Believability Key to Connecting With Your Audience

Hilari Interviewed by The Business Journal of Phoenix – November 10, 2006
by Kathleen Davidson Contributing Writer

A swirl of sauce and beautifully placed garnish crowns a meticulously prepared meal and an aura of excellence is created. Simply seeing it engages you and stimulates your appetite. You already “believe” it will be a delicious and memorable meal.

Like great chefs, skilled presenters understand that the meat of the subject isn’t enough to make a successful presentation. In his new book, “You’ve Got to be Believed to be Heard,” Bert Decker, president of internationally recognized Decker Communications Inc., discusses the importance of being believable in order for your audience to embrace your message.

Effective communication is essential in business and in everyday life. The most powerful communicators reach not just our minds but our hearts; they win our trust,” Decker says.

Hilari Weinstein, a local presentation coach and president of High Impact Communication, says authenticity is crucial.

“Good speakers do not have to be flawless, they have to make a connection. It’s about being real, knowledgeable and putting words in an order that is persuasive, powerful and easy to retain,” she says. “When we connect with someone, we are much more open to what they have to say.”

Weinstein also says companies with minimal promotional budgets increasingly are using presentations as effective marketing tools.

Luke Ford, president of My Computer Works in Scottsdale, says limited marketing dollars have forced his company to be creative to get in front of potential customers. Public speaking engagements have played a key role in his company’s growth this year.

Ford’s remote computer helpdesk/repair service opened in 2004, promising immediate response, convenience and in-depth troubleshooting expertise at affordable rates. Nearly five times a week, company representatives speak at events to market the firm.

“We have a great service, and when we can get in front of people and explain it to them, we hit gold every time,” Ford says.

Weinstein emphasizes sensitivity to overall packaging because it influences how an audience sees, hears and receives your message.

“While most people view presentation packaging as delivery style, dress, gestures, and visual elements like PowerPoint, it starts much earlier,” she says.

Beginning with the outline, professional speaking coaches repeat, “keep it simple” — the more complex your talk, the greater your chance of losing your audience.

Combining art and science, Weinstein recommends:

1. Begin with an organized, uncomplicated framework that enables you to easily guide your audience through the material. Use billboard-style visuals to emphasize your points, not to prompt you through the talk. There is little question you will lose business if your audience gets lost in the detail.

2. Carefully craft the introduction and conclusion. First and last impressions are critical and need to be compelling and intentional. Set the tone with a listener-oriented introduction. Close powerfully with a clear call to action.

3. Take your listeners’ concerns to heart and you will capture their full attention. Make a strong connection between what you have to offer and what matters most to your client.

For instance, you may have the most modern, reliable equipment in the market but your potential customer is challenged by tight schedules and limited budgets. Rather than starting your talk by touting the virtues of your equipment, begin by emphasizing that equipment failures create costly delays, shattering schedules and demolishing budgets.

Within the framework Weinstein calls for:

* Rehearsal. It is all about intentional communication, not a random discourse. Practicing helps ensure effective flow.
* Enthusiasm. If you are not enthusiastic there is no way your audience will be.
* Expertise. Make sure you provide a quick and simple description followed by a clear, two-sentence explanation that establishes your knowledge. Use analogies that relate to your audience.
* Minimizing potential distractions. Audiovisuals, appearance and humor can add or detract.
* PowerPoint programs that are bold and wordy with too many bells and whistles confuse listeners.
* Misplaced or mistimed humor also can spell disaster. Think twice and practice carefully when you plan to use humor.
* Personal appearance will help or hinder business audiences from taking you seriously.
* Making a call to action — do not expect that your audience automatically will know to take the next step. Make a clear call to action and appeal to people’s preference for choice by offering alternative options