If you read the premiere Tactical to Practical column last month, you know our charter: fight the big competitors with small-unit tactics. This month, we’ll show you how to reformulate your verbal presentations to create a more powerful effect. What follows is a method that will help you turn your ordinary presentation into a motivational speech–one that engages the audience and imprints your message. Our objective is to add power to your presentation narrative to move people into action, such as leaving their existing broker to join you.
Robert McKee, the screenwriters’ guru and author of Story (Regan Books/HarperCollins, 1999), explains it best: To create a receptive environment, the narrative should progressively build by moving dynamically between negative and positive changes in what McKee calls “story values.” Here’s an example traditionally used in Hollywood. Boy falls in love with unavailable girl. That’s a negative value. Boy becomes girl’s buddy: positive value. Girl’s boyfriend mistreats her: negative value. Buddy comes to girl’s rescue: positive value. Then there’s the rush of insight: Girl realizes she loves ‘buddy’. These values build the story’s intensity and capture the audience’s emotions. The impact is made on an emotional level rather than an intellectual one, and is more likely to make the recipient open to new ideas.
You can use the same approach to convey your message in a verbal presentation in a way that your audience can relate to. This establishes a context within which they can receive and understand your message and make a decision regarding how it applies to them. The result is a self-selecting choice rather than a “sold” one.
To illustrate how this works, the following example is paraphrased from a remarkable seminar, “What’s Wrong with the Industry,” developed by Joe Kiely, an independent advisor in Greenville, North Carolina. Joe wasn’t aware that he was using the same tactics as famous screenwriters; he only knew that educating his prospects was the only way he could combat the encroaching industry giants. His two-hour workshop has proven highly successful, allowing him to single-handedly capture more than $300 million in new assets over the last five years from right underneath the giants’ noses. I’ve broken out Joe’s central message into five “beats” so you can follow the changing values and the building intensity.
Joe hooks audiences and draws them into his spell, holding them slack-jawed as he spins his tale, building them up and easing them down, making them laugh, maybe even cry; holding all in high suspense as he pays off with a dynamite summary. Upon his conclusion, his audience leans back, satisfied, murmuring agreement, “Yeah, that’s just the way it is for me, too.”
First beat. Here is Joe’s opening question: “Do you know what a good investment return is? Do you have any way to compare your investments independently?” Most everyone answers “No.” This is a negative value.
Then Joe answers the question by explaining that the vast majority of investors underperform the S&P 500–and don’t know it. Joe tells them that they need a tool they can use by themselves that will show them what their investments are doing. He explains the concept of asset classes and that each asset class has a benchmark. “Once investors understand which asset classes their funds represent, they can simply look them up in USA Today’s stock index section of the paper. All the indexes for the various asset classes are here. You now have a third-party source you can go to daily to compare your funds to a benchmark, independent of what your broker or advisor says.”
For most investors, it is the first time they have been given this liberating information. This is the first positive value.
Second beat. Joe asks the audience, “How many of you know if you are effectively diversified?” Most people admit they have no clue, and probably aren’t sure they know what qualifies as “effective” diversification. This is another negative value.
So Joe continues by explaining that diversification means that the actions of any one investment will never affect the entire portfolio. “There’s a reason why mutual funds contain hundreds of stocks,” he says. Investors understand; they don’t want another dot-com or Enron to devastate their portfolios.
Joe introduces the concept of asset allocation by further explaining that investors need to be equally invested across all asset classes to be truly diversified. “Look at what small-cap funds have done over the last three years, or even this year, versus large-cap funds.” He shows the audience an academic study using a grid that tracks asset classes over time, and demonstrates how value does better than growth and small cap does better than large cap, and so on. Investors are surprised to learn that small caps have outperformed large caps two to one, as Joe adds, “Generally you see the complete opposite in a portfolio, as investors load up on blue chips–large-cap growth stocks sold to them by their broker.”
He explains that if all of an investor’s money is in several investments, but in only one asset class–large-cap growth, for instance–that constitutes ineffective diversification. “If your investments move together, you really only have one investment,” Joe continues. Then he gives them the solution: “It’s only when each of your investments move independently in the market that you can accomplish effective diversification of your portfolio.” This is another positive value.