Category Archives: Public Speaking

The Last Words They Should Hear Are Yours!

By Lou Quinto, Executive Coach and Speaker

I’ve sat through literally hundreds of presentations. I know what you’re thinking: nobody should have to endure hundreds of business presentations in one lifetime. Alas, I have. Through all of them, I’ve observed that most presenters miss a great opportunity to ensure that the last impression or message with which their audience leaves is theirs. Instead, most presenters make the mistake by ending their presentation with the phrase, “Are there any questions?”

If I may, let me scream …. “WRONG!”

Let me offer some advice: NEVER end a presentation with questions. If you do, you’re leaving too much to chance. You’re allowing someone in your audience with an alternative or opposite point of view to hijack your presentation by challenging your position during what you assumed would be a harmless “Q&A session.”

I’ve seen great sales presentations die painful deaths during a question and answer session. Time after time, I have seen salespeople deliver convincing sales presentations. The buying signals are there. People in the audience are nodding their heads in agreement. They’re smiling and whispering to people next to them. Seeing this, the salesperson brings the presentation to a moving crescendo with a well-prepared conclusion that includes why the prospective client can’t live without the product or service he or she is selling. Then, while basking in all of the positive signs that indicate the sale is within reach, the salesperson does the unthinkable… by asking, “Are there any questions?”

Instantly, one or two people in the audience who have serious objections – or who favor the competition – see the opportunity and pounce with negative comments disguised as questions. The salesperson is now back-peddling with unrehearsed and unprepared answers. Suddenly, the other people, who just minutes earlier were prepared to make the deal, are scratching their heads and thinking maybe this isn’t the perfect answer to satisfy their need. Suddenly, the salesperson is looking in his or her rear-view mirror at the great sales opportunity that got away.

How can this be prevented in the future?

Actually, it’s easy… Call for questions BEFORE you make the concluding remarks you spent time preparing. This way, the last thing that your audience hears is what YOU want them to remember.

It is a simple and proven technique that professional speakers employ. Before concluding, simply ask, “Now, BEFORE I conclude, are there any questions?”

At that point, take questions. Then, when there are no more questions, say, “OK, if there are no more questions, let me conclude by reminding you….” Then, launch into your well-prepared, well-rehearsed, deal-solidifying, concise conclusion that reviews your product’s finer points and its strategic competitive advantage.

It’s a proven fact that people tend to remember the last thing they hear. Take advantage of this knowledge. “Rethink” your next presentation and wrap it up with a well-prepared (and well-practiced) memorable conclusion. By doing this, you are helping to ensure that your audience will remember YOUR message and not the message of someone who may want to see you fail.

This technique works well, not only in a sales presentation but in any presentation where your goal is to leave an important and convincing message. So at your next presentation try this technique. It will help to distinguish you as a polished veteran presenter, thus adding to your credibility and increasing your chance to succeed!

BLOGGER’S NOTE: From time to time I will post a blog that is off the critical thinking topic. But I promise you it will be related to your personal and professional development.

Lou Quinto has been working with companies and their associates internationally for over the past 25 years primarily in the area of critical thinking and communication skills. He is a Master Coach and Keynote Speaker for Action Management Associates in Plano, TX and a Senior Consultant on the Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness team for Executive Development Associates in Oklahoma City, OK. You can read more of his insights on his blog Metacognition or you can contact him at louquinto@gmail.com. Originally from New Jersey, today Lou resides in Indianapolis, IN.

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It’s a Business Presentation, Not a Bedtime Story!

By Lou Quinto, Executive Coach and Speaker

During the past few weeks, I have found myself consulting with three different clients and sitting through multiple presentations. Regardless of the name on the front of the building, I noticed more similarities between the presentations and the presenters rather than distinctions. I believe this insight might be helpful to anyone who has an opportunity to make a presentation and wants to improve his or her public speaking skills.

One similarity I noticed was that each presenter felt compelled to read to us directly from the PowerPoint® slides. No matter what their “rank” was in the company; how well they knew their subject matter — or tenure — each presenter read to us. And we wonder why people hate sitting through a business presentation!

One of the presenters who knew that I make my living speaking to people came up to me after his presentation and asked for some feedback. Immediately I cringed because after 25 years of teaching public speaking at the corporate level, I know that most people don’t react well to feedback. (And the fact that he was responsible for bringing me in to consult with his company played heavily in my mind as well.) But after some quick thinking I gave him the feedback I hope he desired….

I began by complementing him on his confidence and the deep range of knowledge he demonstrated. (I find that accentuating positives helps open up people’s minds and makes them more accepting of feedback on areas in which they can improve.) After I saw him smiling at this feedback, I asked him, “Why did you have to read every slide word-for-word?” His first reaction was, “Did I?”

I had to laugh to myself because most people don’t realize they are reading to their audience. But they do. I have sat through some presentations where I felt I should be wearing my pajamas and pair of fuzzy slippers because it were as if I was being read a bedtime story! And, like when when I was a child and my Mom would read me a bedtime story, I knew before the presenter got to the end I would be fast asleep.

So here are some tips to help you “rethink” your next presentation and avoid reading to your audience.

1. Remember, your PowerPoint® slides are your “notes” for the presentation. They are not the prepared text for a formal speech.

2. Practice your presentation at least three times before you actually give it. This will help you to become familiar what is on every slide and the order of the slides. This will allow you to just glance at the slide to prompt your mind as to what comes next. If you don’t practice each slide will be like a lifeboat and you will read every word on the slide.

3. Keep your eyes on your audience! Eye contact is most important in relaying a high level of confidence and enthusiasm as you make personal connections with each person in the room. If you are focusing on maintaining good eye contact with your audience members, you won’t have a lot of time to read your slides.

4. Keep your slides short. In other words, don’t use sentences…. Use key words! Also, turn words and numbers into charts and graphs. The point is, the fewer words there are on a slide, the less you will be tempted to read.

5. Your PowerPoint® slides are there to complement your presentation, not TO BE your presentation. YOU should always be the center of attention when you are presenting. You have been invited to speak because you are the subject matter expert. Be and act like the subject matter expert! Every time you turn and read your slides, you are sharing the stage and credibility with printed words on a screen.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: From time to time I will post a blog that is off the critical thinking topic. But I promise you it will be related to your personal and professional development.

Lou Quinto has been working with companies and their associates internationally for over the past 25 years primarily in the area of critical thinking and communication skills. He is a Master Coach and Keynote Speaker for Action Management Associates in Plano, TX and a Senior Consultant on the Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness team for Executive Development Associates in Oklahoma City, OK. You can read more of his insights on his blog Metacognition or you can contact him at louquinto@gmail.com. Originally from New Jersey, today Lou resides in Indianapolis, IN.

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