Articles

Adding Influence to Expertise

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

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 are less successful than they could be 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 four root causes of the curse of expertise: Read the article

Back To The Basics For a Solid Presentation

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

We’ve all heard the proposition that the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) form the basis for a solid education.  Proponents of this approach argue school curriculums have become cluttered with extraneous courses and activities at the expense of the fundamentals. The result they say, is that we graduate students without even minimal levels of competency. We’d benefit from looking at the basis for a solid presentation as well.  Today’s presentation technology that includes whiz bang special effects, the ability to incorporate multimedia elements into electronic slide shows and a plethora of font types, sizes and colors is producing more and more presentations that neglect the fundamentals by focusing too much on the superfluous.   Read the article

Persuasion is a Process, not a Magic Bullet

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

People often forget that persuasion is a process rather than an on/off switch. 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 much more effective persuading prospects 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.   Read the article

Sell Before You Tell

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”  However, you’ll never be successful teaching him how to, until he understands why he’d “want to.”  Business development operates the same way. Presenters sometimes jump ahead of that “want to” phase and spend their time simply talking about the best way to implement their service before making the case why it’s beneficial.  They’ve made the mistake of telling, before selling prospects on the idea.  In their zeal to provide information and share their expertise, they’ve neglected the fact that prospects must first be persuaded, before they’re instructed.  Read the article

How to Make Complex Ideas Understood

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

There’s no reason presentations, even highly technical presentations, have to put audiences to sleep or leave them utterly confused. Strategically placing examples throughout your presentation both reinforces your key messages and adds life to the material. Statistics and technical data are often the first choice for supporting materials, but their use in presentations is like adding spice to food. Some adds flavor, but too much is overwhelming. You don’t want your presentation to become a mere “infodump.” The next time you’re designing a presentation, consider using one of these five “proof points” that add a human touch and help complex ideas be more easily understood. Read the article

And That Concludes

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

Have you ever witnessed a speaker end a presentation by “telegraphing” the conclusion with a phrase such as “Thank you” or “That concludes my presentation”? Speakers who rely on such phrases to trigger audience applause are like the driver who stops not because he’s reached his destination, but because he’s run out of gas. Effective presentations don’t simply end. Instead, they conclude by creating intellectual reinforcement, psychological closure and a behavioral roadmap. Read the article

How to Deal With a Hostile Audience

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

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. Read the article

Perils of Audience Interaction

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

Advice about effective presentations usually includes some ideas about how to involve your audience. Presentations with high levels of interactivity can certainly benefit from increased audience retention, greater understanding and more commitment to action—but only if you involve them in the right way and understand the potential perils.  Unfortunately, many techniques to add interaction backfire because they make the audience feel uncomfortable, alienated or patronized. Here are the three cardinal sins of audience interactivity. Read the article

7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Technology

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

Presenters today tend to rely heavily on the latest technology to deliver their message.  Overhead projectors have joined the Jurassic age, replaced by slick notebook computers and multimedia projectors.  While this new technology has the potential to enhance your presentations, it also carries its own risks.  Remember Murphy’s Law? “Things will go wrong in any given situation if you give them a chance” holds especially true for gadgets and gizmos during a presentation.  You can keep an already stressful situation from worsening if you’ll avoid these 7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Technology. Read the article

Lost in Translation

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

At initial meetings, prospects will only have a few moments to size you up.  After looking at how you’re dressed and how you carry yourself, the next bit of data they’ll use to make judgments about you is what you say. Prospects use your interactions as a barometer of what they can expect from you.  Consequently, your language choices take on a significance that transcends the moment. Even interactions that occur much later will be filtered through that initial perception. Read the article

Tuning in to the Generational Zeitgeist

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

While it’s always been true that audiences respond best when your presentation is tuned into their radio station WIIFT (What’s In It For Them), younger audiences present an increasingly challenging demographic for today’s presenters. A generational zeitgeist now defines many audiences you may find yourself presenting to.  With four generations (baby boomers, generation X, generation Y and millennials) present among the working population, it becomes increasingly difficult to adapt messages to generationally diverse audiences. Success in presenting to these audiences will depend largely on your ability to adapt your messages to their frame of reference. Read the article

How To Create More Value in Your Presentations

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

In challenging economic times, buyers look for value.  The more you provide, the more likely you are to become the provider of choice.  Presentations offer you excellent opportunities to provide that value at different stages of the business development cycle. Here are five ways to create more value in your presentations. Read the article

How To Speak The Language of Influence

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

The word “persuasion” has gained a reputation it doesn’t deserve.  Many tend to associate it with advertising, propaganda or downright manipulation. On the contrary, it forms the very foundation of an ethical sales process. It’s one of the most useful tools available for agents to help prospects understand the benefits of their products. You’ll be much more effective with sales if you’ll take the time to learn the three paths to persuasion, some strategies about when to use each and some techniques that will make you more effective. Read the article

Tips For Speaking To An International Audience

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

I’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: Read the article

Lose Less Business With Better Presentation Skills

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

Presentations offer a variety of benefits as a prospecting tool.  They’re low-cost, they position you as an advisor rather than as a salesperson and they can be highly-leveraged. But when delivered without a carefully thought out strategy, presentations can actually damage your credibility with prospects.  Here are some common mistakes to avoid that will help you lose less business. Read the article

Why You Should Be Using Presentations As Marketing Tools

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

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. Consider these reasons why presentations should be at the top of your list for marketing activities. Read the article

We Communicate More Than Information

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

At 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. Read the article

Tips For Better Panel Presentations

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

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. Read the article

Better Presentations With A Process Approach

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

Although 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. Read the article

Follow These Guidelines To Make Your Language Stick

by Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D.

When you give a presentation, the verbal channel of communication refers to the words you use to communicate your message.  We all hope our ideas “stick” with the audience.  We want the audience to understand and act upon them. To make your language “stick”, it needs to be not only clear, but powerful as well. Follow these guidelines to add clarity and force to your language. Read the article

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