It’s funny. In the age of Twitter, multi-tasking, and short-attention-spans, financial advisors who can deliver powerful presentations really do stand out. Whether or not you are presenting to an audience of one, or 100…there are some critical behaviors that can help you dial up your next presentation.
1. Less is more. This is what we see most often. Financial advisors get too ambitious and attempt to tell the audience everything that they know on a given subject. But, they can’t take it all in. Numerous studies have been done on audience retention, and what participants actually remember from what was said during a presentation. One study has indicated that, 24 hours after a presentation the typical person will remember only one or two specific points. (Think of the last presentation that you sat through. What do you remember?)
2. Enthusiasm sells. Positive attitude and energy for the subject will speak volumes. Long after the details of your presentation are forgotten, your passion will be remembered.
3. Practice, practice, practice. You can’t rehearse too much. Rehearsing breeds confidence. If you are confident in your material, your audience will have confidence in you. Practice out loud again-and-again until you have your material down cold, and you will develop apparent spontaneity by knowing the subject inside out.
4. Storyboard your presentation. A storyboard, i.e. a visual outline of your presentation, will shortcut your preparation. 1) Draw small representations of your ideas on sticky notes. 2) Limit yourself to one idea per slide. If you run out of space, your idea is too complex. 3) Arrange and re-arrange your sticky notes in order until your arrive at a sequence that is the most effective in conveying your points.
5. Involve your audience. The best presenters establish a conversation with the audience by building a genuine dialogue. Plan ahead and develop thought-provoking questions that can be sprinkled throughout your presentation that keep the audience engaged and on their toes.
6. Beginnings. Creating a good impression as you begin your presentation is critical…yet tricky. Do not open with your strongest point(s). During the first few minutes of the presentation, the audience is paying attention to your non-verbal cues, e.g. your demeanor, appearance, self-confidence, body language, and is making a subtle calculation, “Do I want to believe this person?” Allow a few minutes for the audience to warm up, before you really get going. But, once you get going, start with a bang! Say or do something that grabs their interest immediately.
7. Never-ever go too long. If you have 20 minutes to present, shut it down at 19. It might help to announce at the beginning of your talk how long you will be and definitively keep your promise. This prevents audience members from surreptitiously looking at the clock and wondering when it all ends.
8. Endings. Close with a good, strong summary in one or two sentences. Reiterate your major points. Emphasize key words. Make it easy for them to remember the one or two key points that you want them to retain. And when appropriate, don't forget "Next Steps".
Finally, there is always room for improvement. The best presenters are made, not born. Whether or not the prior ideas resonated with you, identify an area to work on during your next presentation, and work to develop yourself.