Presentation Prep: Mitigating Mistake Risks

As you prepare for your next meeting, imagine that CNN will be there broadcasting it live. How does that make you feel? Nervous? Self-conscious?

Truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Facing your next meeting as if the whole world will see it let’s you take the bull by the horns: come what may, you are going to prevail regardless of any possible mistakes.

Of course, mistakes can happen and they come in many forms. So, what can you do to mitigate the risk of a presentation mistake happening?  Here are a few things…

Six Ways to Avoid Presentation Mistakes

  • Prepare for a Bigger Audience: The client says, “It will just be me at the meeting.” But then you get there and she’s brought along five others. Be calm…be flattered…and then step up to deliver because you were ready for this.
  • Meet in a Conference Room: Look around your own office. How many distractions can you count? Even the photo of your family can make your mind wander. Request a conference room meeting. People know where your client’s office is but, probably won’t know what conference room he chose for your meeting. That means fewer interruptions. You have their full attention (if they can be convinced to put away their phone for 20 minutes!).
  • You Set the Stage: I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve rearranged a room in order to maintain control of the meeting. Often, there are too many chairs, the room is a mess, it’s too bright (or dark), there isn’t enough presentation space and so on. If there is a phone in the room, disconnect it! Dirty pool? No. You were promised full attention so, taking a phone call would break that promise. You will reconnect it after you’ve delivered your interruption-free presentation. The point is that you have arranged the room the way you want it and that will allow you to feel comfortable right from the start.
  • Calm Your Movements: Too many times, I’ve witnessed people making exaggerated gestures, pacing too much and making other unnecessary movements. This conveys one thing: nerves. We’ve discussed the importance of practicing, so you shouldn’t be overly nervous, just excited. Stay calm and deliver.
  • Be Neat: Prepare documents well and have them laid out, ready to distribute at the right time. Neatness counts…trite, but true. Control when the documents are distributed so that they don’t’ become a distraction to your presentation (ever had anyone skip ahead because they had the presentation in hand?).
  • Use the Facilities: I know…you shouldn’t have to be told this like a parent to a 5-year old. However, so many times we are rushing to get to a meeting on time, we forget our biological needs until it is too late. That’s a distraction for sure! Scheduling time to use the facilities will ensure a) you get there early and b) you have some time to compose your thoughts in private, which is another way to bolster your confidence.

Mistakes Are Human…So Is Your Audience

You can’t avoid all mistakes, only mitigate the risks beforehand. But Murphy is always lurking and sometimes, the unexpected happens. When it happens to you, acknowledge it. I had a client who just before a meeting accidentally dipped his tie into a full cup of coffee. He made light of it with humor to acknowledge why he wasn’t wearing a tie, which got a positive reaction since everyone in the room had had something similar happen at least once in their careers. Now, everyone could move past that incident and not wonder for the next 30 minutes why he was tieless.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.  If you follow the steps above and do your homework prior to the meeting, you have taken a big step towards mitigating the risks of mistakes. And that should give you the confidence to deliver the presentation in the way you hoped you would.

Oh…and one more tip…watch your coffee!

Which of these steps did you overlook in your last meeting?  What was the result?  Reply below.  -sg


Five Steps for Introducing Yourself

number-five-redYou might be surprised to realize that how you introduce yourself makes a big difference with people. In my coaching assignments, I’ve observed executives either going through the motions introducing themselves to people/clients or meaning it and linking their introduction to the excitement of the meeting.

Setting the Tone

As we’ve spoken about before; people buy people first, product second. What this means during one’s introduction is that HOW you introduce yourself and WHY you’re jazzed to be there can make all the difference in the world. You get to set the “tone” for the meeting.

That’s why its important. Lets break this down a bit.

Five Steps for Introducing Yourself

Step #1: Do your homework
Know who’s attending the meeting. Having a little knowledge about who you are introducing yourself to will give you confidence in your initial contact with them.

Step #2: Understand why is the meeting important to the attendees
Yes, be clear on the importance of the meeting to you but, simultaneously know what’s important to your attendees. What’s keeping them up at night? What are their challenges?

Step #3: Find the Value for Them
Genuinely link the value of the meeting for yourself. Hint: If you’re not excited about it, your attendees won’t be either.

Step #4: Be Clear and Direct
Write out your introduction to be confident and clear. Name, background, relationship to the subject at hand and why your excited to part of the meeting. Remember, you are setting the tone and you are establishing a level of trust right from the start.

Step #5: Be Engaging
Deliver it like you mean it, as a host in a welcoming fashion. It makes a difference and credentials you as a professional. Sure, maybe they aren’t completely engaged yet but if YOU aren’t, you have no chance of succeeding in your encounter with them.

Try these steps at the next meeting you host. Let me know how it goes!

Six Steps for Great Online Meetings

While I always believe that in-person meetings generate better, actionable results, many times the logistics of all attendees being in the same place are too difficult to overcome. At that point, you have to resort to an online meeting. This creates a whole new set of challenges as you try to capture their attention.

Think how often you multi-task when you’re on a conference call. Someone texts you, you answer it. An email comes in, you respond. You remember an upcoming meeting and put it on your calendar. All the while, someone is talking to you!

Grabbing and keeping a client’s attention is mission-critical to succeeding with a demonstration of your product via an online meeting. Outlined below are the six steps to holding their attention and gaining their agreement that your idea is the right one.

Step #1: Know Your Client’s Goals

I know it sounds simple. Too often, though, we’re caught up in our own product and dismiss our client’s core goals that fueled the meeting’s purpose in the first place.

Introduce the demo by stating your client’s goals. Think about what this does. The action illustrates that your client’s desires are more important than your demo. And guess what? THEY ARE! Clients want and need to be affirmed. They need to know you’ve listened to what they’ve said and tailored a demo just for them. With this overture of empathy, you can then state the challenges they’ve shared with you, making your idea their solution.

Step #2: Check-In

Once you’ve stated your client’s core goals, ask him/her to agree with them. Present the challenge they said was preventing them from achieving their goal. Then, check-in with them by getting their agreement on this issue.

“From our previous discussions, it seems that your biggest issues are X, Y and Z. Did I capture that accurately?”

Also check-in a few times throughout the demo by asking your client questions such as “How do you see this aspect of the product helping your business?” That gets them involved in your conversation while also potentially giving you new intel upon which to base your recommendations.

Step #3: Be Concise

It’s easy to go off on a tangent with the product you enjoy speaking about…DON’T. No one enjoys a wind-bag. Keep your comments concise and tailored to your client’s issues.

Step #4: Avoid Qualifying Words

You are asking your client to believe in you and your product. Assuming that YOU believe in you and your product, you must speak strongly and with conviction. Qualifying words and phrases will weaken your position and give them reason to doubt what you are saying. That’s when they’ll start reaching for their phone to check their messages…you’ve lost them!

Some phrases to avoid are:

We feel this is a solution to…
I think the product…
Hopefully this aspect of the product will…
Perhaps our service could

How would you change those to be stronger, more assertive? That’s a good exercise to do before you conduct the meeting.

Step #5: Know Your Competition

You have to be ready to defend your organization/idea and respond to the inevitable question of product blurring. How well do you know your competition’s offerings? How does what you offer stack up? Where are you vulnerable? Where do you shine? Know the answers to these questions and be ready for challenges related to what else is out there so that you can command the conversation. Don’t open the door for your competition!

Step #6: Declare the Next Step

Yes, I mean declare it. Even if it’s wrong, you’ve stated what you believe to be the next appropriate step. If they have a problem with it, they will present a countered next step. They now understand there is a next step both of you should agree on. And you will leave the meeting knowing what is expected of you. Now all you have to do is deliver!

Online meetings present a lot of challenges, even technical ones. Commandeer the situation by being prepared and moving the conversation along according to what you want to get out of the meeting. Let me know how it goes!

Fear of Failure? Defend Yourself with Dilligence

Fear of failure affects all of us at some point. For so many of my clients, this fear comes to a head when they are engaging with their customers and clients.  It’s natural to worry a client will question your ability. How you prepare for that situation will make the difference. Read more