battening down the hatches, restructuring and doing everything they can to spend less money.
 
Opportunities for new business are not as abundant.  There are more companies competing for less assignments.  It seems that the competition is willing to give away their services to win business.
 
In these times, less than exceptional communication skills are costly.  Those who possess exceptional communication skills maintain a significant competitive advantage. 

Tough times demand a greater effort to clearly define your message and articulate the value you bring to your clients. 
 
Three tips for communicating in a challenging economy:
 
1)  Don't retreat. Reach out.
 
Keep in touch with clients and prospects even if there is no immediate financial benefit to you; ESPECIALLY if there is no immediate benefit for you. 
 
The financial service industry conducted a survey 6-8 months after the stock market crash of 1987.  The survey asked investors who had left their financial consultant (FC) to list the reasons they had done so.  The #1 reason was not, "bad advice," "poor investment choices" or "I lost money."  The #1 reason investors left their financial consultant was, "Lack of communication." 
 
Many FCs were frozen by the crash, stunned by the drop and afraid to contact their clients.  Many didn't know what they could possibly say. 
 
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 30% over over 4 trading days.  That would be the equivalent of about a 3500  point drop in today's market.
 
The truly professional FCs were on the phone immediately, communicating with clients, listening, discussing concerns and considering strategies. These FCs gained a level of client trust not achieved by the "frozen consultants."
 
2)  It's not about you. It's about what you can do for them.
 
Every call you make is an opportunity to find out more about the client or prospect.  Listen intently to their concerns.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Work to understand their issues and challenges.  Only then can you add value.
 
3)  Be prepared. 
 
Don't waste an opportunity.  Organize your message and make contact.  Good things will happen.
 
Delivering an exceptional presentation does not guarantee a win every time.  But you should never lose because your presentation was less than exceptional.
 
In a difficult economy, business is harder to come by.  Make every contact, every interaction and every presentation count.
 
And remember:  Every time you open your mouth to speak, you are a public speaker.
 
 
 
 
I picked up this quote from Bill Bagley's "Becoming a Strategic Partner" newsletter.  It is sage advice for anyone looking to get better at just about anything. 
 
"If you're serious about improving, be brutally honest with yourself."
 
       Greg Norman - Golf Professional 
  
 
  
                              
Question of the Week:
 
Speechless in Seattle
 
I recently gave a speech and was unexpectedly forced to use a hand held microphone. It totally threw me off.  Any advice?                Seattle, WA             
 
Thanks Speechless,
 
Using a handheld microphone can be awkward if you haven't used one before.  
 
If the room or audience size dictates the use of amplification, know that there is a chance that you will end up with a handheld microphone.  If the lapel mic malfunctions, the AV person will grab the nearest handheld and run it up to you.  It's  faster to give the speaker a handheld mic than to take off the cordless lapel mic and put another one on (no wires, clips or belt hooks to mess with).
 
It happened to Elizabeth Dole, wife of then Presidential candidate Bob Dole, at the 1996 Republican National Convention.  She had practiced her speech with a cordless lapel mic but during her speech the microphone started cutting in and out.  They turned off her cordless, gave her the handheld mic and off she went.  She didn't miss a beat.
 
Practice using a highlighter, Sharpie or your kid's karioki machine microphone.  Move the microphone from one hand to the other occasionally.  Gesture with your free hand. 
 
Practice with a live microphone so that you can determine the appropriate distance the mic should be from your mouth. You don't want it so close that your words sound blurred. And you don't want it so close that the audience can hear every sound coming from your mouth (remember: public speaking, nervousness, dry mouth....).  Instead of waving it around so that your volume is LOUD then quite then LOUD then quiet, maintain a consistent distance and therefore a consistent volume. 
 
If you become comfortable using the handheld microphone, your audience will not even notice it.  Picture Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York."  He was holding a microphone but it seemed like an extension of his hand.   
 
 
 
 
 


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