Shannon Alter is president of Alter Consulting Group. She helps managers and companies succeed by developing the skills they need to provide client solutions. Her book “Say it With Success: Foolproof Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills” is available at AlterConsultingGroup.com.
You’re on the way to pitch your services to a promising prospective client. As you step out of the car, you feel a trickle of sweat making its way down your spine. In fact, you’re just a little bit dizzy. Nervously adjusting your new suit, you grasp the problem: You hate making presentations. For many professionals, the mere thought of pitching new business can be nerve-wracking. It’s no surprise: Studies show that 75% of Americans fear public speaking over just about anything else, including death and snakes.
Which public speakers do you admire most? Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and even Lady Gaga are often at the top of the list. No matter who your favorite is, good speakers have several traits in common: confidence, charisma, calmness and poise. Here are three surefire strategies you can use now to boost your confidence and power up your next pitch.
1. Have a conversation: A client recently asked me to evaluate one of its team members, a long-time industry executive. The executive was very knowledgeable, however, his customers complained that they didn’t have a good sense of how their project was coming along. As a result, he didn’t appear credible. Both his reputation, and the company’s, suffered. What was the problem? He had lots — and lots — of information, so that wasn’t it. Plain and simple: The executive wasn’t connecting with his audience.
Think of it as having a conversation. When you’re wooing new business, effectively getting your message across is crucial. Help your new clients connect the dots by offering pertinent examples of how your company has handled a situation. Be sure to share how you recovered from a problem; it will illustrate your strategic skills.
2. Narrow your focus: Often I work with companies that want to expand their business by acquiring clients in another sector of their industry. Just as often, they want to do everything. The same holds true in presentations: We want to include every possible bit of information. Here’s the secret: Get to the point and stay there. Hone in on what your audience wants to know, and they won’t zone out. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, so pinpoint your focus and clients will know they are truly hiring an expert.
3. Polish it up! I have six words for you here: edit, edit, edit and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If you want your presentation to be pitch-perfect, this step is critical. Bring out your inner editor and revise until your presentation is right on message. Thoroughly rehearse your presentation, even the spontaneous parts. Many times people will review their proposal simply by reading it or going over it in their heads. If you want surefire results, rehearse your pitch out loud — in front of the mirror, your colleague or even your mom.
Your job is to give prospective clients a great reason to work with you. Take the time now to refine and retool your presentations to make sure they are client-worthy. It will make a world of difference.
Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs, via iStockphoto