Knowledge is power when presenting

by Peter Watts

When we make a presentation we occupy the space defined by Peter Drucker as that of a “Knowledge Worker”, someone who “works primarily with information”.

Our goal is to inform and persuade. Information is the bedrock of our ability to do that. It’s essential that as presenters we continually feed the mind in the same way we would feed the body.

We need to achieve three goals when delivering knowledge to an audience. We must enable them to: understand, remember, and believe

To achieve this requires a broader awareness of our subject than merely the facts behind the case. Although important foundations, facts alone seldom achieve a winning presentation.

The important knowledge, that is often neglected, is about the wider world around the product or cause; information that brings color and interest. Mainstream media once provided a rich source but today, chasing the quickest buck at the lowest cost, most media outlets offer a diet of celebrity-drenched trivia.

To be a successful presenter requires us to take control of knowledge-gathering to maintain our information libraries. What outlets do you actively follow in order to keep your mind fed?

The internet, and the fast developing channels of Social Media, are the most incredible source of quality information if you seek it out. Whatever your subject might be, there will be specialist news outlets, e-zines, interest groups, bloggers, and information aggregators. Let’s not forget Twitter. It can take a while to master, but well managed Twitter lists of quality Tweeters can rapidly become an incredible data source.

Make it your mission to find new quality information sources every month and then follow those sources to see where they lead you.

Knowledge is power. It’s also depth, color, interest, and background, all of which we need to be able to call upon if we are to inspire our audiences.

“understand, remember, and believe.”

Competitive Presentations That Don’t Present The Competition

by Peter Watts

I want to emphasize that while negative advertising works in politics, it seldom works in product sales

In his copywriting and direct marketing blog, Dien Rieck points out an important point to keep in mind when presenting.

Don’t knock the competition!

Customers are there to hear you present about your product, not about someone else’s. Attacking competitors comes across as arrogant and unethical, and frequently leads to bite-backs from the audience.

So, how to bring across your product’s advantages over “Brand X” if you can’t mention them by name?

Where you have a strong competitor that you want to position your product favorably against, have the habit of thinking about your presentation from two dimensions:

Strengths

  • How is my product better than the competitor?

Weaknesses

  • Where is the competitor better than me?

Ensure that every point within the presentation points to your strengths in ways that make them truly standout for the audience. Link the strengths to the customer’s needs and demonstrate them clearly. If that strength also happens to be one of your differential advantages, put it front and center of the presentation.

How about the weaknesses?

If there are known weaknesses in your product that you feel your competitor might seek to exploit, then your task is to counter-balance them. Let’s take a mobile phone as an example. Maybe your competitor has a significantly bigger screen than you do, and you believe that this might be where they pitch their presentation; all the lovely apps and toys that the customer could run.

What are the counter-measures for this? One could be the ungainly weight and size of their product due to that larger screen. The competitor will also most probably suffer from a reduced battery life, unless of course the bigger panel is accompanied by a bigger battery, which equals even more bulk and weight! If this is the case, make sure you have sections in your presentation that deal with how essential a long battery life is for the mobile user. Without long-battery life you are forced to carry extra power chords or batteries, adding even more to size and weight.

Paint a vivid picture of how your product allows the mobile user to have an easy life on the road, not having to worry about re-charging and with a product perfectly designed to sit easily in the pocket.

Do a good job, and the customer will value your benefit of long battery life and easy mobility, thereby discounting the advantage of your competitor.

By using powerful positives to position your products strengths, and then well chosen counter-measures to offset it’s weaknesses, you can create a highly targeted competitive presentation, without once mentioning the competition!

Simple preparation rituals can power presentation energy

How do you psyche yourself up to your best achievement levels?

by Peter Watts

If you’re Rafael Nadal, about to win your sixth French Open tennis tournament, then the process looks a little like this:

  1. Push hair behind left ear
  2. Push hair behind right ear
  3. Knock heel of left shoe with tennis racket
  4. Knock heel of right show with tennis racket
  5. Scuff three steps sideways to the left along the back-court line
  6. Scuff three steps sideways to the right along the back-court line
  7. SERVE!

Athletes and sports-teams all have their own unique pre-performance rituals that they repeat before that first all important move onto the field.

For some, like the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team, those rituals are dramatically overt, designed to both psyche the athlete and to intimidate the competition. For others, like Nadal, they are simply habitual actions that have become mentally linked to success.

Presenting is a performance sport. You too are on the field before an audience; You too have adrenalin flowing as if entering the Olympics; You too can benefit from pre-performance rituals.

Rituals connect you to a feeling of success. I know many presenters who have mantras that they quietly repeat to themselves, or use specific breathing techniques to get into the zone. I myself have the habit of quietly placing together my thumb, index finger, and middle finger in an accupressure position for a few quiet seconds before I present. Over years of repetition I now associate this simple hand movement with entering my calm-zone ahead of speaking. Nobody can see me do it, and the ritual’s associative power puts me exactly where I need to be before I go onstage.

Avoid rituals that rely on external objects such as the famous “lucky tie”. Think for example of the stories we hear about leading singers who couldn’t perform because there weren’t exactly five pink carnations to the left of their dressing room mirror, or someone forgot to remove the blue M&M’s from the candy bowl. These rituals fail because they rely on external objects or other people.

The guidelines for effective pre-presentation rituals are simple:

  • based on affirmations, minute gestures, breathing techniques, or visualizations that you can always summon when needed.
  • can be performed quietly and immediately without the outside world being aware of them
  • quick and simple, taking no longer than 3 – 5 seconds
  • effective in bringing you to the required performance state for the task at hand

If you don’t already have a pre-performance ritual of your own, try experimenting. The best time to adopt one is immediately after a successful presentation. In that moment when you are experiencing the endorphin rush of success, try to anchor that wonderful sensation with your own conscious ritual. Repeat the process at a later time, and you’ll feel the echo of the endorphins once again powering through your system and powering you out onto the stage.

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