Recently I heard a disconcerting story from a partner at a well known accounting firm (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty!)
It seems this woman had met someone who was looking for an accounting firm to help her through a major growth stage in her business. Seeing an opportunity for her firm, the partner arranged a meeting with appropriate colleagues, who made what they obviously assumed was an appropriate presentation to the potential client.
When there was no response in a few days, the original partner followed up. The woman was very frank, telling her that she hadn’t had a clue what her colleagues had been talking about. It was full of jargon and generic information that went right over her head. She didn’t feel they understood her needs, and she had no interest in working with these people.
I wonder how many times this happens in accounting firms every single day — and I’m betting it’s much more than you think.
Many accountants actively seek out speaking engagements as part of their marketing activities, and it’s a great strategy. However, I’ve sat in audiences and been subjected to these presentations, and too often been bored out of my mind by content that was delivered in mind numbing detail, backed by jam-packed PowerPoint slides that were in direct competition with the speaker for the audience’s attention.
At the request of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, I recently created a program called Presenting Financial Information to Non-financial Decision Makers, which I delivered at their conference. In this program, I discuss the “3 biggies” of this type of presentation:
1. Your objective. I’m constantly surprised at the number of people who start to build a presentation without seriously examining their own objective. Yes, you might be delivering the results of an audit or a consulting report, but the delivery itself is not your objective. Presumably you want your audience to take action on your recommendations, and if you narrow this down you’ll make a much more focused presentation. Take the time to drill down to find your true objective.
2. Visual aids. They’re called “aids” for a reason! They are supposed to aid you in delivering the presentation and aid the audience in understanding it. Masses of words or figures crammed into a slide (and often read word for word by the presenter) don’t aid anyone. I once asked a client who had engaged me to do a presentation workshop for her group what her objective was for the program. She said, “Helen, I want never again to see an Excel spreadsheet used as a visual aid!” Financial information is much better shown through charts and graphs, which give an instant visual representation of information you can then speak to in terms that hold your audience’s attention.
3. Delivery. Here’s the bald truth: people assume financial presentations are going to be dry and boring! They don’t need to be, but that’s the assumption. So if you go in there and speak in a monotone with no expressive body language, and use jargon and high-flown language that isn’t theirs, your presentation will fulfill those expectations.
I’m not suggesting you leap around the platform or conference room, but I do suggest you do some basic things such as smile at the audience as you start to speak, and make eye contact with different people throughout your time in front of them. You must also show enthusiasm about what you’re saying — or else why should they?
The whole question of the inappropriate use of jargon is so big I’m going to write a whole story about it in a future issue of Your Marketing Counts. But the problem is not just jargon. Many professionals tend to use complicated, “fancy” words in their presentations because they think it makes the sound more knowledgeable. That’s not the case. If you use simple, straightforward language, your audience won’t even think about the words because they’ll be too busy getting the message – and isn’t that the whole point?
Whether you are making a presentation to attract new clients or having a one-to-one conversation with an existing client to encourage them to take action, the way you communicate your message can make the difference between success and failure. Put yourself in their position, consider what they need to know and present your information from that standpoint.
I’ve been speaking professionally for over twenty years, and I also offer one-on-one coaching for professionals who have a high stakes presentation coming up. I do this either in-person or by Skype, so no matter where in the world you are, call me at 1-416-966-5023 and let’s talk about how you can make your next presentation shine!
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