I’ve just finished running the second of 2 two-day presentation skills and professional speaking workshops for an exciting technology company in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Like many growing organisations, the company sees an economy that’s picking up and clearly intends to ride the wave of new sales opportunities that are emerging. And whilst they are a thriving Internet technology company, they still recognise the importance of building sales through group presentations and seminars.
Whilst I’m the first to say that the Internet and Social Media are increasingly playing their part in the sales process, I’m also the first to say that prospects still want to see the ‘whites of your eyes’ in the sales process. People buy people – always did and always will. And the good old ‘stand up’ sales presentation is still a critical part of getting your message across to buyers.
I once read somewhere that courses on presentation skills are the most ‘bunked off’ in the corporate world, and if you’ve ever been sent on such a course, you can probably understand why. Countless surveys suggest that public speaking and giving group presentations are amongst the most stressful things we can do in life. And attendees of presentation skills courses will often tell you that presenting to your colleagues in a classroom or simulated sales environment is even more stressful!
I’ve been teaching seminar selling, speaking and presentation skills for many years, and it’s easy to see why some courses can strike the fear of God into sales staff, managers and executives everywhere. ‘Old School’ presentation skills training generally followed an all too familiar format, where you were told “the right way” to stand, the right way to move, the right way to move your hands, the right clothes to wear, etc. Sounds familiar?
Fortunately for my delegates this week, there was a palpable sense of relief when I explained that old school presentation skills training of creating ‘cloned presenters’ was, in my book, long dead and gone. My delegates in Edinburgh were relieved to discover that neither I nor their company wanted to change them or mould them into something that they weren’t. Each individual has their own personal presentational style, which, with training can be leveraged to their own advantage and to aid communication to their audience.
For example, some people are good at telling stories, some are naturally humourous, some are great at communicating via a flipchart or graphics and some can captivate an audience simply through tone and expression. Everyone is different; everyone has their own strengths and my job is to help delegates on presentation skills courses to identify and build on their own very unique personal style. And we do this through a range of fun exercises they very often see a startling transformation in the impact of their presentations.
Classroom presentation skills training is not like 'real life'
A common observation from sceptics of presentation skills training is that the ‘classroom’ environment so often used for training is somewhat artificial. This was particularly the case in the old school training set up, but in fairness ‘simulator training’ is very important. Only last weekend I heard former F1 driver David Coulthard saying that the top drivers will always train on simulators because if it can give them even the tiniest edge over their competitors, that could make the difference between winning or losing on the racetrack. However realistic the simulator, many drivers or course attendees say it’s just not the same as the real thing – but true winners value that 1% edge that simulation can bring to their performance.
Your profile on LinkedIn is now part of how you present yourself
Another difference between old school presentation skills training and today’s training, is that how we present ourselves to potential customers online is now also a critical factor in our overall impact.
Very often a customer will check you out on Google or Social Media before your presentation – so in effect, your presentation starts long before you reach their office or seminar room. What people see about you online tells them everything they need to know about your expertise, your credibility, your experience and your professionalism – or at least it gives them a perception of you and your business. And perception is everything.
Put simply, your personal presentation style and approach should now also include your online profile. And if your online persona (normally your LinkedIn page) isn’t up to scratch, then that could impact how you are perceived even before your face-to-face presentation begins. Furthermore, many seminar attendees or prospects will often check out your LinkedIn profile during your presentation – while you are standing there speaking! I’ve seen people doing it and I’ve done it myself.
With this in mind, the presentation programme which we delivered to our friends in Edinburgh, not only sought to identify and leverage delegates’ personal face-to-face presentation style, but also to examine and enhance their online presentation style. Many delegates were astonished to discover that their LinkedIn profiles far from did justice to support and enhance their real-life persona.
In short, presentation skills training might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but even in today’s Internet age, it simply isn’t an option to be a poor presenter. In fact, in our competitive business world, it is a critical skill to be able to communicate your message to prospects with clarity, confidence, credibility and conviction – both face-to-face at client pitches and seminars and online through your LinkedIn profile.
But presentation and speaking skills training has moved on - a lot. And if you were taught to present a while ago, then you'll be amazed what else you can now learn to help you get your message across even more powerfully and effectively.
And what do delegates say after attending this modern new style presentation training?
“Without doubt the best presentation skills workshop I have attended. Took me to another level and helped me feel comfortable with my natural style.” Jerry Quince, Nucleus Financial
“A refreshingly different, up-to-date and fun presentation skills course. Thoroughly recommended.” Chris Macdonald, Nucleus Financial
“Hugely beneficial confidence building course. Fantastic hints and tips around presentation style and delivery. Well worth a couple of days out of the office.” James Desmond, Nucleus Financial
Talk to us (before you talk to your prospects)
If you, your team or your executive management are worried that your presentation skills training of the past might be outdated and letting down your business pitches, then please contact us. Use our contact form here or email Philip@philipcalvert.com
By Philip Calvert