Author Archives: Justin

Pitch Competitor Analysis

Like any methodology the EPM framework is a guide, the amount of time you spend on each step is dependent on a presentation’s importance. I often adapt steps depending on the task at hand. For example, I adapt the solution evaluation section to be a competitor evaluation table. Down the left-hand side, I list the criteria that the client will use to evaluate each of the bidders, starting with the most important and then weight them.  Across the top I name each of the competitors including my client.  Its then a matter of giving each bidder a score out of ten for each of the criteria. We are then able to highlight where our strengths and weaknesses are and develop strategies for dealing with each. Just for illustration purposes I have only weighted the totals, you could display the weights for each criterion for deeper analysis.

 WeightingMy ClientComp A.Comp B.Comp C.Comp D.
Team Availability11091076
Experience17.58877
Price0.999.5777
Quality0.858.578910
On time delivery0.7579879
Problem Solving0.758871010
       
Average weighted total 7.47.47.016.87

126 to 6? Don’t start with 126 in the first place – start with 1!

Here’s ten questions Andrew Abela suggests you ask yourself or others when preparing and designing your presentation to get you off on the right foot.

  1. Who are the most important members audience?  
  2. What you want your audience to think and do differently as a result of your presentation?
  3. What’s the most important problem that your audience has, and what’s your contribution towards a solution to it?
  4. Do you have a wide range of evidence?
  5. Are you supporting your evidence with well-structured anecdotes?
  6. Is every important new piece of information in your presentation sequence preceded by a Complication that creates the need for that information in your audience?
  7. Have you selected the best chart for communicating each data-supported point, and are you showing enough detail?
  8. Does the layout of each page reinforce the main message of that page?
  9. Have you identified all stakeholders that could affect the success of your recommendations, and do you have a plan for dealing with each?
  10. Do you know how you will measure the success of your presentation?

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2nd edn, Pfeiffer, San Francisco. p152

How Not to Choke Under Pressure – Public Speaking

Missfire #1 #2 #3 KaBOOM!

Conquering the fear of public speaking from Scatterbrain by Henning Beck.

The perfect storm of presentation poor performance presents itself when

#1 we focus on every single step making the very thing we don’t want to do top of mind,

#2 worrying so much about non-performance that we forget why we are there and

#3 letting our emotions run riot to the extent we would rather be dead.

And don’t forget we are doing all this under the watchful eye of an audience who are distracting our brains further!

So what can we do?

We need to realise that our brains stress response is doing exactly what we want it do.  It’s just that sometimes we are either pumping too much fuel into the engine or not enough, which results in under performance. It’s this realisation that is important.

The next thing we can do is practice under pressure.  So if we are rehearsing, rehearse without stopping – just keep going, errors included. Think about it, if you are presenting in front of an audience you cant just say “sorry I made a mistake I need to go back to the beginning”

Don’t learn your presentation word for word. If you miss out a phrase or a word you may become distracted and send your presentation into an abyss. Instead break your presentation down into main messages or key phrases and then link them together.  It’s much more interesting for you and your audience.

If your fear is failing in front of an audience, then Henning Beck suggests “you should try to visualise the pressure situation  as intensively as possible before it takes place….You should then play out the various scenarios in your mind in order to break down your fear of them”

One last helpful point Henning makes is not to cover up mistakes. If you lose your way, let the audience know, regain your place by checking your notes and then continue. For example, say “I may have jumped an important point let me just check my notes” or “I’ve gotten off track a bit, let me just see where I am”.

In addressing the fear of public speaking we need not only strategies for developing, designing and delivering our presentation,  just as importantly we need strategies for when our brain misfires!

How Not to Choke Under Pressure #3

Mental misfire #3 “The Over Excitement Trap” from Scatterbrain by Henning Beck.

Most of us have felt this over excitement at some stage of our careers – typically when giving a presentation. Here our autonomic nervous system is getting our body ready for the fight, flight or freeze response and pumping a cocktail of chemicals through our body including adrenaline.

But what causes our body to respond in this way? Henning Beck suggest that it’s the thought of either punishment or reward that contributes to this response. The reward might be winning an account or pitch and interestingly the higher the stakes the higher the error rate. Beck goes on to say “one of the most violent forms of punishment is social rejection.”  People are afraid of what others might say.

There are two things we can do here.

First, realise that this excitement or pressure is a good thing – it’s getting us ready to perform. Hans Selye said “it’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”  Likewise Susan David says in her book Emotional Agility, “We own our emotions, they don’t own us.” So we need to turn the table on this over excitement and realise we can mange it.

However as Beck notes “too little pressure and we perform just as poorly as when the pressure increases tenfold.” So rather than trying to rid ourselves of the excitement all together just pare it back enough so that we are more focused. 

One way we can pare it back is to practice paced breathing. If you don’t already, practice paced breathing everyday and before your event. Paced breathing is simply gently breath in on a count of 4, hold for 4, breath out for 4 and repeat for 5 or 10 minutes.

The effect of this breathing is it will balance the autonomic nervous system, so we can become more focused and alert and less over excited!

How Not to Choke Under Pressure #2

Mental misfire #2 The Distraction Trap from Scatterbrain by Henning Beck.

Whilst a small amount of distraction is important to help engage the subconscious in a step by step process, such as in sport when you are kicking for goal, this doesn’t work so well when we are undertaking complex tasks such as an exam, test or interview.  Here we need all the brains energy to focus on the task at hand and any anxiety we experience robs us of that energy.

Beck suggests we “combat the anxiety directly by simulating the pressure situation in practice, thus growing accustomed to it.”

For example in an interview rehearsal you create the pressure by allowing yourself only one attempt at an answer. The key however, is to make sure you are observed, that you have one or a couple of people play the role of the interviewer. This observation is incredibly distracting and creates the pressure we need in a safe environment.

So going over and over something doesn’t help as much as rehearsing under pressure.

How Not to Choke Under Pressure #1

I’ve just started reading Scatterbrain by Henning Beck, and in his chapter called Blackout he offers a number of strategies for helping us to avoid “choking under pressure”. He calls them Mental Misfires and here’s the first one:

Mental misfire #1: the step-by-step trap.

When we rehearse something over and over and imbed that process into our subconscious why is that when we go to perform we mess-up?

It has to do with our observant and operative systems of action. Our operative system embeds the process and our observant system scans the environment for obstacles. When we are about to perform the observant system starts looking for things that can go wrong – so guess where our focus goes? To help this to not occur Beck suggest the following:

“If you find yourself concentrating too much and thereby tensing up under pressure, it might therefore be wise to try distracting yourself a little with something else. Pause and look out the window briefly, let your thoughts drift to something else, recall a pleasant memory, play it through and linger for a few seconds and then, as you turn back, don’t concentrate on your task deliberately but simply act. Just as my athletics coach always said to me: ‘Henning, you think too much.’ Such a criticism is offered far too seldom in the modern world.”

Beck, H 2019, Scatterbrain : How the Mind’s Mistakes Make Humans Creative, Innovative and Successful, Sydney : NewSouth Publishing.

Image: Rawpixel

The Future – Jobs of the Head and Heart

https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/building-lucky-country/articles/path-prosperity-future-work.html

Research from Deloitte Australia has found that human skills such as those listed below will be in short supply in the future.

Jobs of the HeadJobs of the Heart
Organisation and time management  Customer Service  
Digital literacy  Resolving conflicts
Written communication  Leadership  
Verbal communication  Innovative thinking
  
Taken from above referenced paper, page 20

Interestingly they said

“By 2030, if we continue on our current path, we estimate that there will be a total of 29 million skill shortages, almost 25 percent higher than the shortages we are already experiencing.”

The implications are obvious!

How to be a dynamic presenter, it’s easier than you think

Being Dynamic

Being dynamic is a relative term. We don’t all have to present like Anthony Robbins or Bill from marketing who blows everyone away each year at the annual conference. But we do have to present to our full ability and tailor that to each of our audiences. For example if you take the communication model from Bolton and Bolton we have four styles, expressive, amiable, analytical and driver. We are a combination of all four styles, but one is more dominant than others. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. Know your style
  2. Know when you overdo your style.  Analyticals become too detailed, Amiables become too modest and seen as weak, Drivers are too pushy and Expressives skip all the detail
  3. Know the style of your key audience members.  This is not always easy, but if you do some research you should be able to get some insight.
  4. Make sure you know what the other styles feel like.  For example if you are highly analytical, know how your extroverted self-behaves. You may not use that style very often, so you may need to let it out of the box before you use it.

If you try and utilise your different styles, your audience will recognise that you are being authentic and your version of dynamic.

So here are some practical things you can do.

  • Play to your strengths – have a look at Hans Rosling’s presentation – a great example of how to be passionate about analytical data.
  • Engage with you audience by asking a direct question or two, don’t make them too hard and make sure you give them fore warning. For example you might say “Bill I’d be interested in your views on this topic in a minute”  then ask a question after you have covered the material you wanted to discuss.
  • Do an activity. For example Kelly McGonigal asks her audience to count backwards under pressure to demonstrate how a study was conducted.
  • Make eye contact with everyone and don’t forget to hold it for about three seconds (see the separate post on eye contact)
  • Practice using a more conversational style, as if you were having a friendly one on one conversation with someone for the first time.
  • Use gestures. Sticking your arms out to the side and saying welcome isn’t hard.  Something else happens when you do this – you voice and face change. This is because the emotion typically follows the action (psychologist/philosopher William James). For example you place you hand below your knee and reach as high as you can to describe the extreme’s of a stock market.
  • The same goes for movement. For example, you might start on the left of the room and say 10 years ago we started here (and explain the situation) then continue to take two steps at a time pausing after each and explaining along the way your journey until you reach your destination.  By which time you will be on the right side of the room.

So remember in order to be dynamic, be yourself and stretch yourself to your limits, after you have rehearsed them of course.

Problems Presenters Face #5

Using Notes

It’s not whether you use notes, it’s how well you use them.

Whether you are asked to do a presentation at the last minute or you’ve had a month to prepare you can apply the following principles. We are going to assume here that the presentation is important.

Have a set of notes prepared that are typed up, double spacing and a large font such that if you glanced down to your notes at desk height you could read them. You can either type these up word for word or just have key messages that you elaborate on.

It’s useful to have a script so that at a later date you can review exactly what you coverd. However you would never read the script word for word whilst presenting. Instead you would highlight key words or phrases and link them together.  This way it sounds more natural and engaging.    This also means that you only have to remember the key words or phrases and not the whole thing.

Cue cards are ok, however they are typically a technique  taught at school, so if you decided to use cue cards then be aware of the impression  you are creating.  Having said that, I have seen speakers at TED talks use cue cards.

If you are using notes laid out on a desk or a lectern follow these steps.

  • Have the pages numbered, typed up, single sided, not stapled and using the formatting outlined above.
  • As you finish one page slide it across the desk or lectern so that you have a two-page spread – you can then see at a glance where you are going and where you have been.  This is the technique news readers use for their backup notes in case the auto cue stops working.
  • When presenting, firstly look down, take the key message in look up without speaking, make eye contact with someone and then speak.  After you have covered off that message, look down without speaking take the next message in, look up, make eye contact and speak.

This technique can also be used for cue cards however you are only going to have key messages written on the cards and of course you would move the cards from the front of the deck to the back.

Now this method sounds very clunky and robotic, but with practice you will be able to make it your own by smoothing out the technique so that it looks natural and you look comfortable. If you spoke whilst reading your notes a few times in a presentation would it matter? – probably not.  Our goal here is not to lose our connection and nonverbal feedback from the audience.

Problems Presenters Face #4

Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most powerful communication tools we can use, and when used well demonstrates friendliness, openness and trust

The key to using eye contact well is it’s not about having a staring test with your audience, it’s about control.

We may want to use less than the other person, the same or more.  How much we use will depend on our situation. This involves the distance from the audience, cultural differences, the type of material we are presenting to name a few.

Interestingly, Chen et al. 2013, found “that the common efforts to look into the eyes of a persuasion target and demand that this person return gaze may be counterproductive to changing hearts and minds.”

Eye contact of course is two way, if someone asks a question you need to hold eye contact for about 70% of that interaction

So here are some do’s and donts

Don’t

  • Avoid picturing your audience naked as it takes your focus off what you are meant to be doing. (and it’s just weird)
  • Don’t fix your gaze at the back of the room. You want to connect with the audience, not the wall.
  • Don’t look between people’s eyes.  Eyes can give you feedback, noses don’t.
  • Don’t Stare. Holding eye contact for an entire thought (unless it’s about 3 seconds) could feel like it lasts forever.
  • Don’t make eye contact with people who are obviously uncomfortable receiving it.

Do’s

  • Hold eye contact for about 3 seconds.  If they are at the back of the room you can increase that to 5 to 6.
  • Connect with people, make them feel like you are having a conversation with them.
  • Plan your eye contact, give more attention to the decision makers.
  • If you are finishing a sentence, thought or idea hold eye for another couple of seconds before dashing back to your notes or launching into your next point.
  • Start using the appropriate amount of eye contact from the beginning.

If you find yourself struggling to use eye contact, then practice.  Ask someone you know to give you a score on how often you use eye contact well. Then build on it, one presentation at a time.

Chen, F, Minson, J, Schöne, M & Heinrichs, M 2013, ‘In the Eye of the Beholder: Eye Contact Increases Resistance to Persuasion’, Psychological Science, vol. 24, no. 11, p. 2254.

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