This past week I had the opportunity to hear Dave Hill, a professional speaker, talk on how to effectively and appropriately use humor and personal stories in business presentations. While he had many great and useful points, several key benefits and techniques stood out.
Benefits of humor/personal stories in meetings and presentations: 1. Reduce conflict and stress while building rapport 2. Illuminate points in presentations and meetings to make your message stick 3. Negotiate successfully
Techniques to achieve these benefits: 1. Make sure the humor/stories used are appropriate and relevant to: the audience, the occasion and you point 2. Poke fun at yourself: the only true form of “safe” humor 3. Continue to develop your humor: practice and experience will help you to continually improve
Other points of note: *Never start a presentation with a joke: if it doesn’t work the way you planned, the energy in the room is already gone before you start *Don’t use sarcasm *Don’t make fun of people…DO make fun of situations
A client presents a 10-minute presentation to the top colleagues in his profession. They judge him on his visuals and content – one of five will get the award. Even though he has given them his updated visuals, the A/V team loaded the first skeleton version of his speech. A deflated client just went with the program and tried his best to go with the older PowerPoint. He came in 4th.
Here’s what I told him later:
I’ve thought a lot about your challenging A/V story. You did the right thing at the time.
It’s so unfortunate how these snakes bite you, even when you’ve done everything “right”.
There has been so many times where all of my equipment works perfectly, until I get to the point in my keynote where someone is supposed to press the “play” button. It’s almost funny how often something goes awry. In fact, at a recent meeting, instead of going over to the equipment and pressing “on”, the gal just LEFT THE ROOM! She knew she was supposed to turn on the machine, but she suddenly felt like she was going to faint.
What do you do? I had to stop and figure out if this women was ok. (That always comes first – making sure your audience is healthy. PS – I had another presentation where someone went into a diabetic coma and just fell to the floor during my speech. You stop then too.) Then I had to ask someone else to do the switch thing. Crazy.
One thing you can bet on, something might go wrong. But along the way I’ve learned a great deal about damage control.
That said, you did the right thing. You just went with the flow – and that’s what we have to do.
2.Keep It Short:Understanding one’s attention span is the size of a peanut, his entire sales presentation lasted only 3 minutes.
3. Use Props Carefully: I was mesmerized by his slicing and dicing but he kept our focus on the quality of the knives throughout his demonstrations. By throwing the orange slices away and keeping his counter clean, there were no distractions to take away from the knives.
4. Give Something For Free:Despite spending my $39.95, since four steak knives and the pair of scissors were free, I walked away feeling as if I had received a gift.
5. Sell Emotion: The Miracle Blade salesman wasn’t selling just knives, he was promoting good health. Chopping tomatoes and onions instead of chocolate, convinced us if we ate home more often we’d lose weight and be happier.
6. Have Fun & Show Passion For What You Do: Despite giving this pitch many times daily, his demeanor, delivery and smile told us he was enjoying what he did. *Key take-away: Perception is reality*
7. Exceed Expectations: Provide added value your prospect can see. In fact, the price for the knives was a value – something repeated for us constantly during the sales pitch.
Whether I coached a father to deliver the best possible speech for his daughter’s wedding, improved a business presentation, helped get a professional promoted, or assisted in getting a business sold for top dollar, it is so rewarding to see my clients succeed.
Thank you – to all of the clients listed below. I’m honored to work with you.
Speaking & Event Highlights
Ambit Energy’s conference, Ambition! 2011 was a blast. Besides giving the keynote speech, I got to meet and interact with their incredible consultants.
United Way — I worked with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas on two separate projects this fall, both with the same goal: communicate their story more effectively to raise more funds for the United Way’s Community Impact Fund. I worked with both the service providers and the campaign associates. This work provided me with an added value—the ability to help raise money for good things to happen in our (Dallas) community.
Last week at the American Dental Association in Las Vegas, my husband, Jim Reisman, became a Fellow in the American College of Dentistry. You can see the pictures here.
This fall I worked with two different companies to help them communicate their stories to achieve their goals.
Barrier Advisors, an investment banking and corporate finance company, needed assistance in tailoring a presentation for Company A*– a business they are helping to sell. First I worked with the Barrier Advisor team to simplify the message, and then with the C-Suite of Company A* to develop their strategic delivery of the company’s story.
Mary Kay Cosmetics — To honor four new national sales directors Mary Kay created a “National Day of Honor” and flew these dynamic women to Dallas for a full day of events. This day included a half-day with me, improving their presentation skills. Of the four women, two spoke only Spanish. Thank you to my fantastic translator, Teresa Morales, Senior Editor Bilingual Communications, Mary Kay Inc. The second half of their day they shopped at Nordstrom with a gift card. Lucky girls!
I worked with various individuals, both through their companies, and on their own, to help them reach their communication and presentation goals.
Dr. Carolyn Matthews, an oncologist, came to me before giving several presentations. Our sessions allowed her presentations to become more dynamic, through better organization of her content and her visuals, which in turn, led to greater buy-in from her audiences.
With Joe Smith*, a Partner in a leading Dallas private equity firm, we fine-tuned his presentation. Together we worked to improve the original speech and simplify his visuals so that he could make a great first impression to a critical audience.
Brian Bogard with Edward Jones, not only saw significant improvement in his presentation skills, both in his seminars and in front of management, but also received a promotion moving him from a financial advisor to a regional leader.
Public speeches don’t only occur in our professions, but in our personal lives as well. Tom White*, owner of Company Y*, came to me to work on presentations at his daughter’s wedding. His goal was to give fabulous speeches, without tearing up. By the end of our sessions he was confident and ready to go!
Thank you, again, to my clients,
and to my assistant, Arin Forstenzer,
for keeping me sane during fun and crazy times!
*Names of people and companies changed for confidentiality.