Archive | Presentation Skills for Professional Services

Why You Need To Add Influence to Expertise

It isn’t the attorney who knows the most about the law who is always the most successful. Nor is it the insurance professional who best understands his products that makes the most
sales. What about the financial planner who is an expert in her field? Sadly, expertise doesn’t
really matter—unless you can communicate it to others. Some of the very brightest
professionals enjoy less success than they could  simply because they can’t communicate
their expertise.

In their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip & Dan Heath
introduce the concept of the “Curse of Knowledge.” They describe it as a situation where you
know so much about something, you forget what it was like not to know it. My own take
centers on a slightly different concept I call the “Curse of Expertise.” It results in fewer clients,
lower productivity and less credibility. Here are five manifestations of the curse of expertise:

  1. Experts believe facts speak for themselves. They believe  if you simply present the
    information, reasonable people will all come to the same conclusion. They sometimes don’t
    realize facts need interpretation, context and explanation to be effective. Someone unversed in
    investing won’t understand what a good return on investment is without some explanation of
    risk and performance. Doctors and other medical professionals sometimes report test results
    without giving lay people the context in which to understand them. Many times, facts have
    contradictory interpretations, so it’s important to guide people to the interpretation you wish
    them to have.
  2. Experts don’t like the thought of selling ideas. Many experts find the whole notion of
    selling and persuasion distasteful and unprofessional. But persuasion is at the very heart of
    healthy interpersonal relationships. Professionals who believe they have a product or service of
    genuine benefit to their prospects should feel a sense of obligation to persuade them to
    become clients. Persuasion is only a tool. Whether it’s employed ethically depends on how a
    person uses it.
  3. Experts often focus on the message at the expense of the listeners. The
    most successful communication focuses on the listener rather than the speaker or the message.
    Message-centered communication tends toward the very technical, contains lots of information
    and revolves around the activity of communication rather than the results you can achieve from
    it. It’s important to consider the frame of reference, background and knowledge so you can
    adapt your message to specific listeners.
  4. Experts often think you can beat someone into mental submission with the stick
    of logic. People are persuaded through different means including logic, emotion and
    credibility. Experts often focus heavily on data and statistics even though an individual may be
    more persuaded by emotion, narrative or case studies. Simply throwing more data at that
    individual won’t be any more effective. If you’re working with a hammer and it isn’t doing the
    job you want, don’t switch to a bigger hammer–use a different tool. The poet Samuel Butler
    wrote “He that complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” Piling logic on someone may
    gain you the appearance of agreement, but it probably won’t get you buy-in.
  5. Experts sometimes rely too much on their credentials and too little on providing
    proof of concept. Let’s face facts—the designations bestowed by professional organizations
    may be recognition for hard-won achievements within the organization, but mean little to most
    potential clients. When you have to spend time explaining how prestigious and exclusive the
    designation is, you’re engaged in obvious self-promotion. Demonstrate your experience and
    expertise through the use of examples, case studies and an understanding of client issues.
    Showing your expertise, rather than telling about it, will establish much greater believability.

In today’s economy, expertise is just the price of admission. Success depends on your ability to
communicate clearly and persuasively. Facts sometimes need explanation and ideas sometimes
need to be sold. The best communication is listener-focused and savvy professionals
understand that different things persuade different listeners. When you keep these points in
mind, you’ll be sure to add influence to your expertise.

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Why You Should Be Using Presentations As Marketing Tools

If you’re not using presentations to promote your expertise, you’re missing out on one of the
most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. Here are five reasons presentations
should be at the top of your list for marketing activities.

Presentations cast you in a different role. Instead of being seen as a salesperson or a
marketer, you’re seen as an expert and an advisor. Presentations provide an especially effective
way to make an audience aware of needs they might not even realize they have. With the right
presentation, you immediately establish your professional reputation and credibility. The well executed
presentation provides an excellent start to building the relationships crucial to
success in professional settings. Just as writing a book or article lends credibility to the author,
speaking helps you build your status as an expert. Presentations also provide a key differentiator.

The person who can clearly express her ideas is seen as more intelligent and
more self-confident than the person who stumbles through a disorganized presentation. When
you’re competing for business, a well-crafted presentation can give you the advantage because
better presenters are more persuasive. An architect once reported in one of my seminars that
he was sure his firm was more successful in getting business because the people they chose to
pitch for the business were highly trained in presentation skills.

Presentations allow you to customize your material. Unlike a print run of brochures or
postcards, you can customize your talk for each specific audience you address. You can take
advantage of a system of marketing that highlights the most effective approach for particular
audiences. You can choose when to use examples, case studies or testimonials that will appeal
to very specific audiences. Further, based on the feedback you receive, you can adjust your presentation
to create the most effective message.

Presentations create opportunities for audience interaction. The interactive nature of
presentations works to your advantage. In a face-to-face setting you can engage all three
channels of communication–the verbal, the visual and the vocal. When these three channels
reinforce one another, you’ll be even more effective in making your message heard. The
feedback you receive allows you to adjust your material and tackle objections as they arise.
Presentation audiences are not passive sponges soaking up your message. They are involved
participants in the communication process. Because they already want to be there, you can
focus on moving them further along the sales process. Imagine having 30 minutes to educate
your prospects about your services with no interruptions! Your audience often contains highly-qualified prospects. People choose to attend a sales presentation, product demonstration or continuing education course because there’s something of interest to them.

Presentations furnish high-value marketing at a lower cost. Compared to almost any
type of business development, presentations produce a higher ratio of qualified prospects. What would 30
minutes of airtime on a radio or television station cost? When you send out 5000 pieces of
direct mail, how much of it ends up in the recycle bin? Presentations require an investment in
time, but if you plan properly, you’ll receive a very high return on that investment. Presentations also lower the cost of acquiring new clients. This is the most direct way to be in
front of your prospects. When you speak to a group, you’ll often get three opportunities for
publicity. First, when the event is advertised, you can provide a brief synopsis of your talk for
brochures, mailers, the website and even a newsletter. Second, if your talk is newsworthy, you
may receive some media coverage during the event itself. Third, there is an opportunity for
exposure in a summary of the event for the organization’s newsletter or annual report.

Presentations offer prospects the opportunity to “try before they buy.” When
prospects see you present, they get an idea of what it would be like to work with you. They get
the opportunity to see your unique take on issues and to see how you interact with others.
Past experience always influences the choice of a professional service provider. Also, because
someone has seen you present, they often feel they can safely refer you to friends and

Granted, crafting an effective presentation takes planning, preparation and thought. It’s an
investment of your time, but one that can provide significant returns.

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

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How to Defuse a Hostile Audience

Deliver enough presentations and you’ll inevitably face an audience that is at best indifferent,
and at worst, hostile to your point of view. You’ll sometimes face the task of delivering bad
news or explaining an unpopular policy. When you’re prepared for such an eventuality, you’ll
be less likely to lose your cool and more successful in getting your message across.

The first step when facing such an audience is to choose the overall strategy to best manage
your position. Sometimes, an audience simply has false information that serves as the basis of
their hostility. In this case, choose a correcting strategy. Your goal is to set the record straight
without making people feel uniformed or inadequate. When extenuating circumstances require
an unpopular policy, let the audience know that some things are beyond your control. Be
careful when using this conditional strategy not to appear to be shirking responsibility. Often,
good reasons exist for a policy or position that is disliked. Help your audience understand how
it was developed and why it’s in place. This is a justification strategy. You can enlist audience
support by asking for alternatives and making a commitment to consider them. Finally, you or
your organization will sometimes be in the wrong and an apology is called for. When you offer
an apology, make certain your regret and sincerity are evident. Explain what you’ll do to keep
the same things from happening in the future.

Whichever strategy you choose, there are certain steps you can take that will help you maintain
control and keep the atmosphere civil.

  1. Separate the person from the issue.
    Make certain you are seen as a human being and not an extension of the
    contentious issue. Show the audience you have similar concerns.
  2. Ask them not to kill the messenger.
    Tell them why delivering the unpleasant news is your job, not your
    enjoyment. Let them know you realize you have an unpleasant task, but they
    deserve to be kept “in the loop.”
  3. Don’t argue with a heckler.
    A friend of mine was president of a private club. During the annual meetings,
    there was always a heckler or two. His strategy was to be polite. Eventually,
    the audience will take care of the heckler. It worked for him every time.
  4. Remain calm.
    People take their lead about how to react to a situation based on the person
    in the front of the room. If you are visibly angry, upset or defensive, they’ll
    take that as the appropriate mindset and behavior as well.
  5. Recognize concerns rather than trivializing them.
    Nothing will make an audience turn against you faster than the perception
    you are trivializing or making light of something important to them.
  6. Use objective evidence rather than personal opinion.
    Instead of saying “I feel” or “I believe” say “Research shows us” or “The facts
    are these.” Position yourself as the conduit for bad news rather than the
    source of it.
  7. Remove anonymity. When an audience member asks a hostile question,
    ask him to identify himself, the organization he represents and to repeat the
    question. Without the protection of anonymity, people will be much more
    civil and moderate in their approach.
  8. Ask if there is something you or your organization has done to
    upset a person. The audience will appreciate your willingness to listen. You’re giving the
    person an opportunity to make a case. If a person is being unreasonable or
    over-emotional others will quickly see it. If not, the rest of the audience will
    appreciate your openness.
  9. Be certain to show the benefits of attending the presentation.
    Some of the most hostile audiences are people who attend compulsory
    training or briefings. They feel like hostages. The best way to win them over
    is to show them what they have to gain by being there.
  10. Defuse the emotional wording.
    Complex issues are often distilled into simplistic terms. For example, when
    you’re asked “Have you stopped polluting the environment yet,” rephrase to
    “the question was about our environmental policy.”

Initially hostile audiences don’t have to equate to unsuccessful presentations. Choose the
appropriate strategy, manage the atmosphere and maintain your composure. When you do,
you can often salvage the situation.

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Tips For Speaking To An International Audience

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

umbrellaI’ve had the opportunity to deliver, coach and witness numerous international presentations.
This experience all points to one lesson—in addition to the careful preparation required for
any presentation, those for an international audience demand extra attention.

In any presentation, one of the keys to success remains a focus on the audience’s frame of
reference. However, when that audience is international, you’ll need to step out of your own
frame of reference and focus on making the presentation salient for your target group. The
saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is excellent advice. The goal is to “localize.”
Here are five key areas where you can apply the localization principle:

  1. Language: Even if most of your audience speaks English, it may not be their first language or
    “mother tongue.” Avoid using cliché’s, slang and acronyms that may have meaning in your own
    culture, but not theirs. Remember that even in English-speaking countries, there are a number
    of differences. An American “elevator” is a “lift” in the UK. Spelling is also different. “Center” in
    the US is “centre” in British English. “Judgment” is “Judgement” and “organize” is “organise.”
    To make matters even more confusing, some countries in Southeast Asia use the American
    spellings while others use the British spellings. In the preparation for your presentation, find out
    what the accepted practice for your venue (place) is and adapt both oral and written materials.
  2. Measurement: I once attended a presentation in Manila where German publishing company
    presenters talked about cost-benefit analysis solely in terms of deutschmarks. It made little
    sense to the Filipinos, who had infrequent experience with this currency. It’s always a good idea
    to translate monetary units into the currency of the country you’re speaking in. This shows
    sensitivity to the culture as well as respect. If your audience will contain people of several
    nationalities, the US dollar and the Euro are widely understood and usually provide an effective
    way to express monetary units.
    Unlike the US, the rest of the world uses the metric system for measurement. Use the
    measurement system your audience understands. For example, if you’re talking about the
    amount of land needed to erect a new building, they will probably understand “4 hectares”
    more easily than “10 acres.” If you’re talking about distance, “480 kilometres” will make more
    sense than “300 miles.” The same is true with measuring temperature in Celsius rather than
    Fahrenheit. There are several good conversion programs you can download to your computer
    or handheld device. They make translating information into different frameworks quick and
    effective. You’ll find several at
  3. Visuals: Visuals often transcend cultural differences because they rely on proportion,
    balance and quantity. Use visuals that are truly “visual” in nature—don’t simply read from a series of text-heavy slides. The strategic use of visuals may also help compensate for language
    problems. Be sure to pay attention to details.
    At a seminar where the national flags of participants were to be displayed as a sign of courtesy,
    I noticed that the Indian flag was hanging upside-down. It was an easy mistake to make, since
    the tripartite colors of the Indian flag don’t make the correct orientation obvious. Had it not
    been corrected in time, it would have been a serious insult to the Indian participants. Small
    details can have big consequences.
  4. Equipment: Presenting in a different country can introduce a number of technical
    difficulties. There are different types of plugs, different voltage requirements, and different
    video formats. In the US, the standard video format is NTSC. In many countries in Asia, the
    format is PAL. If you are showing a video, it means you must have a monitor, VCR and
    videotape that are all compatible. Outside the US “multisystem” equipment that will play both
    formats is common, but request it before you arrive. Also, make certain you have the
    appropriate conversion plugs and adaptors for all your electrical equipment.
  5. Support Materials: Baseball, basketball and football may be fertile ground for sports
    analogies when speaking to an American audience, but soccer is probably more appropriate for
    many international audiences. Try to use examples that are geographically close, stories that
    will have cultural relevance and expert opinion that has credibility with your audience. Humor
    is a risky proposition even at home, so be doubly cautious when using it in front of an
    international audience. Be sure to test its effectiveness with a small sample before the

Remember, the more you are able to localize your presentation, the greater are your chances
for achieving results. When you focus on the audience’s own frame of reference, you are
acknowledging their importance. Apply that principle in these five areas and you’ll be on your
way to becoming an international success. For Internet resources that focus on cross-cultural
issues, go to

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Persuasion is a Process, Not a Magic Bullet

People often view persuasion as an on/off switch, rather than a process. Audiences aren’t
unconvinced one moment and suddenly committed the next because you’ve found a verbal
“magic bullet.” Moving them to action involves a gradual and sequential approach. You’ll be
more effective moving audiences to take action when you implement the principle of
“psychological progression.” This organizing principle divides a presentation into discrete steps
designed to move listeners toward a desired outcome. Each step serves a specific purpose in
the process of persuasion by creating a mental state in the minds of the audience. Here are the
five steps, along with an example key message for each.

Listen. A presenter’s first task involves rising above all the mental clutter in the audience’s
mind to be heard. Techniques to capture attention include humor, narratives, uniqueness, props
and provocative statements. I’m sorry to have to inform all of you that you’re dying. In fact, we all are.
It’s going to happen to everyone eventually. But I hope it doesn’t happen to you before you’ve planned
for it because I’m sincerely worried about your family.

Feel. Next, you must make them feel some pain or inadequacy in their current state of affairs.
This serves the purpose of  creating an appetite for resolution. Have you prepared for the unexpected? Could
your family go on living in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed? Would they be able to
attend to meet financial responsibilities, to get the education they need and be able to live free of worry,
stress and debt?

See: You must then satisfy the appetite with your recommendation for action. Your goal is to create congruence between their pain and your solution. In other words, you’re showing
them how to solve the problem you’ve made them aware of. When you’re prepared for the future,
I can guarantee you’ll never have to worry about your family being taken care of, ever. Our policies
solve exactly those kinds of problems.

Believe. They must also believe your solution will work. You create this belief through
examples, case studies and analogies. This step serves to remove any doubts or skepticism both
about your solution and about your personal ability to deliver it. For over 120 years, we’ve been
providing peace of mind and a sound plan for the future. And, in the tens of thousands of policies we’ve
written, we’ve never had a claim turned down. In fact, our customer satisfaction ratings are the highest
in the industry, bar none.

Act. The final step involves getting the audience to act on your recommendations. One of the
keys to an effective call to action is not overwhelming the audience with choice. The fewer options available, the more likely they are to act on one. You can get started immediately by going
to our Website and using the no obligation interactive calculator to customize a plan for your specific

Three keys  help increase your effectiveness: First, the order in which you introduce these
steps is crucial to their success. At each stage, people must experience the previous step
before moving on to the next. The effect is cumulative. Second, focus less on what you say and
more on the intellectual and emotional state you’re trying to create in the minds of the
audience. Third, don’t neglect the presentation of these messages. They must be delivered in a
way that reinforces your sincerity and authenticity. In addition to a higher conversion rate,
organizing your presentation on the principle of psychological progression guarantees prospects
will be more committed to action.

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How to Increase Your Credibility

When you first communicate with potential customers, they’re spending much of the time determining whether you’re a trustworthy person. At stake are your credibility and your chances for developing a client relationship. You’ll improve your odds by approaching such conversations strategically and avoiding these three “credibility killers.”

The first is illocutionary suicide—killing your chances of being believed by what you say. When you commit illocutionary suicide, people aren’t looking for proof of what you say; they’re looking for a way out of the conversation. Some common examples include: “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this” (I’m indiscreet) and “To be honest with you” (it’s the exception instead of the rule). In preparation for a communication workshop to a group of orthopedic surgeons last year, I sat in on some of their sessions, listening to the presentations. A doctor who had been very successful with a certain procedure began his presentation this way; “I don’t know why they’ve asked me to speak to you” (I don’t have anything valuable to say, so feel free to tune out). Avoid illocutionary suicide by thinking more carefully about the implications of your statements.

The second credibility killer stems from the use of clichés and “business speak.” Have you ever heard a person who really didn’t know a lot, but wanted to sound like he did? “We’ll need to revisit that offline in a face to face, so that we can ramp up the synergies that give us a strategic fit we can run up the flagpole. Because at the end of the day, we want cutting edge best practices that help us think outside the box. Then, we can bench mark our bottom-line. Now, let’s put that to bed and get back to square one with our bread and butter core competencies.” Those were a lot of words accounting for very little. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “Core Competency.” When I choose a professional, I don’t want to hear that she’s just competent. Competent means having just enough skill or knowing just enough to complete the assignment. That would be like going into a surgeon and asking how much do you know about surgery, and getting the response, “I know what tools make what cuts.” Competent is just over the line from incompetent. Doesn’t it make a better impression to talk about your expertise or your experience? Just like we’re told not to put new wine in old wineskins, don’t put your fresh ideas in worn-out phrases. Avoid using any jargon or “buzz words” you hear on a daily basis.

The third credibility killer is the canned “sales close” technique. They are so well-known, they even have names: the assumed close, the pen close, the puppy dog close, the urgency close and the big ego close are just a few examples. I realize urging you to avoid these tactics flies in the face of most sales training. But, too many of these approaches operate on the premise that you’re trying to trick someone. While they might work for telemarketers and transportation investment consultants (car salesman), they will be less effective with more sophisticated buyers who are in the market for professional services. A Roper Starch survey on how Americans communicate reported that only 18% felt comfortable communicating with someone who was trying to sell them something. A canned sales close follows a transaction model. In my experience, the most successful model is not transactional; it’s relational. People will be more comfortable communicating with you when you work at building a relationship instead of hoping for a stimulus-response.


We compete as much for the attention of our customers as we do for their time. When you avoid these credibility killers, you’ll be that much closer to standing apart from the crowd.

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We Communicate More Than Information

25148354_sAt the beginning of my seminars I ask participants to list some of the things they communicate. Inevitably, their responses include things such as “changes in the tax code, different investment products, how to choose a business structure, why disability insurance is necessary to protect
income, new compliance rules and regulatory changes.” I then point out that all the things they’ve listed have something in common—they’re examples of information. It becomes the first thing they focus on because that’s what they intend to communicate. But we communicate
much more than simply information. More careful attention to the larger aspects of the message will help ensure what we say is what people hear.

We communicate congruency between what we say and what people see. I recall attending a networking function where I met a woman attempting to drum up business for her professional services firm. After we were introduced, I asked her what she did. She proceeded to tell me about her business, about how she founded her business, about her  business marketing strategy and about her great communication skills. She stopped only because the
featured speaker was about to begin. He started his presentation by asking; “Do you know what the single most important thing in networking is?” The woman who’d been talking to me raised her hand and responded “Listening”! She lacked congruency between her actions and her
words. We’ll also lack congruency when we say a concept is easy to understand, but have a difficult time explaining it or say a policy is straightforward but list out several exceptions.

We communicate an attitude towards those we communicate with. On a trip back to
Houston from Singapore I had a stopover in Tokyo. Shortly after takeoff, I noticed the man
sitting next to me periodically taking a scented letter out of his jacket and holding it to his nose.
When he wasn’t busy enjoying the olfactory experience, he was reading the Bible and drinking
miniatures of Jack Daniels. I hypothesized that the three events were somehow related, but I
didn’t know if he was consoling himself over the separation from a significant other or was
afraid of flying and couldn’t decide whether love, prayer or inebriation would produce the best
results. After we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant assigned to our section came to
take drink orders. Of course the man sitting next to me ordered Jack Daniels. “No” was her
reply. “I don’t have any liquor on this cart. You’ll have to wait until I can get to one that does.”
About an hour later, I heard her corralling passengers in the main cabin. “We’re trying to serve
the meal. It’s very difficult to get these service trays down the aisle when so many of you are
moving around. If you want to eat, you need to sit down.” She was certainly conveying
information, but her attitude spoke loudest. What attitude comes through when
you present?

We communicate professionalism. Part of being professional involves keeping your cool
under taxing conditions. Another part involves how people see us treat others. In my search
for a new health insurance policy, I phoned some area agents to see what they had to offer. At
one office, the agent picked up the phone after the fifth ring, asked how he could help, listened
to my brief reply, then said; “Let me put you on hold while I get rid of this guy on the other
line.” Even though his policy was competitive, I didn’t give him my business because I thought
eventually, I would simply become the “guy on the other line.”
We communicate these aspects of our professional lives through our tone of voice, our word
choices and our actions. They’re part of the larger message we send. Experts must be careful
that the information they’re trying to communicate doesn’t become eclipsed by the other
aspects people see and hear.

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Presentations Benefit From A Process Approach

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

umbrellaAlthough many professional service providers find themselves reluctant to deliver them,
presentations remain one of the most effect business development tools available. Presentations
can help you increase your visibility by differentiating yourself from others and enhance your
credibility by clearly articulating your professionalism and expertise. If you’ll look at creating an
effective presentation as a logical process, you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t entail a Sisyphean
task each time you’re given the opportunity to be in front of prospects and clients. A process
has the advantages of being both learnable and repeatable, so once you master it, you can
streamline development time and increase the returns. Here’s a straightforward process for
designing, developing and delivering effective business presentations.

Step one involves creating the basis to develop an effective relationship with the target
audience. To fully comprehend what will motivate them to action, you must first discover any
beliefs, opinions or priorities that prevent them from accepting your call to action. Adapting your
material to their frame of reference means you’ll be more successful in developing messages
that resonate with their own experience. Demographics tell part of the story, but through
more active research such as interviews and surveys, you’ll reach a deeper level of

Step two focuses on creating clarity of purpose. What’s the one specific reason you’re giving
the presentation? What’s the response you expect? Avoid framing your expectations in terms
of intangibles such as “enhancing appreciation, creating awareness” and “motivating.” Desired
outcomes should focus on observable actions rather than mental states. That way, you’ll have a
better measure of your success.

Step three centers on creating structure. An effective introduction will overcome
preoccupation by capturing attention, overcome apathy by showing the audience what’s of
value for them and overcome uncertainty by laying out a roadmap of the presentation. The
body will contain key messages that support the strategic goal. An effective conclusion
provides a sense of psychological closure, reinforcement of the key messages and a call to
action. The clearer the structure, the more likely you are to move the audience to their

Step four demands creating trust and rapport so you can make a favorable impression and
give the audience reasons to believe you. We tend to like people who are similar to us, so
when you can show how much you have in common with your audience, chances are higher
they’ll trust you. Providing evidence for your key messages in the form of examples,
explanations, expert testimony, statistics and narratives will make them more credible. If
you’ve spent the time to thoroughly research your audience in step one, you’ll have a good idea
of which types of evidence they find persuasive. For some, an emotional proof point can be
every bit as effective as a logical one.

Step five involves creating influence through your choice of compelling language. Your
language creates the perspectives, involvement and mental states that move your audience
closer to action. You can make it more powerful by choosing active verbs and descriptive
nouns and avoiding cliché’s and wordiness. Realize that language choice is strategic rather than
merely stylistic. Creative metaphors can often provide the mental shift necessary to help
audiences see problems and solutions differently.

Step six requires creating the illustration of your ideas through appealing to the visual channel
of communication. Creating visuals late in the process helps ensure you don’t overemphasize
their importance. Unfortunately, far too many people begin writing their presentations by
jumping prematurely to this step and trying to dump information into a PowerPoint template.
A good analogy is the author of a novel, who, rather than beginning with plot lines, character
development and creating suspense, instead concentrates on font types, page layouts and the
look of the book cover. Effective visuals are those that can be clearly seen and quickly

Step seven completes the process by creating interest in the delivery of the presentation.
Good speaking shouldn’t draw attention to the speaker just as good acting doesn’t draw
attention to the actor. The best delivery resembles natural and authentic conversation. The
three biggest impediments to effective delivery are monotony—which leads to boredom,
vocalized pauses—which cause distraction and speaking too softly—which undermines

Creating your business presentations through a process approach will remove most of the
anxiety caused by treating presentations as an event. You’ll be much more focused on the
audience instead of yourself, so you’ll be less apprehensive. You’ll reduce preparation time
because with a clear sense of purpose, all subsequent decisions about what to include and how
to structure the material become clearer. Finally, you’ll be able to concentrate on getting the
business, instead of getting over with the presentation.

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How to Manage Conflict for Better Performing Teams

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.


We usually think about conflict as something to avoid at all costs. It’s true that conflict can cause stress, damage interpersonal relationships and serve as a barrier to productivity within a group. But conflict also has some positive consequences. For example, it can help to test faulty assumptions. If we overemphasize the importance of everyone “getting along,” we’re in danger of stifling any dissent and creating only an illusion of unanimity. In fact, the complete absence of conflict should concern us more.

We have to realize is that conflict is a normal function of human interaction. If your goal is to avoid conflict, you might as well try to avoid using nouns and verbs in sentences. Anytime people interact with one another, they’re eventually going to have interests that don’t coincide. When that happens, conflict emerges.

Avoidance is a strategy, but only one of many. Here are five different strategies for managing stress. Once you realize conflict is unavoidable, and that you have tools to manage it, you’ll be better prepared when it does surface.

Picture two axes forming a plot. The vertical axis represents your desire to meet your own needs, from low to high. The horizontal axis represents your desire to meet the needs of others. Depending on how much you emphasize each of those axes, different strategies will emerge.

Let’s start with the strategy of avoidance, since that’s the most common way of dealing with conflict. It’s an appropriate strategy when the issue isn’t very important to you or the other person. We often practice avoidance because we believe bringing the issue up will only cause more stress and tension in the relationship. There are times when that’s true and it’s just not worth it to pursue the matter. Unfortunately, this strategy is overused. We rely on it even when issues are important and when not discussing them may lead to poor decisions. Let’s look at other strategies that may be more appropriate and more productive in different situations.

When you have a high desire to meet your own needs and low desire to meet the needs of others, competition is the strategy that emerges for managing conflict. You see the situation as a zero-sum game. That is, each resource the other person receives means less for you. This is often the case when you’re dealing with limited budgets or limited staffing. Securing those limited resources becomes a high priority for you, so winning becomes all important. Unfortunately, very assertive individuals sometimes default to this strategy even when there aren’t limited resources because they’ve been successful with it in the past.

When the issue isn’t very important to you, but a pretty big deal to the other person, you may practice accommodation or adaptation. In other words, you let the person have what he wants. We often underestimate the significance someone attaches to a request. Accommodation is a way to recognize that person’s needs at little cost to your own. Accommodation is not an appropriate strategy when the conflict arises because of unprofessional behavior or poor interpersonal skills. Accommodating in these situations only reinforces the undesirable behavior and delays necessary change.

If the issue is a high priority for you and the other person, compromise or concession may be the most appropriate strategy. When conceding, each party recognizes they can’t have 100% of what they’re asking for, and agrees to give up something in exchange for something they value more. It involves self-sacrifice. Although we often think of compromise as the best way to resolve conflict, it automatically assumes that something has to be given up and that we leave less than fully satisfied.

That brings me to the fifth strategy, cooperation. Cooperation is the effort to find a win-win solution, one that benefits both parties in the conflict. It is a strategy that seeks your own maximum gain while recognizing the needs of the other and searching for solutions that satisfy both. As the name implies, this strategy depends on actively engaging the other party to find a common solution.

Which of these strategies is the best for dealing with conflict? It depends. In the case of very limited resources, competition may be your only choice. If you can grant someone’s request at very little cost to you, accommodation may be the most appropriate strategy. My goal isn’t to give you one blunt instrument to deal with conflict. It’s to give you a toolbox full of strategies; one that gives you choices and adaptability.

Please remember that conflict is inevitable and that it can serve a positive function. With these facts in mind, you’ll realize that you’re much better off managing conflict than trying to avoid it every time.

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Panel Presentations Work Best with Respect

Using presentations as part of your business development is a cost effective and high impact strategy to increase your visibility and enhance your credibility within your target market. One of the most productive applications of this strategy is presenting on an expert panel organized by a trade or professional organization. After all, such an appearance means you’ve literally been christened an “expert.” While the opportunity is rich in potential, speaking as part of a panel presents its own set of challenges. Foremost is the fact that many things are out of your control. You’ll have very little input on the room setup and seating arrangements. It’s unlikely you’ll know what the other panelists plan to say or if they might even contradict your own position. If you follow another presenter the moderator allows to exceed her time, you’ll have to quickly adapt your presentation. However, even after weighing all the potential challenges, it’s usually a good idea to accept the invitation if it puts you in front of your potential clients. Appearing on a panel with high-profile speakers will enhance your own credibility.

Gather as much information as possible about the panel and your specific role on it. Find out who else will be speaking and in what order. How long will you have to speak? What other events will immediately precede and follow your presentation? What Audio / Visual equipment is available for you to use? Will each of the speakers have a microphone, or will you have to share one? Remember the classic Aretha Franklin song Respect? When you deliver your panel presentation, you’ll increase your chances of success if you practice the three R’s–Respect the time, Respect the other panel members and Respect the audience.

Respect time

Your moderator or panel organizer should provide you with your time guidelines. Ask them to be specific. If you have twenty minutes to present, should you speak for the entire twenty minutes or reserve some time for questions? Be clear about the expectations. Adhere to the guidelines you’re given. If your standard presentation doesn’t fit within those parameters, adapt it. A speaker who goes overtime can throw an entire day’s schedule off. Audience members generally expect that time will be divided equally among different speakers. When you exceed your share of time, they stop listening and start wondering when you’re going to conclude. Recognize also that panel moderators span the entire range of enforcement from “Time Authoritarians” (who will begin passing notes to the offending speaker or gesticulate obnoxiously once the speaker has exceeded his allotted time by just thirty seconds) to “Time Wimps” (who, out of a sense of deference to the speaker, will refuse to intervene no matter how egregiously the offending speaker drones on). Your best bet lies in preparing for both extremes and neither materializes.

Respect the other panel members

Organizers sometimes invite speakers with opposing views to create interest or controversy. When you’re faced with such a situation, you’ll gain little by trying to prove the other speaker is wrong or by trying to make him look bad. Audiences tend to be quite unforgiving of any behavior that could be interpreted as bullying. Some people have a habit of interrupting others before they’ve finished speaking. The intention may be to demonstrate passionate advocacy for their cause, but audiences often construe the behavior as rudeness. Keep fully engaged with the rest of the panel when you’re not speaking—that means no texting or checking emails on your Blackberry. Maintain awareness of your nonverbal behaviors as well. You need to project an impression of interest and active listening.

Respect the audience

Forget the saying “There’s safety in numbers.” Audience members tend to focus on individual speakers rather than the panel as a whole. Remember to maintain eye contact and look directly at individuals when answering their questions. When a question is so specific it has little relevance to the majority of the audience, provide a brief response, then offer to follow up with the individual after the presentations conclude. You’ll quickly lose interest if people think the information isn’t pertinent to them. Finally, remember that panel presentations typically take place in larger venues. That means you’ll need to adapt any visuals so everyone in the room easily sees them.

Confucius writes “Respect yourself and others will respect you.” While great advice in general, it’s particularly apt in the context of panel presentations.

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