Present to win, Pt. 3: Public speaking tips for workshop producers

By Joe Anzalone

Asset Marketing Systems


"Using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table. You can do very bad things with it." -- Peter Norvig, Google, Inc.

Greetings, producers! If you've made it this far, your workshops should have improved already; you now understand how to create a compelling opening, and you're well-versed in audience engagement techniques. So, as long as you have relevant, educational content, your programs will be great from now on. Nothing can stop you now... right?

Well, not exactly. PowerPoint can stop you. PowerPoint presentations are the great equalizer in the world of seminar marketing -- and I don't mean that as a compliment. They can make a great speaker seem average, and an average speaker downright unbearable. Sadly, it doesn't have to be this way; PowerPoint is an excellent tool when used properly. Let's cover the basic rules to avoiding PowerPoint purgatory.

Rule No. 1: PowerPoint is the slide projector, not the index cards.

In the days before PowerPoint, speakers were taught to know their speech or presentation cold. After practicing the talk several times, they wrote their main points on index cards, primarily to keep the presentation flowing correctly and chronologically, and usually only had to glance at them a few times to stay on track. Sometimes, speakers would use overhead or slide projectors to demonstrate important points to the audience.

Ah, those were the days. People, it's simple: Too many producers are using PowerPoint to replace the index cards instead of the projector.

Does this sound familiar?

Producer: "... and, if you structure the plan properly, you will..."

(Click -- bullet point appears on screen -- "accumulate income tax deferred")

Producer: "... ummm... accumulate income tax deferred... and..."

(Click -- bullet point appears -- "share in market gains")

Producer: "..you'll... you know... share in market gains... and finally..."

(Click -- bullet point appears -- "protect your principal")

Producer: "you're going to, ahh... protect your principal!"

Not good; not good at all. This producer has just used a $3,000 projector and a $1,500 laptop --a $4,500 investment -- as a set of index cards. He could have saved himself $4,495 and purchased some index cards from Walgreen's. Worse, the audience becomes visibly impatient and bored when a producer is simply reading bullet points from a screen. Why? Well, to begin with, they already know how to read. When you present in this fashion, the message to the audience is this: "I don't know this presentation that well. I need these slides to keep track of where I am, and I don't even know what to read until it appears before me. Sorry, I'm not that prepared."

I tell producers to learn their slideshow so well they don't even have to look at the screen. As he or she clicks through the presentation, he or she should know exactly what's coming up behind them. This prevents the producer from losing eye contact with the group. When referring to a bullet point, producers should paraphrase that point with some flair; that way, it appears to the audience that they really know their stuff:

Producer: "... so, what does this tell us? If you structure your plan properly, you will..."

(Click -- bullet point appears on screen -- "accumulate income tax deferred")

Producer: "... (looking at audience)... enjoy the benefits of tax deferred accumulation. How many of you remember why this is so important? Show of hands?"

See the difference? Such a technique requires robust knowledge of the slides. In my experience, PowerPoint can make producers lazy. This has been a sensitive point to address with producers. Many tell me that they need the bullet points to "keep their place," but I believe firmly that this is a mistake. In fact, the use of so-called bullet points, while sometimes necessary, isn't the best way to present information, which leads us to our next rule.

Rule No. 2: PowerPoint is for the audience: Use visuals to get your point across.

Remember, in the beginning of this series, I said that when you're in front of an audience you're no longer in the financial services business; you're now in show business. You must deliver a good show and, to be blunt, bullet points don't make for much of a show. But pictures, graphics and animation will keep an audience's attention.

Moreover, it's what PowerPoint is designed to do: deliver your information in a visual medium. Remember, the purpose of using PowerPoint is to make things easier for the audience -- not for you. Sometimes it's difficult to communicate to a group, especially a large one, without a related picture or a graph that everyone can see.

Let's start with graphs. Built properly, graphs are an effective visual tool, and a better option for producers to convey data than a bulleted list -- especially when the graphs is animated to show things such as trend data or movement of money from one area to another. For example, this slide is designed to explain the concept of annual reset:



Pictures are even better. I know one producer, an excellent speaker, who tells his audience about the tenuous situation many baby boomers find themselves in as they prepare for retirement without the guarantees of a defined-benefit pension plan. To illustrate this fact to the audience, he cites some statistics and trend data to lend credibility to the argument. But to make the point memorable, he uses a simple picture. "Many of them are just hoping they'll be OK," he says. Then he clicks the remote. The slide behind him? This one:



People, especially adults, remember pictures. Pictures create emotion and people buy emotionally. They will rationalize their buying decision logically, but only after they've made that decision. Simply put, use more pictures in your PowerPoint presentations, and you'll get more appointments. Too many producers believe that their workshop audiences will swoon when they present bullet points, facts and stats. Do you need them? Absolutely. But strong preparation and visuals are what really make a PowerPoint presentation sing.

Rule No. 3: PowerPoint is a power tool.

What do I mean by "PowerPoint is a power tool"? Well, it's been stated many times that software programs and other helpful technologies are simply tools meant to make our lives easier. Sounds harmless enough, I suppose: Learn how to use the tool, and we can perform our jobs quicker, cheaper and more efficiently. In sticking with the "tool" analogy, I would suggest that in the pantheon of technological tools at your disposal, PowerPoint is less like a screwdriver and more like a chainsaw. In other words, you had better know how to use it. If you don't, the results could be disastrous. I can't tell you how many times I've seen producers suffer failed workshops because they couldn't get the slideshow to work, or the slides went dark, or the laptop failed on them, or the remote control wasn't hooked up properly, or they couldn't get the visual of their computer on to the screen, and so on.

Well, you get the picture. If you don't learn the ins and outs of the software, you're doing real damage to your workshop numbers, and your business. Before you ever deliver a PowerPoint presentation, you should understand the basics of setup and delivery.

Learn the medium, take these tips, practice, and you will have successfully avoided PowerPoint purgatory. As always, happy selling!

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