For all my advocacy of digital communications and social strategy, sometimes you just can’t beat events and public speaking to attract a new client or to develop awareness of your business and your brand. While social technologies have made it easier to find people with similar interests and experiences, there is in real life meetings, an opportunity to share so much more, and for people to develop trust in your insights so much more readily.
As such, the skill of presentation (at pitches, public speaking events and so on), is as relevant as ever. And while it’s easy and comfortable to stay behind the desk and leave it for others to go out and sell ideas, products and partnerships, it’s a recipe for failure. Without a committed effort to learn how to present, and to take cues from audiences, professionals will eventually fail in the key area of relationship building.
The fear of public speaking is well known, but even presenting to a small group of people can be daunting for some. The tendency to lose a train of thought, or to struggle for a relevant word can be so much more stressful than in normal conversation. But the more practice you get at speaking with groups, the more comfortable it will become. And relationships in business become that much easier when you have the confidence to be able to communicate your vision, as well as challenge your partners and clients on their perspectives.
Two of the presentation skills I learned as a young teacher have been of profound value in my business career: slowing my natural speed of speech, and making eye-contact with all my field of vision. As a teacher, slowing down your speech enables students the time to process content they are learning. Listening to a teacher is different from listening to normal conversation, because idea-processing is a more complex activity. But the same idea-processing in a classroom happens in business presentations. So it just makes sense to slow down your speech in that context, too.
As for eye-contact, it can be difficult to be on a stage with a room full of expectant faces turned towards you, but the value of eye-contact is not in demonstrating your bravery, but in reading your audience. As a teacher, it helped me to discover how clearly I was communicating with my students, as well as determining when they were growing frustrated or bored. And again in business, I find that eye-contact can be the best way of determining whether a client or audience is following my argument, and whether they trust my perspective. Those cues are key to converting a sale. A subtle shift in my content communication in response to confusion or frustration can really turn around a doutbful room.
You can use technology to good effect in presentations, but I’m of the opinion that it’s the story that counts more than the eye-candy or datasets. Tech acts as a useful illustration of points, and should be considered less important than the ideas you need to convey. Of course, social technologies can amplify your voice, but as a rule, the best presentations will be those that totally capture the interest of the audience. It’s a simple fact that real life beats social technology when real life is compelling.
Technology may be facilitating a more digitally enabled enterprise, but the greatest benefit for business is in facilitating better relationships. And without real life meetings, pitches and presentations, those relationships never can get off the ground. Understanding how to present is key to generating benefit from social tech, and ensuring that businesses can continue to grow in the social business age.
To access more tips on how to present, come along to the next Sydney Business Networking event, being held at Bendigo Bank in the CBD. Presentation specialist, Shaune Clarke, will be sharing his tips for how to keep an audience engaged and eager to do business with you. Register to attend at http://www.businessconnector.com.au/sydney-business-networking-monthly/