Finessing Financial Presentations

Superstar rocker Rod Stewart said it best when he belted out Every Picture Tells a Story. That song could have been titled: Every Number Tells a Story because financial presentations aren’t much different. If you want audiences to hear what you have to say, showing a bunch of graphs and balance sheets simply won’t cut it. Numbers, like pictures need to create a compelling story that draws listeners in and helps them understand what those numbers mean to them.

By learning to whittle your words into a few key ideas that suggest you understand their dilemma and are capable of solving their problems, you have a much greater chance of making them care. If they care, they’ll listen.

Think back on some of the presentations you’ve sat or should I risk saying— slept through, do you remember numbers the speaker spouted? For example, do you know that 40 million Americans are currently on food stamps? Maybe not. But you might recall that enrollment has set a record every month since 2008.

When put in perspective, numbers can drive points home. Consider a doctor trying to educate an audience about recognizing the symptoms of heart disease. If she said more than a million people suffer heart attacks every year and nearly half will die, you clearly understand the importance. However if she said: “We could be talking about your mother, father, and spouse or loved one which is why it is so important for you to recognize the warning signs of heart disease so the people you love can be with you for a long time”, those same numbers would be even more meaningful.

As a communicator, your job is to help people make sense of information so they understand what it means to them. By following these quick tips, you will help the numbers tell the story.

1. LESS IS MORE The more points you try to cover, the more you will dilute your message. Highlight three or four important issues and offer examples, stories and anecdotes to drive the points home.

2. ONE MINUTE WINDOW If you can’t articulate what’s in it for them and why they should care in the first minute, you risk tuning them out. For example, if you are talking about technology, do they really care the mechanisms that make the product work? Or would they rather know how the features can save time and money?

3. SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS Financial audiences love profit and loss statements but balance sheets alone won’t tell your story. Only you can do that. Help your listener understand how you will address their problems, market ideas, meet current challenges and make money.

4. SHOW AND TELL Serious doesn’t have to mean boring. Instead of scanning data onto a slide, use charts, models, graphs and pictures to bring your story to life. Share the important details but save the fine points for the handouts. Remember, no one came to see a slide show.

5. MOCK Q AND A Conduct your own mock question and answer session in advance. By thinking through potential questions and answers, you will be better prepared and minimize surprises. You can also practice marrying messages into your answers.

6. SAY IT OUT LOUD By rehearsing out-loud, you will internalize information, making it easier to recite and recall. You’ll also develop pace and rhythm helping you sound more polished, confident and assured.

7. DON’T WING IT No matter how good you think you are, people who “wing it” are setting themselves up to fail. The better you prepare, the easier it will be to stay focused, give meaning to your words and handle interruptions or unwanted questions.

Like all effective business communications, financial presentations should be interactive. That means encouraging thinking by posing thought provoking questions, providing examples and pausing to give people a moment to digest key facts. Finally, even if what you have to say makes them feel frustrated or disappointed, that’s okay. As long as they feel something, they’re listening.

Business Presentation Tips – How To Give Razor Sharp Instructions

What if you could deliver presentations with razor-sharp instructions that inspire people to get things done? What if you could achieve the results you seek, without coming off like a control freak?

Well…you’d have the answer that eludes so many business professionals and leaders. You would know how to be an effective communicator, an inspiring presenter, and a leader people trust.

Just take a moment here (just between you and me) and imagine where you could use these valuable skills. If you could give precise instructions that people act on, it would be worth its weight in gold. At home and at work.

  • Consider where you could use these communication skills:
  • Get your projects approved – and your recommendations acted upon
  • Inspire teams and project groups to move forward, and make progress in spite of differences
  • Influence your boss or supervisor to go in the best direction – and give you credit
  • Persuade your spouse or partner to stop procrastinating and take action on an important decision
  • Explain and instruct employees with authority and influence
  • Get your kids saying “yes” to homework without kicking and screaming

In short, you’d have a way to get your ideas into action — without tearing your hair out or feeling cut off and ignored.

The powerful thing about learning how to give clear, specific instructions is this: people listen.

Instead of sending confusing message, your presentations and proposals are clear and focused. Having the confidence and know-how to give clear directions can make the difference between people seeing you as a novice or recognizing you as a natural leader.

Clear directions have a profound impact in verbal, written, and multi-media presentations. Whether your presentation is a short informal pitch at the water cooler, a polished proposal, or a whiteboard and PowerPoint presentation, clear directions show confidence and authority.

Use these 3 tips to speak with authority and persuade people to act the very first time they hear your presentation:

Tip 1: Give Clear Short Action Tips – At The Start

Don’t wait until the end of your presentation to give clear directions. Point to action right at the beginning. Then, make your presentation a step-by-step case for taking the action you have recommended.

Tip 2: Give Just Enough To Light A Fire

You don’t have to spell out every single detail to persuade people to take action. Just give enough motivation to inspire and motivate. Highlight the benefits and value of taking action. This leaves people wanting to take the first step.

Once participants are self-motivated, they will take the first step. And continue on to take the next steps.

Tip 3: Be Precise And Specific

Tell people what you want them to do. Be precise. Focus on a single action. Give instructions and focus the desire to act on this single step.

Be alert. This is often the hardest thing to do if you are extremely detail focused. You must resist the temptation to spell out all the steps in vivid detail. Give precise instructions for a single next step. This helps your instructions stay powerful, specific, and very compelling.

What makes razor sharp instructions so valuable?

Your instructions fulfill a vital part of professional presentation skills: action. When you provide clear instruction, you make it easy for participants to jump into action. This is, after all, the purpose of any business presentation.

In today’s crazy busy workplace, you must need to help clients and prospects make fast decisions, and take action. Once do this, you’ll transform presentations — and skyrocket results.

Are Your Presentations Putting People to Sleep?

Since I have conducted a number of presentations with audiences ranging from a group of 6th graders to 75 networking professionals, I wanted to offer some advice on how to create an effective presentation. Good presentations and public speaking skills can help you to overcome other weaknesses you may have. Ever notice that the best speakers sell more, get promoted more and are good at impromptu discussions? Here are a few tips:

1- Know your audience. Don’t use industry jargon in front of people who will not be familiar with the terminology.
2- Practice in front of a mirror. You may be making strange facial expressions, wringing your hands, or pacing. These bad habits can distract you audience.
3- Watch the ‘umms’ and ‘you knows’. Take a Toastmasters class and the group will track your ‘umms’ using a clicker. You will be amazed at the number you rack up! This is a great place to practice speaking in a nurturing environment.
4- Vary your speaking tone. M-o-n-o-t-o-n-e is boring.
5- Pause during your speech and ask if people understand your points. Allow time to backtrack and provide alternative explanations to get your point across.
6- Beware of the use PowerPoint. 50% of the time it crashes and disrupts the momentum of your presentation. Dimming the light for more than 5 minutes puts people to sleep. The average human being has a 20-minute attention span. Looking at graphs in the dark is a great way to get people to use their cell phones to send emails.
7- Be careful with jokes. You do not want to accidentally offend your audience. A better idea is to use a humorous personal or made up story about you. Laughing helps people pay attention and relax.
8- Throw in a couple moves during the speech. Switch sides of the podium, walk in front of the audience. This forces people to follow you and not go comatose staring a fixed object.
9- Don’t read your presentation. This is a big no-no and the number 1 cause of audience boredom. If you have back up reading material, hand it our after you are done or email it later.
10- Limit your number of handouts. People will skip ahead and not pay attention to what you are saying.
11- If someone’s cell phone rings…STOP speaking until the offending individual mutes the phone. Everyone will stare at them, and feel bad for you. Sympathetic listeners are more prone to hear your message.

Have a big presentation coming up at your company? Beware of these 3 people.

The Casual Listener. This is the person who was made to go by his boss. He would rather be texting his buddies than hearing you.

The Numbers guy. He/she likes to look over your financial data and check you math for accuracy while you are presenting. This person can make you look like an ass when the questions come up at the end so make sure to double check your material for accuracy.

The Decision Maker. This is the most important person in the audience. If you know what he/she likes, you can make sure to hit those topics hard during your presentation.

Finally, be sure to make time for questions at the end of the presentation. If there are no questions, then you probably were unsuccessful at capturing the audiences’ attention. Make sure your presentation will cause people to ask questions by doing a dry run for a trusted colleague. Have them make suggestions on how to stimulate the crowd. Give some of these tips a try and see if they help your career down the road.