When Presenters Run Out of Ideas, It’s Time to Read a Book

Sometimes when we are called on to give a presentation, we sit down to create the presentation only to find that our creative juices have somehow run dry. Oh, oh – this can be a big challenge. What always just seemed to “be there” can go missing just when we really need to draw upon it. What’s a presenter to do?

Despair not fellow presenters! This situation has happened to me and other presenters and we have a fairly simple solution that will get you out of this pickle: read a book.

Katherine Meeks is a New York City based speech consultant and language coach. She’s spent a lot of time with speechwriters and has made a not-so-amazing discovery: those of us who read a lot seem to have the best thoughts, the best style, and the most precise ways of using our vocabulary to make our presentations memorable.

I can hear you now: “Hey, I have a subscription to People magazine – I’m well read!” Umm, nope that’s just not going to cut it.

How often do you work on expanding your vocabulary? Probably not all that often. It turns out that once we are out of school, the size of our vocabulary stops growing as fast as it once did. Reading turns out to be one of the most effective ways that as adults we can continue to grow our vocabulary. Once again, a word-of-the-day desk calendar is not going to get you to where you want to be.

If you want to become a great presenter, then you have to become a great reader. In order for this to happen, you need to discover interesting books. The best way to do this is to simply ask other people that you know what they are reading. The key here is to find a way to filter the unending stream of books that are produced every year into a manageable trickle that you can have a chance of reading.

Other good ways to fette possible books for you to read include seeing movies and then reading the book. I was touched by the movie “Pursuit of Happyness” and just had to follow this up by getting and reading Chris Gardner’s book that the movie was based on. Wow – the book was much different from the movie, I was very glad that I read it. Another way to pick out the books that you might want to read is to spend some time with the book review section of your local newspaper – this can be a great way to spot stinkers.

Once you’ve created a list of books / authors that you’d like to read in order to have your presentations become inspired, the next thing that you need to do is to get your hands on some books. This is actually quite easy to do, but you’ve got to remember that you’ve got a lot of choices. Remember when you used to go to the library as a kid? Well guess what – the library is still there. When was the last time that you went?

Other sources for books include your local used book store (why pay full price?), the local Borders / Barnes & Nobel, and your on-line friend – Amazon. It really doesn’t matter where you get your books from, just make sure that you get them and that you read them! Your audiences will thank you…

Successful Sales Presentations – If You Solve It, They Will Buy

Remember the movie, “Field of Dreams”? The movie’s mantra was, “If you build it, they will come.” Along those same lines, in a persuasive presentation, if you SOLVE their problem, they will BUY. Let me explain.

Many of you have heard and read my “bespeakism” turn your focus 180°; imploring you to put yourself in the audience’s seat. Once you’re there, ask yourself, what’s bothering them? What’s keeping them up at night? What’s a PROBLEM they have that your product or service can SOLVE? Once you figure that out, you’re ready to begin building a presentation that will truly persuade them.

Begin by illustrating for them what their “Picture” looks like; where they currently are. Include in that picture, a crystal clear view of their problem. Now ears have perked up; heads are nodding. They’re listening because you’ve shown them that you “get” them. More important, you’ve just brought out in the open the thing that’s keeping them up at night! “Yes!” they’re thinking, “That’s exactly where I am! If only someone could help me with this problem.”

Enter YOU and your proposal for solving this problem. (By the way, this kind of intro works just as effectively for informative presentations; you have to give the audience a compelling reason to listen and learn − illuminating a problem they’re facing that your information will help them solve is the best way to capture their interest.) For those of you in the selling business (and who isn’t?) this is when you tell them in PLAIN English (think smart savvy 11 year old), using BIG BOLD BRAVE words what your solution is.

Next, you illustrate the payoff; the BENEFITS to them of adopting your proposal. These are NOT bells and whistles, doo dads and super duper gadgets. These are the what’s and how’s their lives will be better, easier, safer, richer, more carefree, etc. once they begin using your product or service. The better you know your audience and understand their problem and how you solve it, the more easily and compellingly you can communicate this to them.

Now you have to use your knowledge of them to bullet proof your idea. This requires you taking the time thinking as though you are they and asking, “What will their objections be? What will they still be doubtful about? What may I need to disabuse them of?” Bringing these things out into the light and knocking them down one by one will seal the deal. You will have addressed their doubts before they’ve had a chance to voice them.

Next you paraphrase what you’ve said thus far. Briefly recap their problem, your proposed solution, the payoffs to them of adopting it and the proof they need to dispel any misconceptions or doubts that your solution will work. One piece left; the prompt.

This is CRITICAL and yet many many persuasive presentations are missing this important element. Tell them what they’re NEXT STEP is! Don’t be afraid of being “pushy”. You’ve just illustrated very clearly and compellingly to them WHAT their problem is and HOW you can solve it, as well as telling them the GREAT things they’ll enjoy by adopting your solution. You’ve even illustrated possible objections and debunked them. At this point they’re DYING for you to tell them where they sign, what line they get in, who the check’s to be made out to, etc. You’re their problem solver! The answer to their prayers! Don’t stop after you’ve told them how you can solve their problem; tell them the steps they can take to get started.

Before your next presentation, sit down and ask yourself, “What is my audience’s problem? How does my product or service solve it? What is the result of that solution? Then follow the structure I’ve described above

(also known as the bespeak presentation method) and you’ll be giving persuasive presentations that assure that you’ll be heard and get results. And who wants to give any other kind?

Creativity in Negotiation Matters

When it comes to negotiation the negotiation teams are busy strategically planning and working on each other’s moves almost like a giant chess game. Still, if the negotiation and agreement is supposed to work long-term, there must be something on the table for both parties. Negotiations have to be a little bit of “win-win” because if they are too much one-sided and too much “win-lose” in the end everyone loses because the deal falls through, or the objectives are not met causing problems for both sides.

The difference between negotiation and chess is that in chess there are specific rules, and it’s easier to predict your opponent. In negotiation although there are unspoken rules, almost anything goes. This is why creativity in negotiation matters very much, and the team with it has a huge advantage as they can come up with innovative ways to solve problems, and help the other party get what they want, so their team can get what it wants.

The more creative the negotiators, and the more agile they are, the more opportunities they have. This clearly gives them the advantage by far. All too often, people go to school to learn negotiation, and some of the top negotiators in the world have often gone to the same school interestingly enough. In top business level negotiations many of the parties involved either went to Harvard or to Yale. They are working out of the same playbook.

So, if you have someone on your team that is highly creative and did not attend Harvard or Yale then your team has the advantage, do you see that point? I hope you will please consider all this because it has come to me at a very high price, through my many years of negotiation. It was a learning process for me, and much of it I learned the hard way. So please think on it.