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EXECUTIVE SERIES No.

Developing a Compelling Presentations Culture in Your Organization

JOHN LOWE

EXECUTIVE SERIES PUBLICATION 1

Developing a Compelling Presentations Culture in Your Organization


JOHN LOWE

In the vast majority of companies and organizations in the world, there are no stated, accepted, executive-sponsored expectations for exceptional communications. What an opportunity missed!

C OPY RI G H T

2013 Be Compelling Now, LLC. All rights reserved under the International Copyrights Convention. Please note that much of this book is based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. You should use this information as you see t, understanding your particular situation may not be exactly suited to the examples illustrated herein, and you should adjust your use of the information and recommendations accordingly. The author is not responsible for any situational outcomes which do not meet your expectations. Any trademarks, service marks, product names or features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners and are used for reference purposes only. There is no implied endorsement if used herein. becompellingnow.com

AB O UT

Order your copy of Remarkable Presentations >

John Lowe is a well respected communications coach and author of Remarkable Presentations, How to Develop and Deliver What Your Competitors Dont, available on Amazon. With over 25 years of awardwinning experience as a sales professional, John has delivered powerful presentations which regularly won key deals for companies such as Apple, HP, KPMG and Blackboard. He is a Certied Vistage Speaker, a TEDX presentations coach, a member of the faculty at the Ty Boyd Excellence in Speaking Institute and an Advisory Board Member of the Raleigh Business Alliance. John Lowe, Chief Message Coach john@becompellingnow.com 919-264-4591

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W H AT I S A PRESENTATION C ULTURE?
it is estimated that over 30 million presentations are delivered each and every day. If surveyed, most professionals would consider a presentation to be a report or talk given in front of a room accompanied by a slide show or other visuals. While this is certainly what is considered the standard presentation, it is suggested that the official definition of the word presentation be considered. presentation\ pr- zen- t-shn (noun) :something set forth for the attention of the mind :a descriptive or persuasive account This definition says nothing about where or how the information is delivered, or to whom. It does not require visuals of any kind, or a discussion of any given length. When this is taken into consideration, the types of presentations given each day expand tremendously.
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Lets face it, a presentation is any opportunity you have to express your message. It is fundamentally the expression portion of communications. Considering how critical this is, what is more important than creating standards by which those communications be shared with peers, team members, and those outside the organization? In fact, communication is the life-blood of an organization. At the end of the day, it comes down to people communicating with people about their ideas, plans, goals, commitments, projects and proposals. Every opportunity for that to happen is an opportunity for success or failure. In order to propose and support such standards, it makes sense to develop an organizational culture around this critical issue. Creating a culture, an accepted norm for participation with which all members of the team are expected to comply, will provide a framework for uniformity. Much like a company has a culture of individual development, or customer service, or product innovation, or fiscal conservatism, a culture of compelling presentation quality will provide a benchmark for the effectiveness of the organizational communication, in all its forms.

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W HY D EV E LO P SUC H A CULTURE?
Informal surveys or personal discussions quickly reveal that most presentations of any sort are less than compelling. In fact, they are more often than not average to poor. How many times have you felt your time was not well spent by participating in meetings, sales or marketing presentations, speeches, webinars, seminars, training sessions or other communications events? It is much more common for people to express frustration vs. excitement following a presentation of any sort. There is also formal surveyed evidence that this is true. For example: most executives say 90% of sales presentations are a waste of their time professionals sur veyed said 50% of meetings were a waste of time executives said the number 1 requirement for business success is effective communications sales and marketing execs say over 50% of sales reps do not represent the solution adequately
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Imagine if the majority of presentations given by members of your organization were truly impactful, engaging, and memorable. Imagine if people, both inside and outside your company were eager to hear presentations given by your team, and the reputation for your organizational communications was first class. Imagine if your organization was recognized by the industry and trade media for the quality and engagement of your message delivery. What effect do you think that would have on your success? Making this effort is hard, but it is oh-so rewarding. It is also among the most cost-effective development programs. Of the many ways to develop an organization, creating a compelling presentations culture can demonstrate an immediate return on investment. Since so many presentations are given on a daily basis, it is easy to see a rapid improvement.

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If there were a supported, concentrated, focused process on organization-wide excellence in presentations quality and effectiveness, it would result in the following benefits: individual personal development would rise individual morale would improve individual and team performance would increase internal miscommunication would be minimized product demand would accelerate brand recognition would be enhanced leadership development would be better customer satisfaction and loyalty would increase organizational reputation would climb sales revenues would skyrocket

These benefits are all critical reasons why an organization should invest in developing a compelling presentations culture. In fact, achieving only two or three of these benefits would justify the effort. Developing this type of cultural shift is not easy. It requires an adoption of a new paradigm of presentations. It also requires executive acceptance and promotion, for without leadership setting the example, the program will surely fail. It requires development at all levels of the organization, not just sales and management. These apply to external presentations, but many
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people lead internal meetings, and developing the communications at this level results in perhaps the greatest return on investment. Not only are meetings and communications efficiencies enhanced, but it also increases the identification and development of future leaders. By focusing on presentations skill development, people are asked to confront perhaps their greatest fear, that being public speaking. Confronting and conquering your greatest fears ranks at the top of personal development. Most people do not like making presentations, and do not relish the thought of dealing with it at all. In fact, in lists of peoples greatest fears, public speaking regularly is listed higher than death. That means, many people have stated they would rather die than give a speech. This is precisely why accepting this challenge and developing this culture is so valuable an effort. The personal development which results is immeasurable in terms of enhancing the professional quality and confidence of an organizations people.

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In making the case for a compelling presentations culture, lets examine the different types of presentations made within an organization, and how raising the bar will benefit the organization as a whole. Once again, presentations are not always in front of a room with a PowerPoint slide deck. We all make multiple presentations every day. Presentations in your business may include: internal meetings solution updates training sessions executive strategy meetings partner updates media presentations shareholder events trade shows webinars sales presentations customer events seminars one on one meetings hiring interviews town-hall meetings How can you make them all

compelling?
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EX T E RNAL PRES EN TATI O N S


First, we will examine the most commonly expressed examples of presentations, those given to audiences outside the organization. These often have to do with selling or marketing the offerings of the company, and are critical to the overall institutional success. Sales Presentations Most companies spend a great deal of resources on hiring, training and getting their sales team in front of prospects. They spend almost nothing on ensuring that the reps can present a compelling story, and engage in a meaningful prospect/client discussion. Surveys have indicated that buying executives (a) think most sales presentations are a waste of time, and (b) overwhelmingly prefer a conversation to a slide presentation. Most sales people, however, are not comfortable changing the way they do presentations, and when surveyed, they listed help with the value proposition discussion as a training priority.

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A sales presentation is any opportunity the rep has to share solution-based information with prospects or customers. It is any opportunity they have to further the prospect along the sales cycle. It is any opportunity they have to establish a trusted advisor relationship. These are mission-critical opportunities, and organizations should invest significant resources toward ensuring that their reps are the best they can be at taking full advantage of these chances to move the buying process forward. Trade Show Presentations Speaking at a trade show or other industry event is perhaps the best chance to obtain multiple, qualified, hot leads. Many companies dont even try to get approved for a presentation slot, and of those that do, few take full advantage of it by preparing and delivering a compelling message. Most either give a company-sponsored product demo, or they contract with a customer to provide a user testimonial presentation. In either

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case, they often fail to make a connection with the audience, and fail to deliver valuable, problem-solving information. What if you could have the undivided attention of 20-40 very interested prospects in a room for 40 minutes? What most business people do not understand is that presenting at a trade show or industry event is the absolute best way to get real, hot leads. These people didnt come to the session to get off their feet for 40 minutes. They have a problem they think you can solve! They want to be informed, and they want to be impressed. Unfortunately, they usually leave without either being accomplished. Executive Speeches Corporate executives are often called upon to represent the organization at functions, events, and customer conferences. When doing so, they are seen as the face of the organization. They represent the competency and trustworthiness of the company. The audience, almost always people who for whatever reason are interested in the organization, is looking for that person to impress them with their knowledge and their communications skills. So many times, executives fail to deliver. They use the excuse that they are so busy they do not have time to properly prepare. Consequently, the organization misses a great opportunity to
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win more friends, supporters, investors, partners and possibly customers, as well as fails to enhance their reputation Web-Based Presentations With the advent of easy and inexpensive delivery technology, coupled with shrinking travel and event budgets, more companies are resorting to web-based presentations to sell and inform key prospects, customers and stakeholders. This is a great tool, saving huge amounts of time and money. When used properly, the attendees appreciate the savings and the experience. However, those delivering these events tend to simply present a slide show via the internet. Without the advantage of face to face communications, these slide events become incredibly boring and tedious, and usually miss the mark with the audience. Youve been in the audience for these types of presentations. What was everyone doing? What were you doing? Checking your mail or texts on your phone, right? Or looking at your laptop. Or leafing through some other information. When delivering a web-based presentation, the
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emphasis has to be on engagement. Otherwise, the information is lost in translation. Customer/Events Customer events are most often new product rollouts or user conferences, or executive briefings. These are opportunities to share customer-specific information and further cement, or even repair, the vendor-customer relationship. Once again, critical opportunities to communicate in an impressive, engaging manner, and have your customers walk away wanting to do more business with you. Many times these turn out to be company-focused events instead of customer-focused. Presenters want to dump as much information as possible and try to impress their audiences with their knowledge, features and developments. They fail to put the emphasis on solving the customers problems, soliciting feedback, engaging and creating dialog vs. lecture. Any time there is the opportunity to interact with customers, especially when providing valuable information with the goal of selling them more stuff, you have to keep the focus of the event on them and their problems. As soon as it becomes a company advertisement, they start wondering why they spent their time and money to attend.

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Marketing Messages While not considered to be presentations, marketing messaging, delivered via advertisements, web sites, marketing materials, white papers, videos, case studies, etc. are indeed presenting the value proposition to the target market. They are the most widely viewed form of organizational presentation, and often mistake benefit statements and about us information for impactful messaging. Because marketing messaging is not delivered via a conversation or even in person, the message needs to appeal to the old brain receptors of the target audience. (Old brain refers to the emotional, why section of the brain which dominates decision-making.) Otherwise, it is received as simply more noise in an otherwise overwhelmingly noisy marketplace. For example, look at any number of web sites, and you will see that 90+% of the information on any home page is about the company, not the prospect. Its about the what, not the why. More and more, the focus of marketing messaging is shifting from sell to engage, meaning you pull in your prospects by sending out quality, informative, interesting and compelling information which informs, not sells your prospect. They make the decision to engage with you.
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The way you present your value message speaks loudly about whether you are a transaction oriented company, or a relationship oriented company. Public Relations Whenever someone from your organization addresses the media, participates in a public forum, or offers information on your behalf, it is critical that the information be shared in a way which represents the company in a positive manner. This may influence key partners, markets, investors, prospects or customers. Most PR presentations or statements are framed in a conservative, stale format. This is the safe approach. It is also the most boring. When developed and delivered in a compelling way, PR statements can be used as an indirect marketing tool, to drive demand, branding and differentiation.

If you are going to communicate anything to the outside world, why take less than the utmost advantage of that opportunity?

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IN T E R NAL PRES EN TATI O N S


Internal presentations often have to do with strategy, solution development, marketing, human resources, budgeting, and the like. These are the presentations most often taken for granted, as the audience is perceived to be forced to listen by their required attendance. Unfortunately, because of this, many internal messages are poorly developed, delivered and received, and result in reduced efficiency, participation, creativity, morale, motivation and results. Team Meetings How often does your company have team meetings that are considered great or outstanding? How many result in attendees saying a particular meeting was well worth their time? If yours are like almost all others, the answer is not very often. Many times, meeting organizers do not plan well, and do not develop a meaningful presentation. More likely it consists of bulleted talking points to guide the discussion. Possibly useful. Definitely boring.

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Team members want to be engaged, they want to make good use of their time, they want to share constructive ideas. However, many meetings are dominated by a set agenda that provides little initiative for involvement. Imagine an organization where meeting attendees are anxious to attend and walk away inspired to do their part! Strategy Sessions A strategy session is most productive when participation and creativity are the focus. A strategy presentation needs to promote those qualities by laying the foundation for the why message. All too often, these sessions are dominated by datadriven discussions, with charts, graphs and spreadsheets providing the information to be used as the basis for the strategy development. A welldeveloped presentation which creates an interest and motivates attendees to share ideas provides the best results.

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National/or International Sales Meetings These events are expensive, time-consuming and critical to success. Often, they fall short of expectations and results. The general session and the awards presentations are normally not the problem with these events. Those are scripted for maximum motivation and entertainment, although general sessions dominated by talking executive heads with bullet point slides still are the norm.
The biggest problem resides in the breakout sessions,

where sales reps are educated about solutions, policies and processes, market data, competitive updates, forecasts, etc. These allimportant opportunities to inform the team are often the most boring and least appreciated of the event program.

Presenters focus on what information they need to deliver instead of why its important and how to deliver it in a way that the reps would most benefit from. Sales people want to know whats in it for them, and how can the information presented make them more money. AND...they want to have fun. Knowing how these folks are motivated is the key to developing and delivering a great event.
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Project Updates Groups and departments within companies have numerous opportunities for project updates. These are usually very important to update the team, key stakeholders, or sales/ marketing on the status, progress and timelines for completion. Often, they are treated in quickie fashion, meaning the intent is to give a quick update and get on with the day. The problem is, this minimizes the chance for feedback, creative ideas and suggestions which may very well positively impact the project. Attendees are often left with the feeling that the information could just have easily been mailed in. Partner Sessions Many times there are partners involved in projects, developments, funding, strategy or other activities. Partners need to be treated with the same respect and involvement as internal players. In fact, there is an argument to be made that it is valuable to make a better impression on partners, as they have potential influence beyond the walls of the organization. When partners are treated as insiders, and provided with information that not only informs but impresses them, they are

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more likely to go above and beyond to contribute to the success of the organization.

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S ET T I NG EXPECTATI O N S
In the vast majority of companies and organizations in the world, there are no stated, accepted, executive-sponsored expectations for exceptional communications.

There most certainly is the desire, and perhaps even the unstated expectation of such results, but very rarely does that represent itself throughout an organization as a key, driving principle for the institution as a whole.

What an opportunity missed!


At the same time, leaders will tell you that one of the key skills that has propelled them to the top is their ability to communicate well. Prospects will tell you that the number one desire they have is to easily understand the value proposition which is being presented to them. Managers will tell you that their biggest challenge is how to most effectively communicate with their team.

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Perhaps most telling of all is the fact that miscommunication is listed as one of the top problem creators in any organization. Why then are there few compelling presentation cultures? The most prevalent answers seem to be as follows: 1. Time everyone is too busy to focus on the development of consistently high quality presentations. 2. Resource priorities there is only so much money available for training and development. 3. Change it is difficult to get most people to change the way they present information.

While all those things are true, it can be argued that developing a compelling presentation culture can help to alleviate every one of those issues. Compelling presentations can increase overall institutional efficiency, thereby creating better time management and reducing the numbers of meetings which frees up more time for more important responsibilities. Enhancing the quality and impact of sales and marketing presentations can increase the number of deals won, and thereby increasing revenues which provides more money for training and development.
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By accomplishing the aforementioned two goals, organizational team members see the results and benefits, and are consequently more open and willing to adopt change. Developing such a culture is a 5 step process.
1.

Executive Support Institutional leadership must embrace the program, and communicate it down through the team via their words and actions. This sets the level of importance. Leadership/Management Training The organizations leaders should receive training and coaching on their own presentation skills, which they can then share with their teams. Sales Focus Because the sales team has the most impactful opportunity to demonstrate an ROI on this process, a focus on improvement by this group will be critical to valuation and adoption by the organization as a whole. Event Coaching Since large internal and external events reach so many at a time, it is imperative that presentations at these events consistently demonstrate the compelling culture. Meeting Management There should be a focus on helping the entire organization to understand the concepts behind running or participating in regular meetings in an impactful and meaningful way.
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2.

3.

4.

5.

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The development of a compelling presentation culture, and altering the way the organizational story is told, should not be overlooked as a foundational way to establish brand quality and consistency, organizational excellence, maximized efficiency and enhanced corporate reputation. It can be the foundation for an entirely new and enhanced outlook regarding the institutional brand, and how it is represented to the world. What if your organization achieved a similar reaction to every presentation made by members of your team?

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At Be Compelling Now, John specializes in helping organizational leaders and teams to (a) develop and deliver powerful, engaging, memorable business presentations and business stories which create a competitive advantage and get decision-makers to act, and (b) build a culture of compelling communications within organizations and teams. Be Compelling Now delivers public and in-house workshops, and is available for keynotes, team and individual training, big-deal coaching, meeting facilitation, special event presentations and webinars. John is a Certified Vistage Speaker, and a TEDX presentations coach. John Lowe, Chief Message Coach john@becompellingnow.com 919-264-4591

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