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3 seconds is all it takes

Can it really be true that you can win or lose an audience in just three seconds? More on that later, but first here is my checklist for an engaging professional presentation:

  • Strategy – be prepared and have an agenda
  • Energy level – show interest in what you’re presenting, be animated, make it come alive
  • Key message – don’t fluff around, get the message out loud and proud
  • Sell yourself – don’t be shy to talk about your strengths
  • Voice – consider volume and your tone, are you being heard?
  • Non-verbal – think about your eye contact, hand gestures, facial expression, dress, movement, and body language
  • Wrap up – bring the presentation to a logical and timely conclusion

Recently I attended a committee meeting in Melbourne, where a well-known top tier law firm was presenting its services. I’ve often been impressed by switched-on business people who present strongly to an audience. They approach their subject matter positively, use appropriate language and the energy level in the room is high. They are also aware of their body language and dress appropriately.

In a news article about Natalie McKenna, Director of Regeneration Unlimited Communications and researcher in Public Relations at RMIT University, it’s said that “In just three seconds your business meeting could be over, with the business decision already made.”

Well, the lawyers’ presentations were woeful… boring, lifeless, forgettable… definitely over in the three seconds it took me to reach that conclusion!

When McKenna says all it takes is three seconds for someone to make a decision about you, that’s pretty tough. However, it doesn’t take long to lose your audience, and first impressions certainly do matter.

In business we’re often highly absorbed in talking about our product, our service, ourselves (the lawyers could show some passion for their profession here), without being really mindful of our audience. From my experience as a consultant with Slade Executive Recruitment and through my observations with global communications group rogenSi, I know how important it is to engage with others. The same principles apply whether it’s an information session, a sales pitch, a business meeting or a job interview.

What communication techniques have you found useful in your business?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

So you think you’re talking to a client about your business, then the meeting takes a U-turn…

Imagine my surprise when on arrival at a prospective client’s offices, I was ushered into their boardroom, presented with a beautifully bound sales proposal and taken through a detailed slideshow about the company’s full suite of services. Their presentation to me was 10x more impressive than our pitch to them, and yet we were the ones supposedly doing the pitch.

This one really left an impression, and believe me, I’ve been to 100s of briefings with clients over the years. Our meeting had started with the usual introductions, quickly progressing to an in-depth discussion about the client’s business, who they market to, the awards they have won and even the cost to use their services. The discussion continued for about one hour.

It was impressive to see how well our potential client marketed her business, which made me think a client meeting should be like this more often, rather than the usual informal meet and greet.

Let’s really get to know one another and define the key aspects of our business relationship. That’s what I think these meetings should be about!

I honestly enjoyed the fact that the client gave me a lot of background information to work with, allowing me further opportunity to uncover what drives her business, its people, how it has become successful, and what its core values mean in practice.

At the end of the meeting I was sold on the marketing company. My job as a recruiter would be so much easier if every client presented its employee value proposition with such passion. I’ve turned that experience around to take a closer look at the way I present to clients. Listening is one of the most valuable skills that I’ve developed as a consultant because, as I’ve discovered, my clients are really presenting to me.

Have you ever had an unusual first meeting with a client or a supplier? What did you learn from the experience?

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work