Present to win, Pt. 2: Public speaking tips for workshop producers

By Joe Anzalone

Asset Marketing Systems


"When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion."
-- Dale Carnegie

In part one of this series, we learned the importance of presentations having a prepared, compelling opening. Properly delivered, the opening should have your audience eager to hear more. As you move on to your informational content you must remember not to waste the opportunity to hold their attention.

Sadly, many producers waste this chance because they are obsessed with their content. It's true that your information is important -- you should know your facts. Most workshop producers do. It is often how those facts are presented that is so crucial. As we've already learned, your audience will respond best when you structure your workshop like a well-constructed story. Let's learn how to keep them fully engaged.

Rule No. 1: Engage your audience every three minutes.

There are two methods used by teachers and trainers for conveying information- delivery and discovery. In the delivery method, the speaker tells the audience what they should know. This is the most commonly practiced method by workshop producers -- and the most fatal. Remember, your audience is not as interested in your material as you are. Once you cross the three-minute delivery threshold, their attention begins to wane significantly; oftentimes, the producer lapses into "shop talk" about financial concepts and products. Your attendees will not care unless you make them part of the show. How?

One effective tactic is to poll the audience regularly. You should craft your questions well in advance to ensure you'll get a response. For example:
  • "Let's see a show of hands. How many people here would like to learn how to limit portfolio losses due to taxes, market volatility or inflation?"

  • "Every group is different, so I want to focus on what's important to you. How many people here are tired of the negative media reports surrounding saving and investing?"
Ask you ask, look around the room and smile. Even the most jaded of audiences will be compelled to participate. Within just a couple of minutes you have made them a part of the show. If your questions are broad and relevant enough, you've given yourself an excellent launching point for your financial content.

Similarly, another way to engage the audience is to incorporate prepared "quiz questions" based on your visual content. I once attended a workshop given by an advisor who regularly produced $15 million in annual annuity premium. His territory was in a rural, sparsely populated Midwest county but he was a master at quizzing the audience; he showed his attendees actual market numbers in a visual chart and said,

"OK... here we see the returns over a seven-year period. Who can tell me where this portfolio ended up after 10 years? After taxes? How many say more than $100,000, $150,000 or $200,000?"

The producer's audience was fully engaged and the answer, when revealed, was always a surprise. As I looked around the room, I realized that this high performer understood this so-called "three-minute rule."

In both these instances, the audience did not learn the information because the producer delivered it. Rather, the audience discovered it for themselves. Does your presentation allow for similar moments of discovery every three minutes? If so, you are on the right track.

Rule No. 2: Use humor.

It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. For purposes of engagement, I'm not talking about prepared jokes here. (In the wrong hands, a canned joke can ruin a workshop almost immediately.) Tasteful, thoughtful humor that is well-planned is a terrific engagement technique. In a workshop, humor is the great equalizer. It eliminates the "us versus them" dynamic that producers face when presenting to an audience of prospects; moreover, humor allows unspoken objections to surface in a positive way.

Consider the following scenario: In spite of your best preparation, your attendees had a terrible experience parking at your location. Finally finding their way to your event, many of them feel inconvenienced and you can bet they aren't blaming the restaurant -- they're blaming you! I once observed another top-producing agent deal with the situation beautifully:

"First of all, welcome to those of you that passed the `parking test.' I like working with the most resourceful of clients and you, my friends, have proven that you can overcome obstacles!"

The attendees looked at each other and chuckled, and then the producer apologized for the mishap. Humor, in this case, saved him from a bad start.

Another "unspoken objection" is the audience's fear that they are about to be "sold." Many doubt the claim on the invitation that promises an educational experience only. I saw another producer handle the situation this way:

"OK. How many people here are hoping for a sales pitch? (No one raises their hand.) Really? No one? Oh, well... we'll go with the educational presentation, then. Is that good with everyone here?"

Once again, the unspoken objection was exposed and diffused with an effective use of humor. Rule No. 3: Work the room as you change your tone.

Simply put, don't be afraid to move around and challenge the audience with your voice. I'm not talking about incessant pacing, which can be annoying and distracting. The greatest speakers are masters at using their voice and gestures in harmony.

When a great workshop producer wants to make an especially important point, she doesn't read it from the podium or point to a bullet on her PowerPoint slide. She slows down, walks closer to her audience, leans forward and changes the tone of her speech:

"What are we to conclude from this?" (Walking to the center of her audience, the producer's voice lowers to almost a whisper.) "Fifty percent of your portfolio is not working for you. It's working for your friend, the IRS!"

Developing this skill can be devastatingly effective. When you adroitly change your body positioning, your place in the room, the tilt of your head and the tone of your voice, your attendees can't help but listen. Remember, in your workshop presentations, you are not selling financial services; you are selling an experience. The more compelling you make that experience, the more likely your attendees will want to set an appointment with you, because they'll assume that every experience with you and your practice will be worth their time.

These rules of engagement take practice -- and don't forget to master your workshop's content; if you don't have the information down pat, it's much harder to incorporate these techniques. As always, watching yourself on video is the best way to recognize where you need improvement and add these engagement weapons to your arsenal.

Check back in for Pt. 3 of this article series, "How to avoid PowerPoint purgatory."

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