A client recently urged me to read Daniel Pink’s new book, “To Sell is Human” (Thank you, Rich!). In this work, Pink describes the changing nature of sales, and a shift in the balance of power from buyer beware to seller beware. He goes on to reveal how the time-honored ABC’s of selling – Always Be Closing – have evolved, introducing their contemporary counterparts: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.
What does all this have to do with presenting? A lot!
There has been a comparable shift in the world of business communications. With the explosion of smartphones, tablets and other devices, listeners can quickly verify, refute or supplement what a presenter is saying. Today audiences are listening in a new way and expect to be actively engaged in the “conversation.” Consequently, we’ve transitioned from listener beware, where the speaker has the power, to speaker be-Aware, where listeners may be as well-informed and capable as those presenting.
As a result of this shift in power, attunement, buoyancy and clarity are qualities that need to be more fully honed in today’s business presentations. While I invite you to read “To Sell is Human” to fully appreciate Pink’s definition of these terms as they apply to sales, let’s look at how those same qualities are also the ABC’s of a successful presenter.
The ABC’s of presenting
Attunement. “My way or the highway” won’t cut it anymore. Your ability to influence listeners, move them to action, relies on your ability to get inside their head, understand the issue from their perspective, and see the world through their eyes. That doesn’t mean you dismiss your opinions, beliefs or theories, it means that you are curious and willing to familiarize yourself with the topic or situation from your listener’s perspective. Understanding a situation as your listener does allows you to find common ground. You are then able to present your story in a way that is meaningful to them.
On a practical level, what does this mean for your next presentation? It means speaker be-Aware. As you prepare for your presentation, reach out to your listeners and ask. . .
- What do they already know about my topic and me?
- Are there any misconceptions that need to be cleared up?
- What might they agree with?
- What will they disagree with?
- Where is the common ground?
- What do they absolutely need to know and understand to take action?
Share your thoughts with stakeholders/potential audience members beforehand and solicit feedback. It will only make you smarter when you step up to speak. Once attuned, you will feel confident in your message and your ability to connect with your audience.
Buoyancy. About 3 years ago Eddy, a client at the time, called to share that as he stepped up to speak to an audience of 200+ people, he tripped and literally fell on his face. He went on to say that he picked himself up, gathered his thoughts, smiled and greeted his audience saying, “I practiced that move last night . . . how did I do?” His audience broke out into laughter and applause.
In a matter of seconds, Eddy displayed a resiliency of spirit that illustrates the second essential quality of a successful presenter – buoyancy!
How can you project buoyancy? To start, understand that audience members empathize with the speaker. If you are awkward, listeners will feel ill-at-ease. If you exude confidence, listeners will be reassured. Your ability to project a confident presence and forge ahead despite the racing heartbeat, shallow breathing, tense muscles, trips, and mal-functioning equipment is what buoyancy is all about.
Remember, the show must go on!
Clarity. The third quality needed to influence others in today’s business environment is clarity. To paraphrase Pink, clarity is the capacity to help others see a situation in a fresh and revealing way. Remember, your listeners can often find the information they need without your assistance. What makes your presentation valuable is when you can offer a different perspective that solves a problem or evokes listeners to think about a situation in a new way. The challenge is to distill your message to a single sentence that reflects your unique perspective. When you make your presentation a revelation, you can change how people think or respond to events and inspire action.
- What do I want to reveal to my audience that offers a fresh or unique perspective?
- How can I state it in one simple sentence?
The power has shifted – are you Aware?
The balance of power has shifted from listener beware to speaker be-Aware. Thriving in today’s business environment requires business leaders to change the nature of how they both approach and deliver their presentations. Understanding these qualities and making a conscious effort to develop and put them into practice will help to enlist cooperation and bring your communications to a whole new level.
Part 2 will share the final and most important shift necessary to successfully communicate your message and achieve results!