10 pro-speaker secrets to help you convince prospective clients
Gaining buy-in from people requires much more than just presenting information. You can have a good product or service, yet still fail to sound convincing in a pitch for new business. Even a fantastic idea can seem unimpressive if not explained well.
The fact is that, if you are to persuade people, it’s the way you present your case that makes all the difference. There is not one thing that guarantees success. However, by using these 10 pro-speaker secrets you will dramatically enhance your chances of convincing prospective clients of the value of your product or service.
1. Look beyond your presentation
As the saying goes: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up some place else.” For a successful presentation, you need to plan with the end in mind. Therefore, look beyond your presentation to see the outcome you want to achieve. Write down that desired outcome, ie what you want the prospective client to do as a result of your presentation. This will keep you focused during planning and help make it obvious what you need to include.
2. Plan with your audience in mind
Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘To whom it may concern’, according to Ken Haemer, former presentation research manager at AT&T.
Before planning your content, put yourself in the mind of your prospective client(s). Ask yourself:
• Who will be at the presentation?
• What are their expectations?
• What might they be thinking?
Make a note of your answers to guide your planning.
3. Use the ‘magic structure’
Four types of questions are almost certain to be on the minds of prospective clients. Appeal to everyone in a group by making sure you cover them all. They are the basis of the ‘4 Mat System’ developed by Bernice McCarthy. Include:
• Why? Why should people listen? Give them reasons.
• What? What is your key message? Introduce your idea, product or service.
• How? Explain how it works. Give supporting evidence and examples.
• What If? Problems - point out risks or problems and how to deal with them.
• What if? ‘Benefits - highlight the differences your proposal will make.
When you use this system, your presentation will be easy to follow.
4. Appeal to the head and the heart
In the fourth century BC, Aristotle wrote that if you want to convince people logical argument alone is seldom sufficient. Being logical is important because it appeals to the head. However, you also need to appeal to the heart because people are persuaded by how they feel. Do this by sharing stories and examples that bring your message to life. A medical professional may appeal to the head by giving statistics about the effectiveness of treatment, yet also appeal to the heart by telling the story of a patient who made a remarkable recovery.
5. Use fewer words and more pictures
Research from the University of New South Wales found that we cannot read while listening to someone speaking at the same time. Yet that is what happens when an audience tries to read too many words on a screen while the presenter is speaking. People find it draining.
However, a single word or key message works fine because it can be read in seconds. Otherwise, use more pictures such as photographs or graphs. People find it easy to look at these and listen at the same time. Furthermore, they will remember your pictures.
6. Create curiosity at the start
Before going into detail about your product or service, get people curious. You can do this in your opening by using rhetorical questions. This will get people engaged.
Use phrasing such as “Have you ever wondered?”, “Have you ever noticed?” or “Wouldn’t it be great if you could?” Identify intriguing facts and ideas about your business, then write some rhetorical questions that will grab attention from the start.
7. Stand confidently
Some successful speakers move a lot. However, if you move around for no reason it makes it harder for most people to listen. Wandering about, or swaying, can also diminish your credibility and authority.
Instead, stand upright with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. Then stay still, unless you have good reason to move. Standing in this confident way increases your own confidence too. Likewise, keep an upright and confident posture if you are seated when presenting.
8. Use gestures to show what you mean
Gestures will help you to explain ideas and make it easier for people to understand. Use gestures naturally, like in normal conversation.
Beware of making tiny gestures. If you hold your arms out wide, you will find the width of your ‘canvas’ on which you can ‘paint pictures’ with gestures to illustrate your words.
9. Make your voice easy to listen to
Speak at a natural conversational pace. Slow down to emphasise points and speed up to add energy. Drop your voice into a lower and more serious tone at the end of a sentence when you want to give weight to an important point.
10. End on a high not a whimper
Many presentations end in a whimper. Phrases like: “Well, that’s all we’ve got time for, so thank you very much,” are all too common.
Instead, end on a high by doing three things:
• Summarise your key message. Perhaps show it on screen with a picture.
• Make your call to action. Be clear about what you want people to do next. Increase the chances of them taking that action by making the first step easy to do.
• Paint a picture of a positive future. Highlight the positive results of them taking the action you suggest.
Graham Shaw is the author of The Speaker’s Coach: 60 secrets to make your talk, speech or presentation amazing. Published by Pearson and available on Amazon
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