10 proven tips, techniques and tactics to make every presentation count.
Veteran advisor June Schroeder, CFP, has been in the business long enough to know that every presentation she delivers is an opportunity to sell her skills, expertise and services. Yet Schroeder, a financial planner with Liberty Financial Services in Elm Grove, Wis., says sales are the last thing on her mind when she’s giving a presentation. Instead, it’s all about the people in front of her. “They need to know you can help them, that you care about them and are interested in making a difference in their lives. You don’t need a lot of glitz and glamour to convince them of that.”
What advisors do need, Schroeder contends, is a presentation that plays not only to the audience’s sensibilities and sensitivities, but also to the advisor’s skills and strengths, whether that’s storytelling, a mastery of tech tools, whiteboard wizardry or a way with numbers. When it comes to presentations, she explains, as important as it is for advisors to develop their own style, they also need to understand how their audience prefers to receive information. From there, they can craft and communicate content accordingly, so it gets the desired message across. “Being 66, I’m a senior myself, and I don’t use a lot of technology in my presentations. You don’t need to dazzle people this age with technology.”
“They need to know you can help them, that you care about them and are interested in making a difference in their lives.” June Schroeder, Liberty Financial Services
Yet because today’s younger seniors are an increasingly tech-savvy bunch, there’s plenty of room for technology tools in a presentation. “We’re comfortable using technology in our presentations—we’ve been doing it for 20 years now,” says Briggs A. Matsko, CFP, CRPC, a financial planner for Lincoln Financial Advisors in Sacramento, Calif., “and most of our clients, even older boomers and seniors, are comfortable with it, too.”
With a presentation style that meshes old-school approaches with tech tools, Timothy A. Knotts, CFP, a financial planner with the Hogan-Knotts Financial Group in Red Bank, NJ, says his primary goal when presenting to prospects is to convince people he’s the most uniquely qualified person to handle their financial planning needs. “The whole idea is, in a very short period of time, to develop trust and credibility with the person or people in the room with you, and the way to do that, I think, is to differentiate yourself.”
From the grand gesture to subtle, nuanced details, here are 10 tried-and-true ways to distinguish yourself as a presenter with both style and substance, whether you favor a tech-oriented approach or more old-school, unplugged methods.
1) Ditch the sales pitch. Opening with a sales pitch or a self-serving monologue about why you and your practice are so special can be an instant turn-off. Instead, ask questions that invite clients/prospects to talk about themselves. Basic ice-breaking questions like, “Why did you come to see me today?” and “What concerns you most about your retirement?” help build trust and rapport, while opening the door to a more detailed discussion about assets, goals, priorities, life circumstances, etc.—“exactly the kind of stuff I need to know about,” says Knotts.
2) Make them feel comfortable and cared for. “Our conference room has couches, coffee tables, wood paneling—it’s very much like a living room,” explains Knotts. “That’s by design. We want people to feel comfortable with the setting.” Offering a beverage and a light snack may also boost the comfort level.
3) Humor and storytelling. These are indispensable tools for effective presenters. “I find that telling personal stories about myself and people I know, and using a little self-deprecating humor, helps engage people and makes them feel more comfortable revealing things about themselves to me,” Schroeder says. “Stories help people relate to me, and they help show that I understand them. And when you’re talking about a serious subject like money, laughter lightens the mood.”
4) Use objectivity and transparency to differentiate yourself. From the get-go, Matsko and his practice partner, Jeff Maas, make financial planning a collaborative process with clients. “It’s all done interactively, so there are no backroom secrets. It’s about objective problem-solving—making decisions based on facts and on science,” explains Matsko. “This shows them we’re not trying to sell a specific product to them, that we have their best interests in mind.”