Sales arguments that build presentations

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by Peter Watts

At the core of a sales presentation are logical arguments that lay out why your product benefits the customer.

Those sales arguments need the force of mathematical logic.

1 + 2 = 3

The best way that I can demonstrate the two routes to achieving this sort of math-magic is by sharing with you the slogan from a TV commercial that I often hear when I’m traveling in the Middle East. It’s for a tax planning company. Their sales argument is:

“Successful SME’s value our tax advice,

If you’re a successful SME

You’ll want our tax advice today”

Approach #1: The syllogism

That argument above is in a structure called a syllogism. It works in three parts:

  • Premise 1: “Successful SME’s value our tax advice.”
  • Premise 2: “You’re a successful SME”
  • therefore Conclusion 3: “You’ll want our tax advice.”

1 + 2 = 3

Whenever I hear that commercial, I want to vault across my hotel room to change the channel. It grates on my every mental synapse. Why? Because the argument is so damned obvious. The sales message is being laid-on with a trowel and I resent being treated like a child.

That’s the problem with syllogisms. They attempt to do all the thinking for the customer, and in the process treat them as idiots.

Approach #2: The enthymeme

An enthymeme is a syllogism with a bit chopped-off. Rather than pureeing your sales argument in the liquidizer and then spoon-feeding it to the audience as if they were enfeebled, an enthymeme asks the audience to do a little of the chewing for themselves. Result: better digestion.

Let’s go back to the math:

1 + 2 = 3

Let’s say that entire sum represents a syllogism. It’s all laid out for you on the page.

Now I’m going to take away a number:

1 + ? = 3

Within moments you work out that ? = 2

That’s an enthymeme. The audience is invited to deduce the missing piece of the argument, and therefore to feel just that little bit clever about themselves!

How to apply this to sales-world?

Your first base, is to start with a full-scale syllogism. Imagine that your company is renowned for environmental business practice. You win prizes for it. The syllogism for the customer presentation might look a little like this:

Premise 1: “Responsible organizations see protecting the environment as important”

Premise 2: “You are a responsible organisation”

Conclusion 3: “Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

So far, so cheesy. Well, it’s a syllogism! 1 + 2 = 3

Now let’s create a sales presentation enthymeme by chopping out sections:

Enthymeme A: ? + 2 = 3

“As a responsible organization, protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and concludes: “Responsible organizations seek to protect the environment”

Enthymeme B: 1 + ? = 3

“All responsible organisations seek to protect the environment. Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and flatteringly concludes: “We are a responsible organization.”

These little mini-structures might be sounding vaguely familiar to you. If they are then it’s because you’re recognizing the pattern from some of the better examples of television advertising. Advertisers who want to sell products recognize that by coding sales arguments as enthymemes, they are more likely to win over the audience.

That same coding will work for you. Sales presentation arguments are at their most persuasive when we invite the customer to be involved.

London 2012. Olympic Opening Ceremony. 7 points for presenters

by Peter Watts

What a show! London 2012 delivered the opening of the 30th Olympic Games, and with it’s magnificent Opening Ceremony, also demonstrated seven olympic sized ideas for building presentations:

1. Appeal to history

At the heart of history, lies the art of telling a story. As soon as you go historical, you go narrative, and you do it in a way that naturally structures into a beginning, a middle, and an end.

  • Here’s where you’ve come from
  • Here’s where you are
  • Here’s where you’re going (with our help ofcourse!)

2. Put your strongest assets front and rear

Hit the audience hardest with your hottest assets. Take a look at last night; Paul McCartney, David Beckham, Rowan Atkinson, and James Bond parachuting in with the Queen (was it just me or did her Majesty look a tiny bit unamused at being flung in effigy out of a helicopter?).

Put heavy hitters first and last to create a powerful opening and a memorable conclusion.

Anything likely to puzzle, put it in the middle. (Mary Poppins v. Lord Voldemort. Really?)

3. Beware the moaning Minnie

Or in this case, it was a moaning Mitt during the #RomneyShambles! Whenever you attempt something new, grand, or adventurous, there will always be at least one whinging voice off-stage warning about what went wrong when they tried to do the same thing years ago.

Whenever you hear Moaning Mitt, do as David Cameron and Boris Johnson did; give them a slap, and ignore them.

4. And by the way, comparisons don’t count

How will the London Olympics compare to Beijing in 2008, or to Sydney in 2000?

Who cares!

Never worry about how you will appear when compared to someone else. They will have had their strengths, you will have your strengths. They are going to be different.

Comparisons are bogus. Never let them worry you.

5. Keep the visuals iconic

Good visuals carry instant meaning. If they need to be explained, they failed.

I was watching the show sitting in a restaurant in Connecticut, where the inevitable ceiling mounted TV peered down at us from behind the bar. The sound was off yet whenever someone glanced upwards to see what was happening, they could understand the visual narratives instantly.

In fact, the only bit that did have them scratching their heads was Mary Poppins v. Voldemort, but as we’ve already said; that was in the middle!

6. Sometimes be ironic

Throughout the pageantry, I did detect the slightest undercurrent of an ironic British raspberry being blown at the fat-cats and sponsors. The people celebrated throughout the pageantry weren’t the well heeled sponsors limo-whisked down express traffic lanes to private entrances and VIP seating.

The people celebrated were villagers, workers, and protestors. There was almost a tone of Occupy Wall Street, with the 99% represented by tableaux. Even socialized medicine was celebrated in a paean to the National Health Service. It was all beautifully below the radar; just a little bit tongue in cheek and leading directly to point number seven:

7. Know who hands out the medals

Who is going to judge you afterwards and hand out the medals? In the case of the Brits, is it the IOC or the sponsors? No it most certainly isn’t. It’s the viewing audience, and in particular for the UK government, it’s all those people who have paid for the event out of their tax money and get to vote again in two years time (or maybe even sooner!)

That’s why the opening appeared to some commentators to be “quirky and odd”. Brits ARE quirky and odd. If you’re trying to appeal to quirky and odd British voters then quirky and odd wins hands down.

Who else might the host country be looking to for a gold? How about the world’s tourists. Quirky and odd, tea and the Queen, are the comfortingly cozy metaphors that sell-out Japanese package-tours to the British Isles.

Quirky and odd demonstrated superb understanding of the UK’s true target market, and of who will be handing out the real prizes later.

A pageant, with a point, that persuaded the audience to stay tuned, and that will deliver long-term advantages.

What more could you want in a successful presentation, or Olympic Ceremony!

7 steps to beating presentation procrastination

Seven simple ideas to beat procrastination. Don’t read later. Read now!

by Peter Watts

Procrastination is putting off a task we don’t want to do today, so that it can become a task we want to do even less tomorrow. Creating the opportunity to speak in public for example.

Ask any accomplished presenter and they will say that the sure-fire way to becoming accomplished is to get out there and practice, as often as possible. Presentations seldom seek us out.  To win those opportunities we have to create them, and that’s often a task we feel we can safely shelve for another day.

The first step to beating procrastination is to recognize that WE are the only people standing in the way of making the future happen.

Once that step is taken, here is the plan for beating the procrastination cycle:

  • Break the challenge down into logical tasks; Task one, task two, task three, and so forth. Task one for example, might be creating a list of your possible opportunities to speak. Task two might be building a list of the people you need to contact. Create a road map of those steps, and set out on them one by one. Assign deadlines for when tasks will be accomplished.
  • Starting out on the task can feel like the hardest part. As the Chinese saying goes: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”  Take that first foot-step and you’ll find that the second becomes easier. Movement builds momentum.
  • Seek out a mentor, someone who understands your goals and would be willing to nudge and nag you towards success.
  • Schedule tasks for appropriate times of the day. For example, gathering materials or contact names might be something you can do in low-energy moments after lunch, while creative work is better done while you are fresh in the morning.
  • Set out the tools. I personally procrastinate about building PowerPoint presentations, but if a client wants me to supply one, then my first step is to simply open PowerPoint on my laptop. If I don’t do this, it’s amazing how many other things I’ll be able to find to do instead, such as checking email. Once PowerPoint is open though, I’ve started the task, and design time is more likely to follow.
  • Celebrate your successes along each step. Rewards are a great way to get yourself doing something you don’t want to do. What can you treat yourself to as a reward for getting each task done?

Procrastination is the force that holds us back. Beat procrastination, and wonderful things are free to happen.

Stories, anecdotes, and diversions

by Peter Watts

Anecdotes, stories, and diversions bring a presentation to life.

When we add something personal to a presentation, it is a gift from ourselves to the audience. It paints colour into our words, sharing our passion for the subject.

The secret is to not leave the anecdote to chance. Plan it carefully. Know at what point you are going to introduce it, and most importantly, ensure you know how to link back into the presentation afterwards.

This week I have had the privilege of working in Istanbul, and the even greater privilege of having a small portion of leisure time. During that day off, I found myself walking down one of the city’s principal streets.

All the usual suspects were there. Well known designer brands sat beside Starbucks outlets. Recognition of familiar branding gave me a feeling of being somewhere I knew. Rather like the main theme of a presentation it was easy to navigate.

Numerous smaller streets sat between the western chains. I took a diversion, and headed down one.

Familiar stores were replaced by street markets. The area around me had come to life. THIS was Istanbul. Like a good story or anecdote, my diversion bought me not just the colors of Istanbul, but it’s sounds, and smells, and textures, and tastes. All the senses engaged at once in a full memory locking experience.

I so much enjoyed my diversion, that I wandered further, following the twists and turns. My initial experience so pleasant that I was encouraged to wander deeper.

When we tell a story, the audience sits forward. Interest peeks. We are encouraged to keep going.

Before long, I became aware that the streets were becoming distinctly narrower and more neglected. Time to go back. The problem was that as I traced what I thought was my route back to the street, I realized that I was going in circles. I had passed the same fabric store three times. The store keeper was starting to recognize me. Hopelessly “lost tourist” had to be scrawled all over me.

If we haven’t planned a story thoroughly, before we know it, the walls can start closing in, and we struggle to find our way back to the main theme in a way that the audience start to recognize as a “lost presenter”!

I made it back to that main thoroughfare, and resumed my walk. But I was so disoriented by this point that I started walking in the wrong direction, and five minutes later found myself back-tracking in the heat over places I had already been.

If we become lost in an anecdote, we are so relieved to rejoin our main thread that we then become lost all over again.

My detour into the backstreets of Istanbul was the most memorable part of my day, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In just the same way, a well placed story will be the most memorable part of your presentation.

For it to be a success though, make sure that you know how far into it you want to go, and have a clear idea of how to find your way back out.

The Power-Cut Presenter

by Peter Watts

In the second that the lights pop there is a moment of perfect puzzled peace.

Have you ever noticed? When the power cut hits and the lights all fail, everybody freezes. The only movement is that of heads twitching upward, sharply looking for the lights.

The same thing happens when the bulb in the projector decides to pop. Everybody freezes for just a second. They then look to the projector, and next they look to you, the presenter.

What do you do next?

I was recently at a presentation given by a Chief Operating Officer to 500 executive staff.

45 seconds into the presentation there was a pop. And smoke. Blown bulb.

Here’s how the presenter handled it.

He smiled, shrugged, and joked “well, that would happen to me wouldn’t it.”

The audience laughed. They laughed not at the joke, and not because of the speaker’s senior rank. They laughed in empathy. Techno-failure in front of such a large audience. What a nightmare.

Next, he went to the podium, collected a sheet of PowerPoint print-outs of his slides, and slipped seldom publicly seen reading glasses onto his nose. “My secretary always makes me bring these print-outs with me. This time I’m glad she did.”

His secretary had been absolutely right.

For every presentation, always have an emergency back-up script hidden away somewhere.It could be on cue cards,it could be a print-out of your slides,it could even be written on a MindMap.

Even when we intimately know a presentation, if the unexpected happens it can throw us off our game. A paper reminder of our presentation is all we need to put us back on track.

In the event, just knowing those notes were there proved to be enough. Once back into his stride, the COO could deliver the presentation as if the projector had never failed.

The reading glasses came back off his nose, and quitting the stage he came down to the level where the audience were seated. He then sat down on the edge of the stage, and spoke from there instead.

When using PowerPoint you are often obliged to present in a specific style.
When you no longer have to use (or can use!) PowerPoint, you are no longer obliged to present from anywhere near that big bad screen.
Change the vibe. Get closer to your audience.

In this little case study example, let me conclude by saying that many in the audience agreed this was the best presentation their COO had ever given. We saw his warmth, his humanity. Removed from electronics both presenter and message were able to become at once, more intimate.

The COO had become a Power-Cut Presenter.

He embraced the moment and with the aid of a small printed safety net and a willingness to adapt, connected with the audience in a way he never had before.

Confidence tricks: The thawed paws pause

A warming NLP recipe for presentation confidence

by Peter Watts

Hold a warm cup of tea. Or coffee. Or hot chocolate. It doesn’t matter. Hold a warm cup, and as you savor the heat radiating into your hands, a wonderful sense of calm comes with it.

Do this shortly before a presentation and you’ll get exactly the same reaction. Stress seems to mysteriously drain out of you.

There is a whole lexicon of words such as “toasty” that evoke the pleasure of warm hands and feet, and there is a physiological reason why we’ve developed them.

When we become nervous about something, presenting for example, one of the first physical symptoms is cold hands. As we enter fight or flight, our body diverts blood flow away from extremities such as the hands, and redirects it to the vital organs of the core. Because of this we develop the cold clammy hand sensation associated with presentation nerves.

This sets off a chain reaction. Our subconscious mind says to itself “Hello. I appear to have cold hands right now. I get cold hands when I’m nervous. Therefore I must be nervous, and being aware of that fact, am going to become even more nervous.”

If cold hands represent a state of nervous tension, then warm hands represent the exact opposite: relaxation. When we have warm hands, the mind associates this with a state of calm and safety, hence all the snuggle type language we have referring to the pleasantness of warm paws.

Knowing this, we can use a simple technique that I call “The Thawed Paws Pause” to trick our mental wiring into calmness pre-presentation.

Next time you are going to present, accept the offer of a hot drink. The contents of the cup are of secondary importance, but if you have a choice, then my recommendation would be something that is caffeine-free.

As you await your time to present, hold the cup and concentrate your mind on that lovely warmth entering your hands. Your mind is about to get a surprise, in that your internal dialogue is going to go something like this:

“I’m about to make a presentation. I get stressed when I make presentations, and when I get stressed I have cold hands, but hang on a moment! I have warm hands! When I get stressed I have cold hands, but right now I appear to have warm hands! Ah, I therefore can’t be stressed.”

As your subconscious plays with this concept, the body starts to stand down some of the reactions we associate with presentation nerves, and a degree of those stage-fright jitters slip away.

It’s a simple trick, and one of the earliest I was taught when I first started presenting.

Next time you feel stressed or nervous, check the temperature of your hands. Icy? Take a moment to hold a warm cup. Feel tension melt into your thawed paws pause.

For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts:

Unaccustomed as I ham

Rejoice, for the season of the office party is upon us

by Peter Watts

You’re used to presenting right? These are folks you work with every day right? What can go wrong when it comes time for you to stand up and….. “say a few words”?

Lots!

Informal social speeches can prove slippery beasts. Unaccustomed, we attempt light-hearted, delivered under the influence of alcohol. A cringe-inducing serving of Christmas ham is the unintended result.

The Holidays are memorable, staff parties are memorable, and your speech is the keynote party address. It needs to be memorable too, and for the right reasons.

Here’s the instant guide to the perfect four-minute ham-free party speech.

  • Control for your comfort zone. Speak early, before noise or alcohol levels have the chance to rise
  • Keep it short
  • Please, no PowerPoint
  • If joke-telling is not what you’re known for, avoid!
  • Plan, practice, & memorise

The Perfect Office Party Speech:

The goal:

  • Generate team-wide feel-good about success achieved in the past year
  • Spread the love, showing how everyone contributed to that success
  • Project success forward into the year to come

Ingredients:

One team triumph from the year just passed. Of the achievements your team produced, which are you proudest of? It could be new contract, a product launch, a project completed, or a challenge met.

The chosen triumph must allow glory to be spread. Make sure it involved teamwork. Remember: spread the love!

Process and Timings:


Step One:
Open with the significance of your chosen triumph. Why are you proud of it?
60 seconds

Step Two:
Detail three examples of how everyone worked together to achieve that triumph. If your party includes staff family members, be sure to include them too.
Keep it short and punchy.
90 seconds

Step Three:
Conclude by projecting forward into next year. Talk about the next challenge on the horizon and how this year’s triumph is a perfect spring-board.
60 seconds

Step Four:
The call-to-action: “Ladies and Gentlemen…. the bar is open. Enjoy!”
30 seconds

Receive applause. Bask in goodwill. You just made a highly effective holiday-season speech!

It was a speech about teamwork. A speech that acknowledged and valued people, and that pointed-up the values of endeavour, persistence, and hard work. A speech that issued the first battle cry of the year to come and set your team looking forward to challenges ahead.

It was a speech in under four minutes flat!

It was a holiday speech they’ll remember, and for all the right reasons.

More Sources:

Office party speaking appears to be something a lot of people  are interested in, especially come the Holidays. Here are a few additional resources from around the web:

Max Atkinson’s Blog

Max is a leading UK blogger about speaking and communication. Here is his guidance for Holiday speaking: The Office Christmas Party Speech: roads to failure and success

And for ideas about what to put into the script, try write-out-loud.com’s Christmas Speeches: Short, Simple, and Sincere

Does my but sound big in this?

by Peter Watts

Using “but” in business presentations reduces your influence.

    • It raises defensiveness in others by implying disagreement or excuses
    • The word sounds dull; consider it’s phonic counterparts: gut, cut, hut, shut

In business presentations, it’s fundamentally a defensive, whiney word to avoid

Wherever you use “but”, the word “and” can usually be deployed instead. As a tool “and” is a constructive joining word, as opposed to the wet blanket “but”.

Consider these examples to see how the deployment of one or the other changes the tone:

“We want to expand but competition is increasing. How do we do it?”

The use of “but” depresses the call to action: “How do we do it?”

Instead try:

“We want to expand and competition is increasing. How do we do it?”

Replacing “but” with “and” shifts focus from let’s whinge, to let’s win

Now consider these two:

“Our community is growing but our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Whinge

“Our community is growing and our infrastructure can’t keep up” = Call to Action

“Climate change is a threat but we need fossil fuels” = Whinge

“Climate change is a threat and we need fossil fuels” = Call to Action

While the b-word does have it’s uses when consciously deployed in speech-writing, it’s the unconscious usages that we aim to zap.

Try recording your next piece of public speaking. When you play it back, count how many instances of “but” that you bought into your speech, especially during Q&A sessions. If there are more than five, then your influence level will be improved with a but-reduction.

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.”

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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