“58.5% 58.5% of respondents indicated they used web presentations during the year of respondents indicated they used web presentations during the year” Distinction Communication Inc’s 2010 Presentation Impact Survey
A Virtual Reality… The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made by Web Presenters & How to Avoid Them! For those who sell, train or educate from a distance! , f The 5 Most Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them Failure to Build Trust: Audiences must trust you before they trust your message Failure to Establish Relevancy: You win or lose that battle in the first few minutes Marginal Quality Visuals Degrade Good Messaging: How you "package” your message matters Failure to Embrace the Limitations of Virtual Communication: You’re not in Kansas anymore Underestimating Your Audience: Be honest about your motives
Jim Endicott President, Distinction Communication Inc. www.distinction‐services.com
2011 Distinction Communication Inc.
All rights reserved.
Laying the groundwork… If you’re like most people who responded to our Presentation Impact Survey last year, the ability to sit yourself down in front of a computer and deliver information or ideas to people you may never meet has now become a part of your job description. Some companies do it to save money. For others, time is the most important commodity. But no matter what your motivation, if you can’t get your ideas across in a compelling way in this virtual, arms‐length environment, what you save in time and money may be negated by information that simply doesn’t stick! “Giving” a web presentation never guarantees anyone actually “got” anything you had to say. A db And because the interpersonal variables have become disengaged, you will need to draw on a h i l i bl h b di d ill d d much deeper toolkit of personal skills if you are to eke every possible advantage out of this challenging medium. Here are the issues and what you can do about them.
Failure to Build Trust: Audiences must trust you before they trust your message Audiences must trust you before they trust your message Think for a second about the last time you went through a customs checkpoint. The person in the booth reviewed your documents – then with purposeful intent, made direct and purposeful eye contact. Why? Because they are trained observers of deception. Although confident eye contact is probably the #1 way people discern trust and believability we don’tt have that luxury with the is probably the #1 way people discern trust and believability, we don have that luxury with the virtual presenter. So our trust “receptors” must seek out other clues. Make no mistake, audiences must trust you before they will ever trust your message. Here are 6 ways to build trust in a virtual environment 1) The trusted introducer. I recently went to a conference that had a virtual presenter live from The trusted introducer I recently went to a conference that had a virtual presenter live from Japan. Although the audience didn’t all know him, they did know the women (who had been a regular conference speaker there) who introduced him. They trusted her and her reputation – so they trusted him. Jump start your credibility with the trusted introducer. 2) The shared experience story. In Robert Cialdini’s book, YES, he makes a strong case for how we are more influenced by people just like us, rather than those with which we share no common ground. Speakers can often cement their credibility by sharing a brief personal story upfront that demonstrates common ground with the audience they hope to connect with. 3) Create a pre‐engagement interaction. Building trust takes time. If an audience’s first encounter with you is in an introduction, some personality types simply can’t build trust that y , p y yp py quickly. Reach out to your attendee list ahead of time, introduce yourself as their upcoming speaker and ask them to forward some questions or concerns they had related to your topic. THEN… be sure to reference that interaction in the first few minutes of your event along with some of the feedback you received. This assures them the event is more about their needs and issues than your personal agenda.
3) Get off the prepared script – and simply talk to your audience. Everyone knows when we are reading from a script. The delivery is mechanical and the periodic emphasis seems more prompted by a handwritten note. Although you may be much more comfortable with a written script, internalize it and get rid of it. You don’t need one to have a hallway conversation with a peer manager and you don’tt need to be married to one in this conversation with a peer manager and you don need to be married to one in this environment. If you sound natural and comfortable– your conversational style will set your audience at ease. A few simple talking point reminders are good – a formal script ‐ bad. 4) Put a picture of yourself on your title slide. You’ve heard people say, “It’s great to finally put a face with a name!” We are relational beings trying to make a virtual, impersonal setting work for us. Putting a warm (or playful depending on the context) picture of yourself on the title slide gives them a relational focus. Formal or “stuffy” pictures can sometimes backfire. Ask yourself – would I like to have coffee with this person? 5) Bring your sense of humor. Often we over‐formalize the distance communication setting. Personal warmth can build important virtual bridges to an unseen audience but it will most likely feel strange given the absence of human contact. Your success may well hinge on practicing that skill because the venue demands it. If you’re a more formal communicator – visualize a personal setting like a lunchroom conversation. Or imagine you have only one person on the other end of the web conference. Presenters who can genuinely convey an element of relaxed humor or informality demonstrate to their audiences that they are totally comfortable, confident and “authentic”. Personal transparency is not a liability. f t bl fid t d “ th ti ” P lt i t li bilit Our greatest position of influence is not in being a subject matter expert. Our greatest position of influence will always be in coming along side others in their journey.
Mistake # Mistake #
Failure to Establish Relevancy: You win or lose that battle in the first few minutes There are two reasons people will take the time to attend a web presentation or seminar; 1) They’re told they must attend or 2) They believe the topic holds the promise that the information you’re offering up can be readily applied in their work or personal lives. As soon as they start to believe it doesn’t, they are one click away from bailing out or multi‐tasking. Here are 4 ways to establish relevancy early on in your virtual encounter 1) Content without context is meaningless. Whether you have an important training topic to address or ideas to communicate, jumping right into your subject without setting the stage is confusing. If audiences can see their own situation in the context of your topic or experiences, then you can create instant relevancy. Start with PAIN – EFFECT – NEED; the pain some are experiencing for the lack of this content, the impact it’s having on people, companies, sales quotas… and the general need for change it’s evoking. These three elements can be a part of a brief opening story, statistics or headline but set the all important context.
2) Feedback what you heard in pre‐discovery. In a sales environment, no customer or prospect ever believe they are just like everyone else. They truly believe they have unique needs and issues. Spend the first few minutes recapping what you heard from their managers or employees during formal or informal discovery discussions. For informational seminars, refer to information you received from participants before the session. Attribute the information to real people who represent the demographic of your attendees (small, medium and large company feedback?). The more you can segment an audience into a common profile, the more effective you can be in targeting relevant solutions and content. 3) Set expectations in the beginning. Only promise what you can reasonably deliver in the time you have. Over zealous agendas are difficult to deliver on and create the potential for disappointment and frustration. So set a few simple goals. “Before you leave today, you will learn…. and will better understand…” And be prepared to deliver that message in 20‐30% less time than a face‐to‐face presentation.
Marginal Quality Visuals Degrade Good Messaging: How you "package” your message matters Last year I attended a webinar series featuring weekly “industry experts” sharing their unique y g y y p g q insights. But as soon as I hit the web presentation's landing page, something wasn't right from the get‐go. The sponsor logos were badly pixilated and distorted., cheesy artwork gratuitously embellished the venue and many of the host’s presentation slides reflected a patchwork quilt of styles and treatments. Before the first expert even uttered a single word I already had a feeling about what I was about Before the first expert even uttered a single word, I already had a feeling about what I was about to experience and it wasn’t good. I felt bad for the seasoned list of professionals who would no doubt be embarrassed by the setting in which they found themselves. They deserved better. 4 things to set the right kind of visual first impression 1) A single, professional unifying identity goes a very long way. It doesn A single, professional unifying identity goes a very long way. It doesn’tt cost much to create cost much to create even a neutral impression. Have someone with some design training build that first impression and last impression. It’s in your audience’s faces for 5‐10 minutes before the session even starts. Speakers often want to bring their visuals in their own template but you can impact the frame around it all. First impressions are critical. What kind of first impressions do your create? A professional event or just another ad hoc web interaction? 2) Apply the 7‐second rule. The virtual environment is extremely detail averse. Although sometimes in‐person audiences will better tolerate more complex visuals if the presenter is really compelling, there is no such grace in virtual environments. Never display more information on screen than your audience can reasonably process in 7‐8 seconds. 4
3) Keep the content moving. Even following the 7‐second rule, the last thing you want is your audience staring at an unchanging screen for 3, 4 or 5 minutes at a time. I don’t care how riveting you think you may be, your voice alone will rarely be enough to keep them from checking email while you wax eloquent. If possible, try to change up your visuals every 30‐40 seconds.
Failure to Embrace the Limitations of Virtual Communication: You’re not in Kansas anymore!
C Can we agree virtual presentation environments are nothing like face‐to‐face presentation it l t ti i t thi lik f t f t ti encounters? I hope so because many presenters today treat them as one in the same. They simply aren’t. Here are 9 unique ways web events are different and demand extra consideration from you 1) Attendee bandwidth can vary greatly. Home offices and virtual employees are very prevalent these days. And bandwidth speeds can vary dramatically for your seminar attendees. Simply put, what takes 1 second to refresh on your screen as web host may take 5‐10 seconds on someone’s desktop in a rural Minnesota. Keep your visuals simple and optimized for screen resolution (96 DPI). And provide a landline connection so you don’t rely p ( ) p y y on a web‐only audio connection. Losing your voice for any reason is a game‐ender. 2) Limited attention spans = lowered content objectives. Web presentations are NOT just another communication vehicle. It’s an environment that guarantees you nothing. Not the personal attention of an audience – not idea consideration – not even the commitment of a physical presence. If you have 50 or 100 people on your web presentation – you may have the real attention of 25%. You have to earn the rest by being unusually good at this venue. Planning a 45‐minute web presentation? Consider making it a more concise 30‐minute one. 3) Change stimulus types every 3‐4 minutes. You have a lot of options available to you to keep and hold attention. Vary visual elements – use audio elements – use a co‐presenter – use pre‐discovered statistics – use brief and well‐told personal stories – use a live visit to another website resource – use live polling interactions. Pretend you are presenting to a room full of fidgety five‐year olds and you will begin to understand the depth of the virtual challenge. 4) Your voice is everything. In our personal coaching workshops, we emphasize 4 areas of important personal delivery skills. (Eyes – Hands – Movement – Voice). Of these 4 critical skill areas – only ONE is applicable to virtual environment – your voice. You must become a master of vocal delivery. Changes in Pace, Pause and Vocal Variety are not just a nice thing to attempt, they will play a critical role in your success in this venue. Think of the last web
event you attended where the presenter had a monotone delivery and seemed to drone on forever. Even the very best content will not survive bad vocal delivery.
Do you hear Passion? Energy? Conviction? Enthusiasm? If you don’t, find someone else to deliver the message. If that sounds a little blunt ‐ it is. It’s the equivalent of watching a presenter who spends the whole time staring at their shoes or the presentation screen. They’re not bad people ‐ they simply do not possess the needed skill set to make this environment a viable one for your company. Find those who do or provide training opportunities to grow/train the missing elements. It may be the best investment you make. t iti t /t i th i i l t It b th b t i t t k
This advice is often offered up and is still relevant. Get a headset and stand when you deliver a web presentation. Gesture wildly if that’s what it takes for you. I guarantee you that your physical delivery accommodations will directly impact what is heard and perceived. If passion, energy, conviction and enthusiasm are valued attributes, then modifying your work environment is a small price to pay. This includes freeing up your hands by using a wireless headset. The additional freedom allows you to concentrate on the skills of delivery – not your technical tether.
6) Master the virtual interface. You wouldn’t attempt a regular presentation if you couldn’t plug in the projector or remote pointing device – and you shouldn’t attempt a web conference unless you thoroughly understand the interface. Your web presentation service providers will always give you as much time as you need ahead of time to enhance your comfort level. Considerations include: •
Master the ability to seamlessly navigate between your PowerPoint, web links and other resources. Hunting around because of unfamiliarity is inexcusable.
Learn how to split your interface windows so ‘private chat’ screens are visible. If there are any problems, support teams can send you personal messages.
If If you solicit feedback, have an audience feedback window split out so you can easily li i f db k h di f db k i d li il track the input and respond real time to what you are seeing. This takes practice.
7) Always provide Q&A opportunities. If people can’t get answers to the inevitable questions that are a part of a virtual presentation – you can fail in your presentation objective. Most presentations are about changing how people behave, think or believe. Not allowing i b h i h l b h hi k b li N ll i questions means there can be unaddressed obstacles in creating change. Allow plenty of time. Also provide a vehicle for pursuing offline questions directly with the presenter.
8) Know Your Demographic Virtually training must be laser‐targeted to specific needs and to specific audiences. The more general the topic – the greater the chance of disengagement. For this reason any pre‐ event promotion should include job or personal relevancy statements, what specific skills will be enhanced by their participation and the impact the training will have on their lives. • If you demo software as part of a sales process, highlight feature sets that address the expressed needs of your immediate audience. General “tours” may fail to connect with the primary motivation for change – p y g p personal pain and the impact that it p p has created. If you don’t know – ask ahead of time ‐ this is consultative selling 101. • General or broad training objectives produce ambiguous outcomes • General selling objectives can fail to resonate with otherwise viable prospects • Always tailor content to very specific expressed needs and issues y y p p • Give attendees a sense of who is “sitting next to them” in the virtual audience
9) Be realistic about outcomes. Someone once said – if your only tool is a hammer – every problem looks like a nail. Contrary to the advertising you may have seen, distance problem looks like a nail. Contrary to the advertising you may have seen, distance communication does not solve all issues nor is this communication tool appropriate for every situation. Saving $500 on a sales call that costs you a $20,000 opportunity will always be a bad decision. Always weigh the stakes as a part of your decision making. From time to time we will be asked if we can teach personal delivery skills (for face‐to‐ p y ( face presentations) from a distance. The answer is always the same… No. It is a very experiential, relational set of skills. I can show people pictures, I can show them video of others – but the only way they will ever internalize the skill is to do it and receive direct and immediate feedback. They must “experience” the physical skills first‐hand. Here’s the litmus test: Where the stakes are high and cost of failure far exceeds the cost of travel, then face‐to‐face training or sales contacts are essential. Don’t be pound wise –penny foolish. It may save you money now –but will cost you money later. When the price of failure is minimal (i.e. the potential value of the sale or learning outcome) or an initial virtual interaction can create more traction for a future personal contact – great. When distance training can forge real change in human behavior and that desired change can be tested and validated, go virtual today! 7
Underestimating Your Audience: Be honest about your motives and intentions
The Virtual “Informational Webinar" If your InBox is anything like mine, there is no end to the number of free informational webinars people want you to attend. There is probably some valuable content there somewhere but instinctively we know there’s a shelled sales pitch coming at some point. Trust is a very tough thing to forge in a virtual environment. If your audiences feel for a moment like trust has been broken because of a perceived deception, they not only will exit your webinar but tell ten other people. I’m not saying these types of informational webinars are a bad idea but far too many treat their audiences like naive sheep waiting to be sheered (and dumped into a contact database). That is never respectful and you run the very real risk of audience alienation. Deliver what you say you are going to deliver and never pre‐empt the information with a product pitch of any length. And if your introductions take more than 60‐seconds, you are probably working too hard to create credibility for you and your speaker. The value is in the content. When the audiences get that – credibility will follow. • Be honest about your intentions & motivations – you must earn your audience’s respect • Set expectations for how the time will be allocated • Deliver real value with actionable take‐aways for attendees • Give them something of value for their time and attention – downloads, podcast… • Make the sales pitch optional. If you earned their trust – they will stick around
The Educational Virtual Training Seminar Many of our larger corporate clients have attempted to defray the cost of deploying training to large, decentralized sales organizations by moving as much as possible to a distance learning setting. It’s certainly understandable and there are many topics that can be handled effectively from a distance. But often expectations for outcomes need to also be adjusted accordingly. (See the blog on our website, “Training is More Than a Check in a Box” (distinction‐services.com). Engagement levels are generally significantly reduced in virtual environments. Retention levels are often lower. So is actual skill assimilation. Have realistic expectations. • Pilot your virtual training initiatives and measure what is truly retained. • Reduce the content covered and reinforce with practical case studies and stories. • You can’t improve what you can’t measure – test periodically for retention. 8
About the author… Jim Endicott is a nationally‐recognized consultant, executive coach and author specializing in professional presentation messaging, advanced design and delivery skills coaching. Jim has been a Jesse H. Neal award‐winning columnist for PRESENTATIONS magazine and has also contributed presentation‐related content to magazines like Business Week, Consulting, Selling Power and the Portland Business Journal. Jim and co‐author and psychologist Dr. Scott Lee released their first book in
Jim Endicott President, Distinction www.distinction‐services.com jim@distinction‐services.com Distinction Communication Inc Distinction Communication Inc. 18340 NE Rainbow Lane Newberg, OR 97132 503.554.1203
2001, The Presentation Survival Skills Guide. (Distinction Publishing).
Jim’s company, Distinction, is a Portland, Oregon‐based organization that works with client companies ranging from Fortune 50 senior executive teams to small business start‐ups all across North America & Europe.
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Today, more than ever, the noise level of people vying for the attention of your Distinction Communication Inc. Inc
Nationally‐recognized experts in professional presentation messaging, advanced design, and critical delivery skills coaching For more information on Distinction’s breadth of professional services… www.distinction‐services.com Or call us at 503.554.1203
important audiences (internal & external) has reached new peaks of intensity. From the seemingly endless meetings they attend to the parade of sales presentations and management pitches ‐ the tone, visual impressions and even the presenters themselves seem to blur into a slurry of voices with precious few who seem to stand out from the crowd. We can help give you an important edge.
Distinction supports their clients in three key ways:
1) Distinction works with an organization’s high‐profile presenters to help them more effectively execute on the personal communication skills needed to foster deeper levels of trust, believability and credibility.
2) Distinction also helps collaborate on strategic message development shaped specifically for the high stakes presentation medium.
3) And finally, Distinction’s team can provide professional presentation design support so important concepts are actually grasped more quickly.