The Art of Presentation in a Cyber World

As a trainer or presenter you know what to do – you’ve probably been doing it for years. You know how to engage your audience, you know the body language to watch for, you know how to make eye contact and to include your audience in a wide sweep so that everyone feels involved in your presentation. You know how to stand, what slides to use, when not to use slides, you know that the tenor of your voice can be used to emphasize points and that you can question your audience to develop a point. You are confident in your subject and you know exactly what is expected of you.

So, why are you sweating? Why are you looking at your slides and wondering if it will work and whether what you are going to say is actually going to make a difference? Because they changed the goal posts! Whether you like it or not, presenting and training is taking on a new dimension – that of the cyber world.
 
The rules and the practices that work so well live are all of a sudden ‘old hat’. You will be in front of your audience, but instead of standing there in your smart suit or your jeans and tee shirt, or (for the more extrovert) in your Hawaiian shirt and hula skirt – all your delegates could potentially see is your face. And up close and personal too! Every twitch, every flick of the hair or scratch of the ear that is so easy to use as a pause in speech when you are standing live in front of your audience is suddenly brought into sharp focus. Your facial expressions are watched closely by your audience – which could number hundreds – and you give everything away.
 
Yes, it’s a different world. The use of cyber-training with technology such as Webex TM, and GoToMeeting┬«, (to name but two of the many systems out there) means that you can deliver ‘live’ training to a remote audience. And not just remote from you – they could be remote from each other in both geographical and time-zone terms. So your methods of engaging the audience have to change. You can’t rely on the internet communicating your natural charisma, unfortunately.

But good performance is good performance, and the key to ensuring success through new technology is the same as it was for live performance – practice. But there are other elements that need to change. Whereas live you may need few or even no slides, when you are presenting your ideas on the web, it is quite likely that you will need a really engaging slide show to keep the audience watching. After all – they are probably sitting at their computer, and a little note may pop up saying they have a new email from a client – and they will be highly tempted to go and take a quick peek…
 
The screen of their computer suddenly becomes your training room. They can stand up and ‘walk out’ on you with no embarrassment whatsoever! They can see you, but you won’t be able to see them and nor will the other delegates. So their exit, should they chose to make it, is relatively painless. 
 
You may need far more slides than for a live presentation, you will probably need less words but far more pictures, far more interactive elements and opportunities for delegates to contribute their thoughts and comments using the technology. Your delivery can still be interactive and you can have break-out sessions, shared virtual white-boards and many other dandy little widgets that your chosen web conferencing provider can entice you with – but you must practice. Don’t just practice your presentation – understand the technology and not only what you want to happen, but what could go wrong. Prepare alternative scenarios or additional material just in case that break-out function is overloaded, or that the server in Spain refuses to play. Above all, make sure the delegates know in advance what is expected of them – and that goes as much for live training as for training over the web.
 
Back to your performance: the tone of your voice is still important, but it will be distanced by the fact you are being heard over a phone line or VOIP. Your body language will still be important, but it will be concentrated around your face or head and shoulders. Think about your colour scheme in relation not just to your surroundings (background to the camera) but to the slides you are showing. Is your bright orange ‘confidence’ suit going to clash with the red corporate banner on the presentation? 
 
And how will your audience react? Will they gain as much benefit from this kind of presentation as they would if they were in the room with you? Having already noted that their ability to ‘opt out’ is far easier on line, just as with live training you will engage people on different levels according to their preferred learning styles. There will be some who are delighted that they don’t have to leave their desk to complete that mandatory CPD module, and others who begrudge the fact that they don’t get their day out of the office and the nice hotel lunch. 
 
Engaging your audience – and keeping them engaged – comes right back down to three key elements: content, presentation and performance. For live training I would perhaps reverse the order, but making sure that what you are saying (content) is relevant and of interest to your audience is crucial for their engagement. Make sure that the presentation method (avoiding infamous ‘death by PowerPoint TM – live or on-line) is appropriate. And finally, your performance must be convincing. You have to know your subject and be ready to respond to questions, you have to be able to improvise and to understand the differences in the media you are using to present and, therefore, how your audience will relate to you.
 
You could argue that cyber-training will never replace live training completely and I would agree; but I would also caution that as the technology develops and the ease of use improves, it is going to be a highly cost effective method for organisations to address remote audiences. Be prepared, and ready to take on board the way technology is changing how we present and train.

Interaction: The Key to Successful Presentations

You have an important presentation to make. How will you measure its success?

The goals for some presenters are misguided: “I just want to get through it” or “I don’t want to forget anything.” These goals miss the mark.

Success is best measured with audience-centric goals. “I want my audience to learn;” “I want my audience to be inspired;” “I want my audience to change.” In truth, the highest goal of any presentation is integration of information. A presentation is successful only if an audience both retains the information and applies it or integrates it into their lives.

Failed presentations are costly to organizations. Consider the billions of dollars that are lost every year because audiences fail to adopt a new approach or refuse to be persuaded. How much time and money are wasted delivering or repeating a failed presentation?

Considering what is at stake, presenters and adult-educators should familiarize themselves with the proven assumptions of adult-learning, also known as andragogy. Our presentations will succeed when we consistently craft our messages and delivery styles to fit how adults learn and integrate information. By using at least a few of the following proven assumptions of adult learning (andragogy) to create interaction in your next presentation or meeting, you can maximize attention, buy-in, and retention.

Malcolm Knowles has popularized the following andragogical assumptions[i]:

The Need to Know. Adult learners need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.

Learner self-concept. Adults need to be responsible for their own learning decisions and to be treated as capable of self-direction.

Role of Learners’ experience. Adult learners have a variety of life experiences, which represent the richest resource for learning.

Readiness to learn. Adults are ready to learn those things they need to know in order to cope effectively with life situations.

Orientation to learning. Adults are motivated to learn to the extent that they will perceive it will help them perform tasks they confront in their life situations.

Learning and integration are more likely to occur when adult learners recognize the relevance of material and have the opportunity to discuss their experiences as they relate to the material. Consequently, successful presenters actively draw out the past, present, and future experiences of their audience. This type of interaction makes it easier to establish the relevance and applicability of new information or proposed actions.

This explains why audiences prefer discussion-based presentations that are highly interactive, as well as why they dread attending the didactic “show-up and throw-up” type presentation.

The bottom line is that integration occurs best through interaction.

[i] Knowles M S (1990) The Adult Learner: a Neglected Species (4th Edition) Houston: Gulf Publishing

The New Ultimate Listing Presentation – Ethics and High Commissions

As a new agent, I began to take listings. My initial goal was to take one listing a week. And because I really discovered the approach I’m about to teach you as a seller and not as an agent, I planned from the very beginning to take all my listings at a premium. Our market average was below 6% so I decided I’d list at 8% or more.

I still remember taking my first listing (and it was at 8% by the way). Maybe you still remember your first listing. I can tell you, I was so excited. I came back to the office and I’ll admit I was beaming, and my chest was probably out an inch or two. I was probably more than a little proud of myself. Several of my colleagues who knew I’d been on a listing appointment asked me how it went.

I was happy to tell them that I had indeed listed the home, and that I’d done it at 8% my first time out. Of course their immediate reaction was that I’d had “beginner’s luck”. But after several more listings my first month, all at 8% that beginner’s luck assessment became one of, “You’re ripping your clients off by charging them 8%.” It was futile to try and explain otherwise.

Even as I travel speaking and teaching this presentation today, I am generally confronted — before anyone even hears the approach — with the same thing. I’m told again and again that charging more than the market average is unethical and immoral.

Perhaps you’re reading this for the first time and you are having a similar thought. If you are, I understand. Really, I do. But before you pass judgment on me and on my approach, I would ask you to simply reserve your judgment until you’ve finished learning the entire presentation. Fair enough?

If, after you’ve finished reading the entire approach, you still feel the same way, I will have no hard feelings if you decide to not use it for ethical reasons. I must tell you, however, that of the over 100,000 agents who have taken this training in one form or another, not a single one has finished it and decided it was in any way unethical.

Let’s talk about ethics and high commissions.

So before we dive into the actual presentation, it’s important that we first touch on the ethics. You may very well be one of the thousands of agents who are asking themselves, “How can I better serve my clients while charging them more?”

Simply by having that thought, you’ve confirmed that you’re an ethical REALTOR who’s trying to put your clients’ interests first. That’s a good thing. Having said it, though, I need to underscore the fallacy in such a line of thinking.

The question we’ve asked seems to imply that you cannot earn good money by doing the right thing. But the truth is that it is possible to serve your clients, your fellow REALTORS, and yourself; and with this presentation it’s also easy! Let me explain.

We’ll begin by discussing agency — specifically, seller agency. As a listing agent, your client is the seller. Because you’re the seller’s agent you have a fiduciary obligation to represent him or her to the best of your ability. What does that mean? In short, it means putting your client’s needs first. So what does it mean, practically speaking?

As a rule, you should be trying to net your client the most money in the least amount of time, since that’s the objective of most sellers. And when I mention “money,” I specifically mean net dollars. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how large or small the commission is: what counts is the total your client takes away from the closing table.

So let me ask you a question: If you knew about a strategy that would net your client more money while selling his home in only about half the usual time, wouldn’t it be in his interest to use it? Of course it would! Well, that’s what this listing presentation will do for you.

As compared with traditional listings of homes in the same market, my approach has traditionally netted my clients significantly more money while selling their homes in only 55% of the average DOM (number of days on the market).

More money in half the time! Think of it! Your clients will love you. The other agents in the market will love you. And, you’ll be paid better in the process! More importantly, you’ll begin to get a reputation for being the agent with the high-paying listings. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take this one step at a time.

On the flip side, if you knew that selling a house by the traditional method would double your client’s waiting time and, in the process, net him less money, would that be good for him? Of course not! Not even if you saved him some money in commissions! Your job as a listing agent is to represent the seller and to place his needs first, and that’s what we’re going to do.

So, if I can demonstrate to you that using this approach will work in better accomplishing your clients objectives, wouldn’t you agree that it’s ethical? In fact, if after you know about an approach — this approach — that historically sells houses in half the time and nets the client much more in the process, wouldn’t it be unethical not to mention it to your client? I’ll allow you to be the judge of that.