Not too long ago I got to watch another consulting team give a sales pitch to my clients. Sadly, the consulting team missed a major opportunity to build rapport with their prospects and get into their world. Why? Because all they did was talk. Today’s blog offers the first of five tips to help you avoid the all-too-common trap of speaking more than listening when you’re giving a client presentation. Use these tips any time you are trying to influence a group of people — regardless of your role, your audience, or your time boundaries.
Tip # 1: (Within the first 2 minutes) Get their voices in the room. One of my favorite techniques is what I call a One Word Check-in. Simply ask, “If you had to describe how you are at this moment in just one word, what word would you choose?” (Notice I do not ask how they are “feeling” – a charged word for some people.) Your audience’s answers will give you an immediate sense of how they are doing, and how ready they are to engage with you. As a bonus, they’ll be that much more inclined to engage because you took a moment to inquire about them early on.
What do you do with what you hear? First and foremost, don’t even think about taking their answers personally. I once surveyed a group of 40 people and the majority shared words like “exhausted,” “tired,” “spent.” This had absolutely nothing to do with me. But was I glad I collected the data. Simply asking about – and acknowledging – their collective state immediately boosted the energy in the room. Plus I was able to tailor my presentation to adapt to the group mood. Conversely, if the vibe in the room is upbeat, ready, energized, you can get down to business that much faster and feel confidently you aren’t leaving people behind.
BONUS: Repeat each word you hear before you move onto the next person. This requires all of one extra second per person and you get two important things in return: (1) You help everyone hear how the room is doing (in a large room, sometimes you’re the only one with the benefit of a microphone or a booming presenter’s voice), and (2) You give each and every person the experience of being heard – one of the greatest gifts you can give another human being. All within the first 2 minutes of your pitch!
Next up: Tip #2 of 5.