Effective communication is a key to success in business, says Glenn Faulkner, a former officer of the NASDAQ Stock Market. “I’ve heard thousands of business presentations over the years and maybe 10 percent of them were effective.”
Faulkner asks the question, “Are You an Effective Communicator?,” at the New Jersey Technical Counsel on Wednesday, March 22, at 4:30 p.m. at the Dendrite Corporation, at 1405 Route 206 South in Bedminster. Cost: $110. Call 856-787-9700.
When giving a presentation, the speaker is attempting to influence his audience, to inform, to change their perceptions or opinions about a particular topic, or to encourage them to take an action. “Speaking to influence is a subtle but important skill,” says Faulkner. A good tool for anyone to have, it is essential for entrepreneurs who are attempting to bring investors into a new or expanding company.
“It is very important in the pre-public era of a company that people know how to speak to investors,” he says.
At NASDAQ, Faulkner’s work as the head of the business development division and customer service operations included “bringing in new listings and nurturing them.” In the highly competitive world of the stock market he mentored hundreds of new businesses and helped them find the investors they were seeking. Faulkner now owns his consulting business, the Faulkner Consultancy (www.faulknerconsultancy.com), in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. He works with businesses in three areas — client-centric sales, relationship-based negotiation, and effective presentations.
Faulkner “creates goal centered messaging and trains in its implementation.” With the pace of business today, he says, presentations need to be on point, persuasive, and move the audience to take an action. The message needs to be clear, concise, and motivating.
Presentation. One of the first and most basic lessons in public speaking is honing presentation skills. “People think in terms of stories, not in terms of financial information,” says Faulkner. “Studies have shown that 93 to 97 percent of what an audience retains at the end of a speech is the style and the delivery.”
Unfortunately, he adds, most speakers spend “90 percent of their time working on their content and 10 percent on the delivery. They need to spend more time on delivery.”
Practice. Faulkner suggests that if you need to give a public presentation you should make sure that you practice in front of an audience. Hiring a coach is the best way to learn to make more effective presentations, “but if you can’t afford one, find a few trusted friends and make your presentation in front of them.”
In addition, videotape your speech and watch yourself. “It is just like being a golfer. Someone can tell you what you are doing wrong, but if you see it yourself, you’ll understand it better,” he says. “You may think you are making wild gyrations, but from the audience you look like you barely have a pulse.”
A speaker needs to “convey an attitude of enthusiasm” about his subject. Many inexperienced speakers look stiff from a podium, he says. They need to practice to learn how to appear relaxed and enthusiastic, not stiff.
Audience mapping. A good speaker tailors his presentation to the audience, says Faulkner. He calls it “mapping the audience.” Research the group you are speaking to and structure the message with that knowledge in mind. “Find out how the people you are talking to will probably react to your information. Are they hostile or neutral or positive?”
“In one presentation a speaker can only hope to move his audience a couple of notches. “If they are hostile he can try to have them leave ambivalent,” he says. “If they are ambivalent, he can hope to move them to supportive.”
Faulkner suggests asking the organizers of the event about the audience — their backgrounds, their interests, their political leanings. If at all possible, he suggests interviewing someone who will be in the audience ahead of time to find out more about their goals and interests. “Find out if they buy your story.”
Minutia. When talking about their businesses, many speakers have a natural tendency to give too much information on financials, says Faulkner, “to tell all the minutia in terms of the financial base. They confuse Sarbanes-Oxley (laws regarding disclosure of accounting information) with being boring.”
A presentation is not an annual report. It needs to be an engaging narrative, not a recitation of facts and figures.
The weeds. Faulkner suggests that speakers “find the right level” for their audience. He describes a common phenomenon that he terms “talking down in the weeds.” The audience, he explains, “is looking for a few cute, memorable stories about customer service, while the speaker is down hunting in the weeds for all the details on the financials.”
“Audiences,” he says, “are asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” A good speaker will remember that and make sure that he addresses it. “Strategic speaking aligns the goals of the audience with those of the speaker,” he says. “A strategic speech is of interest and benefit to both sides.”
“What would you like the audience to do as a result of the speech that you are making? Would you like them to contact someone, conduct further research, or forward an idea to others?” asks Faulkner. Decide on a tangible, results-oriented goal.
This becomes the orientation of the entire speech. Speeches need to be given for a specific, measurable goal. This goal needs to be predetermined and woven throughout the presentation.
Says Faulkner, “Remember to begin with the end goal in mind.”