Why give a talk to an investor audience? Your calendar is already full. Your to-do list is overflowing. Better to take a pass, right?
Wrong. A great speech with an interesting message delivered by a passionate speaker is a stronger way to build your brand and reputation than all the advertisements, brochures, or direct mail campaigns combined.
However, if your presentations aren’t building your business, the problem may not be the speaking venues or the audiences. Maybe it’s you. Maybe your speeches are, well, boring.
Less Is More
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” said Gordon Gecko in a famous speech to shareholders in the 1987 film Wall Street. Perhaps you missed it, but part of what made Gecko’s presentation memorable was his lack of greed during the speech. Instead of trying to communicate thousands of numbers using hundreds of PowerPoint slides in tens of minutes, the Michael Douglas character focused on just a few key points. Moreover, each of those points was presented with strong emotions.
Despite the intervening years, if you saw that movie, you probably remember Douglas’s impassioned plea. Chances are also good that you don’t remember much of what you heard in the last dozen financial presentations you attended.
That’s because most investment advisors, perhaps including yourself, are too greedy with audiences. The average business speaker tries to inundate audiences with numbers, facts, figures, and charts. The result? Audiences are bored and remember nothing. You just lost an opportunity to make a permanent impression with a prospective investor or client.
The top challenge for a financial advisor speaking to an audience is to understand how people–even smart, well-educated people–process information that they hear rather than read. The reality is that your audience will forget at least 92% of what you say–and that’s if you package your information in an interesting manner.
To be successful, you need to narrow the focus of your speech to no more than a handful of key points for any presentation, even if it lasts two hours. If you try to communicate more than that, your audience won’t remember them.
The first thing you need to do when you are sitting down to prepare your presentation is to ask yourself this: “What do I want people saying about my speech at the water cooler the day after they hear me?” Don’t start preparing PowerPoint slides or creating pie charts until you can answer that question.
The biggest problem we’ve faced with clients for the last 20 years is that they often treat a speech as an opportunity to dump data. It’s as if they go around their office for two weeks beforehand and gather every report, memo, and chart. Then they wheel it all into the conference room and dump it on the floor in front of the audience and say, “Here! Take a look at that.”
Remember, if your presentation were just about facts, you could e-mail it to your audience–there would be no need for you to show up. Strong financial presenters realize that their job is not just to present data, but to make it come alive in vivid and meaningful ways.
The single most effective way to do this is by telling stories. Storytelling was the way preliterate societies recorded and preserved their history through the use of epic poems. Your stories do not have to be particularly funny or highly involved. A story can be as simple as recounting an actual conversation you had with a client. However, your stories do have to be relevant to the point you are trying to make.
Most strong stories have the following elements: a clear message and setting, two or more characters, dialogue, a problem, some emotion, and a resolution. Yes, it can take several minutes to tell a story. But these will be minutes well spent because your stories will increase the odds that your audience will remember your point.
PowerPoint Is a Tool, not an Albatross
Microsoft’s PowerPoint is the greatest tool ever created for making presentations–except for the 99.9% of the time when the program is misused, resulting in the audience falling asleep.
The first thing to realize when you are giving a PowerPoint presentation is that you are really delivering three completely separate presentations:
1. Your oral presentation; i.e., the words that come out of your mouth.
2. The PowerPoint slides that you project on a screen for all to see.
3. Paper handouts, which may include versions of your PowerPoint slides.