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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

3 simple steps to creating presentations that leave audiences excited

Here’s a super-fast way to deliver better presentations.

If you have a pen and paper with you, please draw a circle.

If you haven’t, imagine you’ve just drawn a circle!

You’re going to turn this circle into a pie chart with three wedges. These will show the three things to prepare when writing a presentation:

  1. Your slideswhat the audience will see 
  2. Your script the words you’ll say 
  3. Your questionsthe things you’ll ask 

Here’s how to do your pie chart: simply split your circle into three wedges, showing the proportion of your prep time that you allocate to preparing each of these three.

If you are like the vast majority of people, you’ll have a huge wedge for slide prep and a small wedge for your script. And that’s it. There’ll be no wedge at all for preparing questions. Because people very rarely prepare in advance what they’re going to ask the audience.

And this makes sense. After all, it is called a “presentation”. So, as the “presenter”, you’re expecting to “present”.

But, as you know, presentations should be interactive wherever possible. You want the audience engaged, and discussing things with you/each other. Trust me, unless you possess some incredible presenting ninja power, it’s very hard to keep a room entertained when you’re the only one speaking for an hour.

My pie chart looks like this:

  • A tiny wedge for the slides – 10% max 
  • The remaining 90% split equally between script and questions… 
  • …in other words, I spend as much time preparing what I’ll ask as I do on what I’ll say 

If you’re surprised by this, don’t worry. Everyone I’ve shared this with thinks it sounds – at best – surprising; and – at worst – just weird/wrong.

But spending time thinking of good questions helps you deliver successful presentations. Here are some questions that work really well:
  • After a slide showing the main benefits of your proposition, ask “which of these benefits are the most important?” When they respond with “number 3”, ask “why’s that?” This helps uncover their key priorities, and therefore helps you shape what you’ll say next 
  • Running a workshop? After your first topic ends, ask “before we go to the next topic, please look through your notes and be ready to answer this question: what’s the one thing you’ll do differently as a result of what we’ve just discussed?” A great way to turn their learnings into actions 
  • At the end of a sales pitch, ask the customer “Out of everything we’ve discussed, what are you most excited about?” This is a very positive, exciting way to finish the pitch. After all, you watch them discuss with each other the most exciting bits of what you’ve just said! 
  • Get instant engagement by asking this: “This first slide shows our agenda for today. Which topic would you like us to discuss first?” When they answer, you know what their #1 priority is. So, go straight there. You’re already impressing them early 

Finally, one very handy PowerPoint hint: some of these questions will result in you needing to change the order of your slides. That’s OK. If you’re on slide 1 and want to jump to slide 8, just press the “8” key on the keyboard and then “return” and you jump straight there.

This tip means you don’t have to deliver it in the order you prepared it.

Instead, you deliver it in the order that your audience wants to hear it.

And that’s much more likely to impress them.

Action Point

For your next presentation, script – and practise saying – the questions you’re going to ask. You’ll be amazed at what it does to the interaction on the day.

And what this does to your confidence. After all, it’s great when people engage. And it’s rubbish when they don’t. This simple questioning technique ensures they do engage. Every time.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Want big results in 2016? Try a little TNT

We can often overestimate what we are able to do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year.

Hypnotists have long since used the power of suggestion to influence the way that people think and act. For instance, it can help us to achieve the three most popular New Year Resolutions of getting fit, losing weight and quitting smoking. But how do you start and how do you keep it going?

The answer is by TNTs, or Tiny Noticeable Things. It’s the term I use to describe the little ‘nudges’ that can improve lifestyles, make people more productive, increase happiness, and sell more product. I know you’re just begging for some examples so here’s five of the best:

  1. A factory in Illinois improved the lighting conditions for workers and researchers and noticed a marked improvement in their productivity. However, when the researchers left, productivity fell to the previous level. Why? It was the act of being watched that actually made them work faster. 
  2. A Stanford psychologist parked two cars in two different locations. One in the Bronx and one in the California city of Palo Alto. Within days, the car in the Bronx was ripped apart. However, the one in Palo Alto remained untouched – until a sledgehammer was placed on its roof and it was immediately trashed. West coast villains just needed a nudge. 
  3. In Holland, a researcher carefully left a fully-addressed envelope protruding from a post box with a €5 note clearly visible sticking out of it. 13% of passers-by stole the money. When graffiti and litter was added to the scene thefts doubled. The ‘nudge’ suggested that it was okay to commit a crime so a lot more people did. 
  4. Still in Holland, a researcher at the University of Radboud put lemon scent in half of a train’s carriages which resulted in 50% less rubbish being discarded by passengers. The experiment was repeated by London Midland Trains on the Birmingham to Lichfield line with the result being exactly the same as in Holland albeit arriving twenty minutes late. 
  5. Similarly, researchers in Cardiff reported a 65% drop in litter (no pun intended) when they painted footprints on the pavement leading to a waste bin. A good friend of mine's wife has since adopted this technique to get him safely home from the pub. You should see their house on a Friday night. Absolutely packed! ;-) 

So, it seems that getting people to act or think the way you want them to doesn’t always require a great deal of effort. You just need to arm them with some ‘Tiny Noticeable Things’ and let them do the rest.

So whatever your goals are for 2016 start - and keep up - the TNTs.

Refuse that piece of cake this afternoon, walk up the stairs rather than take the lift, when you are at the office pick up a piece of litter in the car park, throw away any chipped cups, always have clean shoes….

Create an environment where people are more likely to behave in the way you want them to. Where THEY get to care about all the TNTs.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day but underestimate what we can do in a year. Adopt the TNT approach and achieve more in 2016.

Nudge nudge, wink wink, as Eric Idle might say. Why not give it a go?

Action point

  • Improve things for you and others by doing a TNT. 
  • Because it’s tiny, it won’t take you long. 
  • In fact, why not do it right now?

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

A simple format for having important conversations with important people

Here’s a great exercise for the New Year. It helps you have very important conversations with important people - customers, colleagues, prospects, introducers… anyone who’s important to you.

It is a three-stage conversation, designed to find what’s most important to them, and therefore how you can best help them.

It’s what I call the 3Hs:

  • Hot priority. After the initial chit-chat stuff to start your conversation – ‘How was Christmas?’ and the like - ask what their priorities are for this year. Find what they’re looking to achieve, why it’s so important to them, when they want to achieve it, what obstacles might slow them down and how they plan to overcome them, and so on 
  • How to help? Then, ask the question “how can I best help you with these priorities?” This is a great question to ask, and will be well received. After all, their priorities are front-of-mind because they’ve been discussing them with you for the past few minutes. Their most likely responses are: 

“You can help by doing X” – in which case, you say “Great. Please can you tell me more about that?”; or

“I don’t know” - in which case, you use the third H, which is…

  • How about? You now proactively suggest ways you can help them – ‘How about I help you by doing X?’ Clearly, offering to help with their priorities can only reflect well on you. And impressing bosses, customers, introducers etc is always a good idea! 

A great format, yes? In fact, the only concern people have told me is ‘what if I can’t think of a “How about example” straight away?’

If that happens, simply say “How about this? I’ll go to my office, and look at similar projects we’ve worked on. I’ll then get back in touch, and share relevant examples with you. Would you find that helpful?”

There are two main reasons I like the 3Hs:

  • It almost always leads to a very positive outcome. They either choose you to help them with their priorities, or thank you for showing the interest; and 
  • It absolutely never leads to a negative outcome. This 3Hs approach won’t make things worse for you. After all, you aren’t pushing yourself onto them. You’re asking what’s important, and asking how they think you can best help 

Action Point

I guess the action this week is pretty simple:

  • identify who are the most important 2-3 people to you and then 
  • for each, consider whether they would welcome a 3Hs conversation with you 
I imagine all of them would. So, get the meetings in the diary, and away you go… 

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

How to create the perfect business proposal

Convincing people to do what you want is hard.

And it’s even harder if you aren’t there to do it.

This happens when you send them a selling document – like a Proposal or Business Plan. They’ll read it at their leisure, probably skim-reading it; probably when they’re half-doing something else. And if they have any questions – which they will – you won’t be there to answer them.

This weeks post will help ensure all your documents impress and persuade. But, before we look at what to include, here’s …

The Golden Rule of Sales Documents

Confirmation not exploration

It’s harder to sell in writing that it is verbally.

So your best chance of convincing them is:

  • agree everything verbally first; and then 
  • your written document confirms what you’ve already agreed 
In other words, don’t explore new ideas in the document.

(A good check: you should be able to write “as discussed” before every sentence in your document. Not that I’d do this as it might get a tad boring)

The five critical elements to include

#1 Why it’s needed

Build the need for what you want to sell. This will either be:

  • a bad situation that needs fixing; and/or 
  • a great opportunity to take advantage of 
For example, you might say…

“The (bad thing) has caused us to (negative impact of this bad thing). This will get worse over the next few weeks, leading to (even worse impact)

We have agreed it is essential to stop the rot. This document confirms our discussions about the best way to do so.”

#2 Our objectives and measures

Next, paint the picture of the desired future state. In other words, what things will look like after you’ve completed the thing you’re proposing. If you like, if Section #1 was a murky black and white photo of the business today, this Section #2 is the beautiful colour photograph of how the business will appear in X months’ time. Be clear on:

  1. what everyone wants the future to look like - the objectives 
  2. how we’ll know we’ve achieved this - the measures; and 
  3. the value this will bring to the business - why it’s worth doing 

#3 Our timeline: how we’ll get there

Show the detail of how you will get from murky #1 to beautiful #2. This will probably be a simple timeline, showing all the key deliverables, who’s doing each, and when. As with everything else in the proposal, you’ll have already agreed this timeline verbally. This means they’ll think “oh yes, I recognise this”

#4 Price

Always put the price towards the end.

Why? Because it’s important you build the value first, before saying how much it costs. Doing this makes the price look relatively cheap (after all, if I told you something cost 100,000€ and asked you whether you thought it was expensive, you’d say ‘yes’. Even though you do not know what it is yet).

When discussing price, relate it back to the value you discussed in Section #2. In other words they are investing money to get the valuable outcomes. They are not paying for Section #3’s deliverables (which are just the mechanism by which they’ll get their outcomes).

#5 Immediate next steps

Absolutely critical in all documents: end by confirming what the next steps are – “As agreed, I’ll call you at 10am on Wednesday to discuss how we progress this quickly” or something to that effect. If you don’t include this, you have to wait for them to reply to your proposal. Which they might not do. This leads to the dreaded question: do I chase (and pester) them; or do I wait (and feel powerless). Neither is particularly pleasant. Nor useful.

Action point

Identify your next sale that needs a document. Then, apply the relevant bits from this weeks blog post to it.

And if you’re only going to do one bit of it? Go for the golden rule – explore things verbally; confirm things in writing. Any other way will waste your/their time, and reduce your chances of success.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

2 Simple steps to ensure that 2016 is better than 2015

Happy New Year!

Good break?

Made your new year’s resolutions?

Broken them yet?

And a more important question…

Will 2016 be better than 2015?

Well, it will. But only if you:

  1. Do things better… 
  2. …all the time 

So, here are some quick hints to ensure you communicate better this year than last – and we all know how valuable that would be.

Remember: how you usually communicate is down to one thing, your habits. For example, you might recognise these:

  • You’re in the habit of weekly update meetings. So you keep having them. Even though everyone – including you – thinks they’re too long, and achieve too little 
  • You’re in the habit of discounting your price too early. So you keep doing it. Even though your boss keeps telling you not to 
  • You’re in the habit of cutting/pasting when creating documents. So you keep doing it. Even if the document you’re copying from didn’t work 
  • You’re in the habit of sending emails called “FYI”. So you keep sending them. Even though nobody ever replies to (reads) them 

So how to break these habits?

Well, one of the great things about having a Christmas vacation is that…well, you’ve been away from your habits for a while. Even better, so has everybody else.

This means none of you have had update meetings, discounted prices, cut/paste documents or sent FYIs for a while.

So the best time to change is now. As in, right now. Trust me on this: communicate today the same way you did last year, and your old habits will instantly return. It’s a fatal error to think ‘I’ll just leave changing my habits till next week when things are quieter’.

So, for you to:

  1. Do things better… 
  2. …all the time 

You’ll have to:

  1. Decide what you want to do better… 
  2. …keep reminding yourself, so you keep doing it 

For example:

  • For weekly update meetings, change the diary invitation to attend, the agenda, the duration, the number of attendees… anything to shake things up a bit. Create a recurring weekly reminder to keep changing it, so you’ll always remember to keep things fresh 
  • If you discount prices too early, invest time creating phrases to say in response to requests to drop price. Practise saying them until they feel natural. This will take more work than you think – 30-50 times, maybe. But it’s well worth it. Help yourself to remember by, for example, including a new agenda item in your Sales Meetings – “everyone to share an example of when they have managed not to discount price” 
  • If you are in the habit of cutting/pasting, you’ll still want to copy something when you create your next document. After all, most people would rather do this than start with a blank piece of paper. So, spend time creating a best-practice template that you can drop new content in to. It might take a bit of time to create. But it will mean you will be copying/pasting from something good. A recurring diary reminder will help you stick to it using your new template 
  • And if you always send things “FYI”, make sure that “FYI” gets highlighted by your spell check before your email goes. That will help remind you. Or you can take more extreme measures – I saw one person who was so infuriated with his inability to stop sending them that he changed his autosignature to include “STOP SENDING FYIs”. He deleted this reminder before sending his email of course. But it meant that he was always reminded at the right time 

I really enjoyed 2015.

But my 2016 is going to be even better. I’ve decided that already.

I also know I’ll communicate better this year than I did last. I’ve decided that too.

How about you?

Action point

Have a quick look in the diary to see the communications that you have never enjoyed/benefited from. For each, work out how you can:
  1. Do things better… 
  2. …all the time 
Good luck! See you next week…

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