Tag Archives: verbal communications

5 Steps to Maximizing Meeting and Event ROI

By Mark A. Vickers

Mark VickersBusinesses invest heavily in meetings and events; yet often have no concrete plan to help increase their return on investment. Research compiled by PriceWaterHouseCoopers for 2012 looked at meetings or events that:

  • were at least 4 hours long
  • had 10 or more attendees
  • were held in rented venues
  • and determined that there were:
  • 8 million meetings
  • 225 million attendees
  • $280 billion in costs

Add to this the meetings and events held at corporate facilities plus salaries for all attendees, and the total cost of meetings and events easily exceeds a half trillion dollars annually. Are you maximizing the ROI for your meetings and events?

A Google search shows thousands of articles on the importance of calculating meeting and event ROI, however, there is little guidance on how to improve event effectiveness. In order for your next meeting or event to produce a positive ROI your attendees need to leave the event motivated to do something different long-term.

Events like All-Employee Meetings or multi-day conferences require special planning. ROI will be created when you are able to build value for the attendees through a well-defined intent and objectives delivered through clear and compelling presentations.

The Event Presentation Life Cycle

The Event Presentation Life Cycle is a formal process designed to help improve speaker skill and presentation quality therefore improving event effectiveness and ROI.Maximize Meeting ROI, by Mark A. Vickers

1. Theme/Topic Selection

The first step in preparing a high value event is to determine the main objective, theme, and desired results of the event. Once the theme of the event has been identified, topic selection and sequencing can begin.

Topics should be sequenced to build on previous topics, creating a storyline that runs through the event. By utilizing a variety of presentation styles and audience interactions, audience engagement will be further supported.

Never underestimate the importance of this step, as poor topic selection and sequencing will result in a disjointed program, a loss of audience engagement and reduced ROI.

2. Speaker Assignment

Selecting who will be addressing your participants is often the most important set of decisions impacting the ROI of your event. Each speaker has various characteristics that will impact the energy, flow and effectiveness including:

  • Area of expertise
  • Area of passion
  • Energy level
  • Presentation skill level
  • Creativity and theatrical ability
  • Ability to motivate vs. train

Caution: Don’t make the mistake of assigning topics solely based on job title or role within the organization versus who is going to be most effective.

As part of your speaker selection process, you may consider hiring external speakers to add content expertise to your event. While this expertise is valuable, it can create additional risk. Through awareness and mitigation of three primary risks associated with hiring external speakers you should protect your ROI.

Keynote Speaker Risk #1 – Inconsistent Messaging

In step 1 above, you defined intent and desired result. A quality external speaker should always begin their discussions with you by learning your intent and objectives. Depending on the situation the external speaker will also offer to mold their message to your intent.

In the early stages of working with a potential keynote speaker make sure:

  • They understand your intent and audience
  • You receive a detailed outline of their content

Keynote Speaker Risk #2 – Lack of Control

You might assume that since you are paying for a speaker that you have control over the delivery of the message. However, when you put them on stage, they are in control.

To avoid issues during your event, make sure you discuss particulars related to:

  • Information or stories that are not desirable or appropriate
  • Reference to external organizations or resources
  • Sale or promotion of products or services

High quality professional speakers should pose minimal risks to your event but your job is to make sure nothing unexpected is said from the stage.

Keynote Speaker Risk #3 – Upstaging Your Staff

Corporate executives are typically involved in presenting the majority of the information that is critical for your audience to hear. These executives are qualified in their field, but they do not possess the experience and skills of your external speaker.

Your external speaker will deliver their specialized content as a polished, powerful and dynamic presentation. The quality of the presentation inadvertently upstages your executives, highlighting the skill level difference and diminishing the value of the message delivered by your own team.

You can mitigate the “Upstaging Risk” by creatively scheduling your external speakers to minimize comparisons and by following the rest of the Event Presentation Life Cycle Process to improve the quality of all other presentations.

3. Speaker Coaching

Regardless of the skill level of the speakers you are putting in front of your audience, formalized speech and presentation coaching will help ensure clear, consistent messaging. By supporting your speakers with a professional speaking coach who is intimately aware of your intent and objectives, you will create an environment that helps prepare each speaker for maximum effectiveness and impact.

Your event speaking coach will work with each speaker focusing on:

  • Intent of the talk
  • The key point of the talk
  • Stories to be used
  • Wording and transitions
  • Creating an engaging opening
  • Crafting a powerful close and transition to the next speaker
  • Determining staging and presentation elements

By combining structured coaching with a defined and monitored practice and rehearsal plan, you equip your speakers for maximum impact.

4. Objective Assessment

When it comes to presentation effectiveness, a common mistake made by executives is to rely on anecdotal feedback from staff and coworkers instead of objective feedback. The use of a structured and objective assessment tool will provide a baseline for ongoing speaker development and a baseline for continual improvement.

A formalized, objective assessment should be based around three main categories including:

  • Content
  • Vocal Delivery
  • Presentation style and engagement

The objective results, combined with subjective feedback like audience engagement and survey results provide a framework for an action plan for future improvement.

5. Coaching Review

The final step in the Event Presentation Life Cycle is the Coaching Review. Your corporate speakers should receive feedback from an expert trained in reviewing presentations incorporating the objective assessment, subjective feedback, and a review of audio or video of the event when available.

The review should focus on the following items:

  • Content delivery
  • Message effectiveness
  • Presentation style

The coaching review and the action plan are then used as the basis for coaching the presentations for the next event.

Through this defined process, not only will you improve your current event, but you will lay the foundation and establish the process for continual Event ROI improvement.

Mark A. Vickers is a Certified Professional Coach, and Certified World Class Speaking Coach. Mark is a communications consultant focused on helping you and your organization improve performance through improved communication and speaking skills. He is known as a creative author and speaker, and for creating the Communications Challenge, an objective way to measure communication effectiveness.

Top 10 Presentation Skills Challenges Your Sales Team Is Not Telling You!

Scott TopperBy Scott Topper

The biggest challenge for a newer sales team might be how they actually feel when they give their presentations. Many first time speakers want to feel confident, want to engage their audience, and want to feel good about actually giving their presentation. But how is this achieved?

Public speaking can change you as a person and boost your confidence. You will learn how to express yourself clearly and get your message across. Being able to speak in front of an audience is a key ingredient of success. The benefits of public speaking are huge. From delivering a formal speech to attending business meetings and answering questions for your boss, public speaking is an important part of your career.

In a survey taken by more than fifty business sales professionals during a presentation skills training workshop, key questions and concerns on how to become a confident public speaker were highlighted.

Here are their main concerns:

1) Does the audience really listen or do they just read the PowerPoint slides? It is good practice to keep your PowerPoint presentation under one hour, and try to only use the slides to enhance your speech. The less information you place on the slide the better…two to three bullet points works best. Don’t read the slides but rather, keep the slides simple and over a white background as many people print out the presentation. Ask the audience for questions as you go along so that the audience feels engaged.

2) How many head and hand movements are too many? Since more than half of all human communication takes place nonverbally, audiences judge us based on what they hear and what they see. It’s important to have control over your body language. Movement has to be supportive of the message. Your head, eyes, and facial expressions usually convey your true feelings so it’s important to communicate with sincerity to connect with your audience. Your hands can be used to express emotion and to emphasize a point. Don’t keep your hands in your pockets or behind your back.

3) How do I gain confidence and keep people entertained? It is important to talk about a subject you enjoy and that you know really well so that you can improvise and keep it light. By being yourself and telling a personal story or using appropriate humor, the audience will relate to you easier. Confidence comes with practice and your ability to give your speech with your own personal touch.

4) How do I prevent my face from getting red right before the speech? Visualize yourself giving a successful speech. Remain excited to share your information with your audience. Remember that the audience is interested in what you have to say and that they are your friends. Be sure to take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth before walking up to the microphone.

5) How do I handle client questions/interruptions? In order to control an audience and prevent them from interrupting your speech, it’s best to begin your speech by stating a simple outline such as how long the speech will take, and give a reminder to please turn off all cell phones. Make it very clear as to if and when you would like to hold a question and answer session and then begin your speech.

6) How can I create more opportunities to practice my speech? It is important to practice your speech as if there is an audience in front of you. This makes your speech important and you can feel the pressure. Try to practice your speech during a lunch break or create a group of two or three co-workers who also have to give a speech. That way you have support and are able to receive feedback from your peers.

7) How do I improve my openings and closings? Make sure you practice your openings and closings until you feel completely confident. Some people open with a quote, a statistic, or ask a question to the audience. When closing be sure to include a call to action and summarize your speech with a personal experience so that the audience can relate to your story.

8) What are the most common mistakes made in public speaking? Since speaking is an acquired skill, it’s important to prepare and rehearse so that you leave a great impression. Remember not to read your speech word for word but rather summarize key points. Share your enthusiasm on your subject and be sure to take time to personally meet several audience members before and after your speech.

9) How do I avoid the first five minutes of anxiety? To relieve nervous tension, try stretching and take a few deep breaths. Pretend to hear your favorite motivational song playing in your head to give you a sense of empowerment. Remember to smile when you begin your speech.

10) How do I make my speech stand out? It’s imperative to have an emotional connection with your audience by sharing your personal experiences so that your speech will be memorable. Try sharing a case study or tell a personal story. Be sure to include a brief explanation of who you are and your past accomplishments to establish credibility.

It’s important to address these ten presentation skills challenges so that your sales team will feel more confident when giving a speech. Being able to express yourself in a clear, confident manner is essential to your success. As you build your skills and gain confidence, you’ll learn how to plan and deliver your presentation in a professional manner. After practicing and honing your presentation skills, you will be able to speak confidently to both small groups and large audiences.

Scott Topper, three time Emmy Nominated TV Show Host, and Corporate Improv Skills Coach, helps organizations and individuals learn business improvisational skills and theatrical techniques to achieve better sales presentation results and gain confidence through his fun, interactive corporate presentation skills workshops. Scott offers a monthly coaching mentoring newsletter, and has authored over 30 public speaking books, audio books, workbooks, DVD’s, and downloadable confident speaking courses.

Six Ways to Reject Bad Ideas Without People Rejecting You

By Curt WangCurt Wang

You’re in a meeting when a colleague brings up an idea that you think (or even know) is not so great. For many of us, our first instinct is to shoot the idea down immediately, one way or another, before it gains traction. How often have you suffered through this challenging situation?

When it comes to gaining influence, remember the law of reciprocity. The more you support others, the more they will support you. If you want people to adopt your ideas in the future, you need to be collaborative yourself. You need to support their ideas, or at a minimum, show respect and a willingness to listen before weighing in. Squash a colleague’s pet initiative too quickly or be perceived as a naysayer, and you may find that your initiatives will increasingly fail to receive full and fair consideration.

The key to your success is to learn to reject or redirect bad ideas in a thoughtful, positive and more collaborative way. Consider employing one or more of the six tips below:

1) Pause. Take a deep breath before weighing in. Often, someone else’s idea can “hijack” you during a meeting because it poses a threat to your own objectives, goals, priorities or resources. As human beings, we are wired to identify and react immediately to anything that may harm us. By simply pausing, you are allowing your reasoning power to catch up to your emotional response. If you wait until you are fully composed, you will deliver your response in a more thoughtful, reasoned and kind way.

2) Allow others to weigh in first. Particularly when your gut reaction is negative, suppress the urge to be the first to jump in with your opinion. Why object before you have others’ perspective? You may hear a thought that sways your opinion. Or the opposite may happen; someone else brings up the challenges you were going to raise first. Even if you later reinforce the concerns, you are not a lone dissenter.

A CFO was tired of always being the bad guy when he had to shut down ideas for which the business case was not sound. He started implementing this technique in leadership team meetings and found that he had to be the naysayer only half as often. Many leaders intentionally weigh in last so that they can hear the opinions of their reports without biasing them first with their own thoughts.

3) Be curious first; pose questions rather than pass judgment. Ask open-ended questions with an open mind. Make sure the person feels fully heard, and be careful not to take small stabs at the idea in the phrasing of your questions. To quote Steven Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Even if you ultimately disagree with or reject the idea, you will be in a much better position to state your objection in a way that acknowledges the idea presenter’s point of view. The person will receive the feedback much better if he or she feels that they have been fully heard and understood. Remember how frustrated you felt the last time you presented an idea and it was shut down before you felt you had the chance to fully explain it.

4) Instead of stating why an idea can’t be done, state what is required from your perspective to make the idea work. Phrased this way – what needs to be done to make an idea work – your objection to the idea is served up as a problem to be solved rather than a flat rejection. You shift from someone who is saying “no” to someone is giving helpful insights and facts. While you may actually see the challenge you pose as insurmountable, often others will bring creative solutions to the table that may make the idea feasible.

A marketing director in a manufacturing company proposed an idea for a new product. The operations director’s first instinct was to jump in and say, “We can’t make your product because we don’t have the right equipment.” But instead he said, “In order to make your products we will need to plan for having access to the right equipment which we currently don’t have.” That led to a full discussion about what it would take to lease, buy or outsource the production. Once the marketing person had a greater understanding of the different options and their costs, she came to the conclusion that the idea was not feasible.

5) Help the other person save face whenever possible. If you feel compelled to shut an idea down, ask yourself, “Do I need to shut the idea down right now and during this meeting?” Perhaps you can circle back with the idea presenter after the meeting to meet one-on-one. Shutting down a staff member’s idea in your department meeting is a good way to help ensure no one on your staff will risk bringing up new ideas in the future that might be extremely valuable to the success of your team and organization. If peers lose face because of you, there is a good chance that they will increasingly work around you and you will be the last to know about their future initiatives.

Circling back after the meeting also provides you more time to reflect and prepare. You can gather more facts and information, be more thoughtful and tactful in sharing your opinion, and perhaps get into a longer and more open conversation.

6) Acknowledge the parts of an idea you can agree with. Even if you can’t agree with the entire idea, acknowledging components can help to validate the presenter of the idea, at least in part. Very often there are aspects of ideas that idea are valuable and can be evolved to be very usable and helpful.  Imagine yourself saying, “I like this part of the idea, let’s dig deeper into the other part.” Provide recommendations on what might make the idea better or more workable.

Even when his idea has flaws, the person might be calling attention to an important, underlying problem that needs to be solved.

In conclusion, don’t lose sight of the fact that if a truly bad idea needs to be challenged, challenge it. The primary emphasis here is not to change what you need to say, but on the process and timeline you choose to say it in order to maintain social capital and goodwill. Remember, soon will come the time when it is you who is the one striving to influence others to buy into your idea.

Curt Wang is an Executive Coach at Make The Leap! Coaching. He coaches smart, creative and successful executives and professionals to reach higher levels of performance and achieve their business and career goals.  He is also an expert and professional speaker on the topics of change leadership and organizational change. For more information on Curt’s speaking and coaching, contact him at 888-848-3130 or curt@maketheleapcoaching.com.

Memorable Presentations Require You To THINK

By Kevin E. O’ConnorKevin E O'Connor

Too many presenters say things like:

  • “I know you can’t read this but…”

  • “This is pretty dull stuff so I’ll try to get through it quickly.”

  • “You may be bored by my presentation today but it is really important.”

  • “Let me tell you a funny joke.”

  • “I know you are out there; I can hear you breathing!”

  • “I just love my blue laser pointer!”

  • “Whew, that wasn’t so bad was it?”

These (and more) are indicators of two things: the presenter is a rank amateur, and the audience has once again been noble enough not to string them up by their thumbs!

In reality, these presenters are not amateurs in their field. They are accomplished professionals who know their stuff but not how to convey it. The audience is eager, open and wants this presentation to succeed. Our corporate culture, however, has intimidated audiences into being polite Labrador Retrievers—ever loyal, even-keeled and placid. Presenting technical, complicated material need not be a chore when you THINK!

Transform how you think about your role: Your first job is to be a memory-maker, so don’t be the supplier of solely facts and data. You are there to present and inform, but more importantly, you are there to create a learning environment. A community of learners is there to unite around your message and make something of it. The last time you went to a comedy club, despite having a great time, you likely had trouble retelling the stories and jokes the next day for those who were not there. That is because you had a community formed around not only the presentation and digestion of material, but you were there to be entertained. That the last meeting you attended left you unable to explain what you learned does not mean you had a positive community experience!

Presentations should focus on digesting content into directly-applicable skills going forward. Because there is no subject that cannot be presented without interest and enthusiasm, you can transform your mindset from that of a lecturer to that more like a preacher, counselor and facilitator.

Hunt for the essence of your content: When you simplify, you stand a greater chance of being an educator supreme. While coaching a sales rep from a Fortune 500 company, a consultant was told the rep feared “dumbing things down” for his audience would reduce his credibility. The consultant encouraged the rep to speak with elegant simplicity, as that would engage customers in thinking of the meeting as a conversation, allowing this sales rep to directly respond to the client’s most pressing questions. Imagine the difference that this rep saw when he began the conversation by sharing four quotes from consumers who had used their product, explaining the results they had experienced. Outcomes, after all, are the essence of why anyone tries new products.

Investigate the expertise present among your audience: Facilitation does not mean “boring group work,” for—when done effectively—it permits the attendees to meet and learn from one another. When you’re given a timeframe in which to present, perhaps one hour, plan to speak for only a third to half of the time. This allows for true interaction.

Net results make you valuable: Pragmatism must be a goal, so think about what the audience will do with the material. Always ask yourself this question, “What do I want them to think, feel, and do as a result of this presentation?” It may help you to send an advance e-mail to all the participants at your next meeting, asking the group about their work, how they are struggling now, and what they hope to learn during your time with them. This will give you a clear sense of direction that meets the audience where they are psychologically, and where they want to be professionally. Even if your next presentation is to your own team (a group that you may believe that you understand well), send the e-mail. Net results are what your boss and clients care about, because they demonstrate the value of attendance.

Know the stories and examples that make your presentation memorable: Watch the presenters at your next meeting just minutes before they start. Too many of them are likely fiddling with their slides. There comes a time, however, where professional presenters stow away their slides and commit pen to paper, noting what stories and examples they will use to accompany each visual. This nuanced change in focus will have a dramatic change on how the audience perceives the speaker. When you personify the content with real-life stories, your audience sees you as a peer – not as a lecturer. While PowerPoint can be a great tool for visually representing data, some speakers rely too heavily on it. To force yourself to re-focus your attention on your message and away from your slides, use a flip chart for your next presentation. As you draw and write, you will focus on what the audience needs to know. Remember, some of the most intimate connections with the audience can be made with no visual aid. Your audience will remember the stories; they’ll forget about the slides.

THINK About the Feedback: To evaluate your progress toward becoming a masterful facilitator, just go to the restroom after your presentation. That’s where people will be discussing what intrigued them, whether they were bored, and whom they met during their time with you. Beware: you may only hear positive feedback from those who don’t want to hurt your feelings, but note the different reasons your participants enjoyed your presentation. “Great talk!” and “I didn’t before understand how to give a good technical presentation that focuses on stories over data” are worlds apart!

When your technical presentation is compelling, you will literally have no competition.

Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP (kevin@kevinoc.com), is a facilitator, medical educator, and author. He focuses on teaching scientific and technical professionals how to influence and lead teams of their former peers. He presents and coaches over 175 times per year around the world to corporations, individuals, associations and non-profits about how to move teams from conflict to consensus. His latest book, “Fearless Facilitation: The Ultimate Field Guide for Engaging (and Involving!) Your Audience,” is available in bookstores now and online at kevinoc.com.

The Phrase That Pays: Three Ways to Make Your Point Stick

By Patricia FrippPatricia Fripp

Every day, your listeners are bombarded with more and more information until their ears are positively ringing.  How on earth can you make your messages the ones that stick in their memories?

Your goal as a business professional and presenter is simple: Speak To Be Remembered And Repeated.

Tying a powerful, repeatable message to each point gives you a “Phrase That Pays.”  When we remember vivid examples, we nearly always remember the associated lesson or message.  Your Phrase That Pays is your Point of Wisdom or Foundational Phrase or Sound Bite Statement.  The following are techniques that help to create or identify your memorable phrase.

1. The “Two and a Half Men” Technique: One very popular sitcom on TV at the moment is Two and a Half Men.  Many people don’t realize that the unusual titles of the episodes always occur in the dialogue of one of the characters:

Go East on Sunset Until You Reach the Gates of Hell

If I Can’t Write My Chocolate Song, I’m Going to Take a Nap

The Last Thing You Want Is to Wind Up With a Hump

Did You Check With the Captain of the Flying Monkeys?

I Can’t Afford Hyenas

Round One to the Hot Crazy Chick

I Remember the Coatroom, I Just Don’t Remember You

Back Off, Mary Poppins

Can You Eat Human Flesh With Wooden Teeth?

Viewers begin watching for the title to occur in the show’s dialogue.  If you are a fan, you can probably even guess which character said each title.  The actor’s dialogue amuses us and cements the show.  The brilliant writers know we, the audience, will go out and retell the storylines.  The result is that we add to the show’s success with our word-of-mouth reviews and advertising.

So, how can this help you as a speaker?  When you give others a catchy, repeatable catchphrase – something funny, powerful, or thought provoking – your listeners will be eager to repeat it to others.  When your power phrases that are attached to your content and examples you will create an ever-expanding network of people retelling your key messages.

2. The “Quote Others” Technique: Let the wisdom in your speech come from the actual advice or dialogue of your characters, not you.  Reframe and emphasize your own key points with the pithy comments of others.  They may be talking to you, or you overhear something said.  It is important to let your audience know that you had to learn what they are leaning, and give credit to who passed on that knowledge – you never want to be the hero of all your stories.

In my leadership speech, I tell the story of how I learned to better manage my staff.

“In 1975, I opened my first business.  My staff quickly made it known what they thought of my leadership style by assigning me a few non-complimentary nicknames.”

“With my life savings tied up in this business and a ten-year lease, I realized I had to do something fast.  So, I attended my first leadership seminar.  The seminar leader said something I will never forget.  It was as relevant in 1975 as it is in 2012.  He said, “Your business is as good as your worst employee.””

After a pause to let that idea sink in, I ask my audience, “Isn’t that a terrifying thought while you are attending this conference for the next three days?”

3. The “Repeat After Me” Technique: Often, it is helpful to give your audience the actual words for them to use when they repeat your message to their own team.

During a presentation on Exceptional Customer Service and using examples that incorporate “Two and Half Men” or “Quote Others” techniques, you can help cement the ideas, by recommending the following:

“When you leave this conference, you will be filled with enthusiasm and information that you’ll want to share with your team.  After you tell them the best ideas for your company, say, ‘For the next few minutes, I would like you to tell me which ideas will be the most relevant to our company and how we can best incorporate them.’  As good leaders, you know your team will be more committed to the results if they help design the solution.”

This is how you can connect your entertaining stories to the reality of your listener’s lives and businesses.

Let Others Provide Your Phrase That Pays: There are few new Universal Truths, but unending ideas that can become fresh and powerful when aided by your stories and personal experiences, then summarized in your Phrase That Pays.  Here are some ways to develop them.

  • Listen to speakers and even read newspaper and magazine articles, trying to spot the Phrase That Pays – the point of wisdom, the sound bite, the foundational phrase.  If there isn’t one, create one.

  • Sometimes an audience can invent the Phrase That Pays FOR you.  A presenter teaching good customer service asked the audience to tell stories about good and bad service.  One attendee said she had complained to a Customer Service Department and heard, “Oh, that must be Anthony.”  This indicated everyone knew a problem existed, but nothing was being done about it.  So, “Oh, that must be Anthony” became the Phrase That Pays for that audience and subsequent ones when the story was retold.

  • While phrases usually derive from stories, sometimes a dynamite phrase can send you looking for a story to present it.  Here are some great phrases that I’ve encountered:

“Don’t focus on making a lot of money.  Rather, focus on becoming the type of person others want to do business with, and you most likely will make a lot of money.”  A. H. Fripp.

“If you roll out the red carpet for a billionaire, they won’t even notice it.  If you roll out the red carpet for a millionaire, they expect it.  If you roll out the red carpet for a “thousandaire,” they appreciate it.  But if you roll out the red carpet for a “hundredaire,” they tell everybody they know.” Banking executive Gary Richter.

Get the idea?

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, effective presentation skills and executive communication skills. She works with companies large and small, and individuals from the C-Suite to the work floor.  She builds leaders, transforms sales teams and delights audiences.  She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!, and is Past-President of the National Speakers Association.  To learn more about having Patricia do her magic for you, contact her at www.fripp.com, 415-753-6556, pfripp@ix.netcom.com.