13 November 2006
Linda Fisher
Linda Fisher

What Are You Saying in Your Presentation? What Is Your Body Language Saying?

In Part 1 of Our Saga. . .

We discussed the need to prep before you pitch. Now, in Part 2, let's get to the actual pitch. Most of us adopt mannerisms over time. We pepper our speech with colloquial expressions. We make gestures with our hands. And--because we're designers--we bring in lots of cool, high-tech media to impress our potential corporate clients in our presentations. Dare we suggest that we should be putting the idea of substance over your style and creative abilities? You bet. The buyer is an extremely busy person; let's give him or her a really substantive presentation and skip the dramatics.

Let's Get It Under Control!

When making professional presentations, it is crucial for the presenter to control his or her body language. How can you do that? Make your presentation to some of your peers--as you would to an audience. Ask what kinds of mannerisms that you have, are distracting to them. Do you move too much? Do you control your hand movements, or do you need to work on that? What about your facial expressions? Some of us appear to be scowling when we are nervous or concentrating hard on what we are doing. Smooth these expressions out, and smile. You will relax more just by being conscious of the facial expressions you are projecting, and doing something about them. So will your potential clients. Practice in front of a mirror, too. Most people are their own best critics. What do you see?

Your 'To Do' List:
- DO make eye contact in presentations to connect with your potential clients.
- DO smile periodically so that you appear genuine, caring and easily approachable.
- DO control your hand movements and posture so that you look competent and confident; excessive movement distracts your audience from your message to your hands!
- DO use volume, speed and tone to effectively convey your message. Nervousness and self-consciousness encourage us to speak way too fast--slow down and relax! Your listener will too!
- DO end your presentation quickly, recapping your most important points so they will be memorable. You must prompt your buyer to take action. Show some enthusiasm for his or her project. And ask: "When can we start your project". This is called: Closing the Sale.

The buyer may tell you that he or she is planning to interview additional design firms, or needs time to deliberate over all of the presentations. Regardless, your presentation has been made on-point, with enthusiasm and knowledge of the client's needs--and that makes your presentation powerful, memorable, and more likely to be chosen.

The Don'ts:
- DON'T ever use colloquial, hip expressions in a business presentation. Use the language and expressions of business people.
- DON'T use verbal fillers in your speech. Notable fillers include: um, er, you know?--at the end of every sentence.
- DON'T pace back and forth; quiet your motions, and your nerves.
- DON'T speak too fast or appear to mumble. Enunciate.
- DON'T use high-tech, multi-media presentations to be cool--the client won't be impressed. Give them substance, not style.

Closing Thoughts
An effectively-written and professionally-delivered presentation is usually the difference between being passed over or making the sale. The key to a great delivery? Having confidence. Confidence comes naturally when you know what you are talking about. Confidence is conveyed in many subliminal ways. Learn to manage your verbal and nonverbal behaviours. Learn to manage your body language. Learn to speak with inflections and pauses that demonstrate your intelligence and enthusiasm. Learn to speak with a sense of timing, or tempo. At the end of your presentation, ask the buyer if you have anticipated and addressed all of their issues. Then ask: "Does anyone have a particular issue I can clarify further?"

After All of That. . .
Don't forget to ask for the sale! Wrap up a great presentation by saying: "We're excited about this project, and ready to go. When can we get started?"

In the coming Feature articles:
Part 3: Business Language and Communication
Part 4: Adapting Your Presentation to the Corporate Buyers' Needs

Stay tuned!

For more information, contact:

Design Management Resources
Post Office Box 423
Thompson, CT 06277
T: +1 800 230 3603
F: +1 860 923 3800

Linda Fisher
Linda Fisher is founder and president of Design Management Resources, Inc. She forms strategic partnerships with her clients by consulting with design firm principals to define their mission, position and business goals. Ms. Fisher is a regular on the speaking circuit and conducts intensive workshops to educate design firms about sound business tenets. She has written numerous articles for internationally recognized publications, including How Magazine and Communication Arts. She also writes an international newsletter, "Marketing and Public Relations Tips Exclusively for Design Firms," which is currently read in over 32 countries.

Design Management Resources, Inc.
Design Management Resources provides strategic consulting for design firms who are global leaders - or aim to be. The company specialises in:
- Living Marketing Plans
- Public Relations
- Positioning: Differentiating Strategies to Compete in the Global Marketplace

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