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How to Ace All the Presentations of Life

You are probably really good at making presentations. InsuranceNewsNet readers tend to be advanced sales professionals, and people do not achieve that level of performance without being excellent presenters.

You probably also want to be great. People who read this monthly feature want to improve themselves in every way they can. This month, we’re featuring someone who has coached many people who are doing great things. He is Tony Jeary, also known as Mr. Presentation. In addition to being the author of more than 40 books, he is a well-sought-after executive coach and presentation strategist. He frequently coaches the world’s top executives from companies such as Wal-Mart, Ford, Texaco and New York Life.

In this interview with InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul Feldman, Tony shows that it does not take magic to become a presentation master. It takes engagement. Not only does that mean getting your audience involved, it also means you must invest in understanding your audience and soliciting feedback. Tony says that by stocking your arsenal and sharpening your practices, you can present like the masters.

FELDMAN: You say that life is a series of presentations. Can you expand upon that?

JEARY: Most people think that presentations are just formal opportunities in front of large groups. In reality, we are presenting all the time: to our spouse, our kids, our friends, our colleagues and our customers. Every time we have a conversation, we are presenting. In business, there are many types of presentations – phone calls, one-on-one encounters, spontaneous meetings, sales presentations, email, voice mail, meetings, major talks, etc. Each of them contributes to your overall brand. Recognizing each of them as opportunities will increase your effectiveness at getting more of what you want.

Presentations take many forms. In my signature book on the subject, Life Is a Series of Presentations, the concept is that we’re presenting all the time. We’re presenting in person, but we are also presenting by email and the phone. In person or by phone, it’s planned or impromptu. Or in email, it’s a delayed presentation. But on the phone or in email, so many people have not taken the time to really dissect the nuances of what you can do to influence people. When you look at it, so many of our presentations today are by email and on the phone.

If You're giving a presentation. invite people to come early and begin talking to them

FELDMAN: I see that so many emails are almost diatribes. Should people just keep it short and perhaps use bullets?

JEARY: Yes. So many people have grown up with the idea of paragraphs. If you look at the people in their 40s and 50s who are in the insurance arena, the whole paragraph thing was part of our lives. When you look at people in their 20s, it’s now bullets and even shorter sentences. Today’s world is really into how do you do things fast?

So I would ask myself, “Am I really being efficient with the way that I’m communicating by email, including bullets, including the ‘whys’?” Another question to ask is “am I front-loading my emails?” That’s a concept in a new book of mine called We’ve Got To Start Emailing and Meeting Like This! To be more persuasive today, you really need to hit people right upfront with the benefit and then give more of the bullets and the details later.

FELDMAN: Is the key really thinking through your objectives first?

JEARY: Yes, another piece of this is the clarity of objectives. Whether you’re making a phone call, sending an email, delivering a seminar or even building your own website, all those items are types of presentations. We should always be asking, “What’s the objective that we’re wanting to communicate or present?” and then look for the best ways to do it.

Is the best way to do it a direct communication? Is it to hold a meeting? Is it to send a package? That becomes the differentiator. It’s not just how well you speak in front of people or how good your body language or tonality are, although those are important. It’s really taking a strategic approach to how to get the result you want.

FELDMAN: Do you find people don’t give their email communication the respect it deserves?

JEARY: Most people don’t realize it, but they’re burning an hour to two hours a day on email. That’s the main presentation that people are making today. You have to recognize that email is the way we do business today, and you have to get good at it. As a matter of fact, you have to get better than good. To sell people in person, you have to get them there and then you have to follow up.

FELDMAN: How can people evaluate their own presentations?

JEARY: When you look at your presentations, break them down into three pieces: preparation, delivery/facilitation and follow-up. Many people will realize that they need to be better at follow-up. Well, guess what? A big piece of follow-up today is email. After a meeting, do you immediately send an email and say, “These are the four actions we agreed to”? Most agents don’t do that to the level they could.

And it’s so simple. It’s so easy to get people to take action. And that’s what so many people in the insurance arena want to have happen. You want to be able to take your clients and get them to buy. It’s all about taking action.

FELDMAN: It certainly makes sense to send what is basically a call to action after the meeting. Don’t clients appreciate it, too?

JEARY: They love it. Just being able to be polite and saying, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to zap you an email with the four things we agreed on so we can be in tune.” And your professionalism goes up, your brand is positively impacted and, in most cases, you’re probably going to get better action.

FELDMAN: One of the trends that we’re starting to see more of is agents doing online presentations and not going to visit clients. What are some strategies for presenting online?

IPRESENT Model - Tony Jeary

JEARY: Have real clarity on letting people know at the beginning what the objectives are. Let people know the time frame of your Web meeting. Sometimes it’s good to even send a couple of things ahead of time and ask people to have them printed out so you can have multidynamics going on. Then it’s not just watching the screen. You can say, “Well, that printout that you have there? Well, why don’t you underline that piece or highlight that piece?” Then when you hang up, for them it’s not like, “Oh, everything disappeared.” They literally have stuff in their hand and they have written actions, and it just becomes much stronger.

They will pay more attention and take more action – that’s right. So, the strategy is the three Ps: Purpose, Process and Payoff. Purpose is the objectives, the process is the agenda and the payoff is letting people know how they’re going to win. A good setup is to agree on the time on the Web, so when you have a Web meeting, you say, “I was thinking we have about 20 minutes or so. Is that what you were thinking?” And they agree, and you say, “Great!”

But if you say, “Well, I was thinking we had about 45 minutes,” they say, “Well, no. Could you do it in 30?” And if you know that ahead of time, that’s so much better than getting squeezed when someone says, “Well, gotta go,” and then you really haven’t prepared.

FELDMAN: You have a formula for delivering the perfect message called IPRESENT. Can you tell us about it?

JEARY: The IPRESENT model is an acronym for the eight essentials for delivering the very best message you can deliver each and every time. Four of them are based on delivery and four are based on how you really prepare.

FELDMAN: The first step, which might be the most important, is to involve your audience and keep them engaged?

JEARY: I really encourage asking questions. So many times when you ask people to get involved, you fail to set it up where it’s easy for them to have something to write down, so if you can hand them a brochure and a highlighter, they can highlight. It really gets people involved and allows for breathing space.

Let’s say you’re in a seminar scenario. Having everybody kind of talk to their spouse or other people for a minute gets people involved. The energy can really go up if you’ve got 15, 30 people in a room. You can just say, “Hey, talk to the person next to you about this for 30 seconds.” So, in a sales seminar scenario, you are encouraging people to ask questions, write things down and talk to the people next to them.

FELDMAN: How do you prepare your audience for an event?

JEARY: I say the engagement starts at the invitation stage. So, for example, you can invite people and then you can ask them to respond back and say, “This is what I was thinking on the agenda. Can you give me a couple of other pieces that are important to you?” If they send back an email, then they’re engaged, and you have some distinctions of what’s important to them. Then you begin your meeting, presentation or whatever with what’s important to them. It’s just like magic.

I also always suggest that you “touch them before you talk.” If you’re giving a presentation, invite people to come early and begin talking with them, getting your voice warmed up, and getting feedback and insight so you can make adjustments. It gives you a chance to create champions before you even begin speaking to the group.

FELDMAN: The next step in the model is “R”esearch and build your presentation arsenal. What is an arsenal and what types of things should everyone have in it?

JEARY: The arsenals have a huge impact on your confidence and your ability to get people to buy into your message. The first one is what you have in your for example, newscasters, whoever is presenting – and say, “Hey, that’s something I can remember,” you peg it in your mind, so you have your mental arsenal.

Then you have your physical arsenal, which might be something you carry in your briefcase or your backpack or save in your desk. This can include photos, articles, videos, emails, etc. The phone is one of three common arsenals that people forget. A lot of people think about having things on their computers or tablets, but they don’t really think about what they can carry in their phone. The phone can be so rich. I have testimonials where I can go click, click, click to show or send. I have URLs and videos I can send to people. I have everything just a few clicks away.

FELDMAN: I think one of the most powerful aspects of the IPRESENT model lies in the “E”xplain the “why.” It’s so simple that it can be easily overlooked.

JEARY: If we want to be more influential and want people to buy into our message, we must recognize the power of the “why.” Why are we doing the things we do? When most people are preparing, they focus on the “what.” They don’t look at the “why” and the “how.”

Years ago, we created what we refer to as the 3-D Outline, which looks at the three dimensions of a presentation. Step one is to make sure that you define your objectives. You want to write down three or four core objectives that you want to accomplish no matter what type of presentation you are preparing. These objectives should use action words such as “teach,” “encourage,” “motivate” and “inspire.”

Step two is to define your audience – how many people will attend, who they are. You should mentally see whom you’re going to speak to, whether it’s one person, three people or a hundred.

The next step is to plan ahead. What are the specific things that you need for the presentation? Will you have handouts, brochures, workbooks or giveaways? What types of supplies will you need, and so on?

FELDMAN: What advice would you give to people who already consider themselves experts? What are things they should be working on?

JEARY: Accept the fact that we all have blind spots and there are four ways to do that.

One is mentors. If you have mentors who are helping you see things you don’t see, that’s powerful. Mentors help you by watching your presentations and seeing how you’re selling, communicating on the phone and doing seminars.

No. 2 is coaches. The difference between a coach and a mentor is a coach is usually paid and a mentor is usually giving. Both of those are great to have. I’ve had the same coach for 28 years, and it’s very beneficial to me to have that coach help me see things I haven’t seen.

The third item is your trusted colleagues. They could be people you work with or friends. There are all kinds of different trusted colleagues. The last one would be resources such as books, audios and videos. Web videos are just so powerful to be able to help you uncover distinctions of what you’re not seeing.

So, even if you’re exceptional, being a constant learner can be played out in those four ways.

FELDMAN: The point about watching videos of great speakers is particularly good. There is such a wealth of video readily available online for free.

JEARY: It’s something I tell people: “Instead of just reading books, why don’t you also just go watch five minutes’ worth of video free every day? Pick a subject. You want to be exceptional at facilitation? Well, go study facilitation five minutes a day for two months on the Web, and let me tell you, you’ll get pretty good.”

FELDMAN: You have said that part of being a constant learner is having people watch you and give you what you call the “correction of errors.” Do you recommend that also with a group? Should people survey the audience whenever they speak to a group?

JEARY: Yes, especially if you have team members who can help you with that. I survey the audience electronically. I survey the audience verbally and ask people to give me insights. I survey people even when they first walk into the room. They walk in, and I go over and shake their hands. I encourage others to do this: “Hey, today we’re going to talk about this. Do you have any thoughts on this?” And that little survey can give you nuances of what’s important to them or what they like, and, presto, you become much stronger.

FELDMAN: Who do you model yourself after?

JEARY: I watch people who really have sharpened their abilities on TV. Generally, people who have been on TV for a decade or more really have honed their effectiveness of presenting. Preachers, newscasters – I’m constantly looking at people who have been around for a long time and watching the distinctions of their body language and how they set things up. That’s the answer for me: someone who’s been there, done that and keeps doing it.

Remember, your presentation is not about being perfect; it is about “connecting with others” and delivering a sincere message. This task is so much easier when you are the real you. Audiences want to hear from people who are genuine.

I like to tell people not to model other successful presenters. Model their successful characteristics. Once those characteristics are identified, add them to your own style so that you have developed your own mold as opposed to copying someone else’s.

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