New to Presenting Onstage? Get to Know Your Crew!

Are you new to the world of live presentations? Perhaps you
finally got that Big Dog position in management or someone
tapped you as a subject matter expert in your chosen field.
Whatever the case, welcome to the glamorous world that we
call “Business Theater!”

Presenting in a large space — the ballrooms and convention
centers of the world — is a big step up in intensity from the
conference room and whiteboard setting you’re comfortable
with. Standing in front of six people is always easier than six
hundred, but you can do it with a little help.

As any veteran presenter will tell you there are certain things
that will race through your mind before getting a few big
shows under your belt — “Do I really know my material?”
“How do I look?” and the one make-or-break question you
may not think of until walking onstage… “Who has my
PowerPoint file?”

Your file is most likely in the capable hands of your
professional graphics operator. Affectionately referred to as
“punch monkeys,” they’re the ones backstage, behind the
curtain or in the control room cleaning up and advancing
your slides while you concentrate on dynamic speaking!
More often than not a beginning presenter does not realize
the support system he or she has hidden behind drapes.
On larger shows there may be a hundred people or more
running around the room right up until the audience enters.
As showtime nears they scatter away to their operating
stations and get “on headset” for “doors.”

Before the doors open, there’s a good chance your operator
knows
your slides as well or better than you do. If your presentation
is part of a daylong or weeklong conference, he or she went
through it a dozen times looking at formatting, spacing,
colors and readability. They might have transferred it into a
show template sharing a common background or color
scheme to match printed show materials. They also
arrange content if needed – usually splitting up long slides
into two or three pieces to increase font size — and that’s not
something you want to be surprised with onstage! So what
should you do? Get to know your operator!

Before the audience shuffles in for the big event, take a few
minutes to meet your crew and discuss your presentation.
Any football team relies on well-practiced play calling to
succeed on the field. Like them, you should go over some
basics so the operator can get in step with your style and
you can get in step with any adjustments to your file.

Every presenter is different in his or her timing and vocal
style but some aspects of a presentation are
pre-determined. For example, how will you advance the
slides? Here are the options you should always discuss
with your crew before addressing your audience.

In a perfect world, our actions would be scripted! With a little
preparation (i.e., time) your operator can mark cue points or
highlight keywords for slide transitions and bullet point
readers. Even if you stray from your lines here and there,
this is the most solid method of keeping your slides on
track.

Some scripts are elaborate text documents with specific
graphics and camera shots called out in the left column.
Another type of script is a simple copy of your Notes pages.
Many presenters include possible ad-libs or expound upon
items mentioned in their notes that may not appear as
material on the slide above.

If you don’t use a script, most production companies will
offer a cue signal. Typically one signaling device is
hard-wired and attached to the podium, and the other is a
loose wireless version in case you like to walk the stage.
You simply press the button, and move to the next slide in
your sequence. This device doesn’t actually advance the
slide, but it tells your operator to advance by triggering a
small light or an audible tone every time you hit the button.
It’s a time-tested and trusted Pavlovian system.

Some presenters find using cue switches awkward; and
non-signals or double-signals are commonplace with
inexperience. A good operator will compensate 99% percent
of the time, but a non-signal can create an awkward pause
while the speaker waits for something to happen!

The other two ways of advancing through your presentation
are a little more of an adrenaline rush backstage. Let’s call
them the “next slide,” and the “big breath.”

The “next slide” is very conversational or informal
and simply leaves you as a presenter to call upon your
transition. In front of large audiences, this may be too casual
– and can be obnoxiously repetitious combined with a large
deck of slides. On smaller shows or in unusual situations
where you may be a “guest speaker” within a presentation
with five or six minutes in the spotlight, this may work just
fine.

One tip if you like using this method is to switch up your
cues verbally. Rather than saying “next slide” for the 100th
time, feel free to say something like “continuing on,” or
“when we advance.” Some speakers can do this so
seamlessly that it works as well or better than a cue light
when a sharp puncher is tuned into the style.

The “big breath” is the ultimate in seat-of-the-pants
presenting, and not for the weak. A solid speaker with an
experienced graphics operator can turn this into a winner,
with a little luck. Here’s why…

Because you know your material, you have internalized and
memorized the points on each slide. As you slip and slide
through your page of bullets or cover each chart, you will
take a natural longer pause and deep breath when it is time
to go to the next slide. For this to work, a rehearsal or two
with your crew comes highly recommended — particularly for
any ad-libbers!

In the end, it’s up to you to create the “wow factor” onstage.
By working together and performing in sync with your
graphics operator, you can do great things! Review your
deck, let them know what you plan under the lights, and rest
assured they’ll be watching, listening and on your side.

Take a minute and get to know them. Then put on a great
show!

4 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills and Wow Your Audience

It was that far away look in my students’ eyes that told me something was wrong. I was teaching grade 8-mathematics and trying to show the kids how to solve expressions with exponents. But what I didn’t realize was that they didn’t know how to solve algebraic equations yet, so I might as well have been speaking to them in a foreign language. As a newly minted teacher, early on in my career, I hadn’t yet learned that before you start holding forth you’d better find out what the students already know! Otherwise, you risk losing them, and your lesson flops.

In many ways, this same principle applies to business communication. If you want to be an effective communicator – whether it’s a presentation or a written document such as an email message, a letter, or a report – you really do have to know who your audience is and what their needs are.

We’ve probably all experienced opening an email from someone who is anxious for our business only to find the message is totally irrelevant. What’s the first thing you do when this happens? Right! You hit the delete button. No doubt you’re grumbling why this message was sent to you in the first place, since its content clearly doesn’t apply to you. And that’s not a good start for building a business relationship!

The fact is; it’s hard to persuade your audience to respond to your message if you haven’t done your homework. The Plain Language and Action Information Network (PLAIN) which is at the forefront of a movement promoting communication that’s clear and simple, makes the idea of focusing on audiences their first defining principle:

“Written material is in plain language if your audience can:

  • Find what they need;
  • Understand what they find; and
  • Use what they find to meet their needs.”

Or if you think of it in retail terms: the customer truly does come first. As I like to put it, “It’s not about me, it’s really about you.”

So how do you figure out who your audience is? Do a little homework.

Here are My Top Tips for Getting to Know Your Audience:

  1. Talk To Me: A good old-fashioned conversation is frequently the best way to find out what your audience knows, doesn’t know, and wants to know. Whether it’s a casual chat or a formal interview the goal is the same – find out who your audience is, and what their needs are.
  2. Make Google Your Friend: Do a little research online before you write that proposal or send that email message. If you’re working with a new company, their website may reveal a great deal about their current status and future goals.
  3. Survey The Crowd: Much like a pollster or a broadcast measurement organization, you may want to send out a survey to your audience. It may be the best option when you have a new client with a complex catalogue of needs, and limited interest in face-to-face or phone meetings.
  4. Get Social: Sometimes social media (Facebook and Twitter) are a good way to conduct research. Facebook recently introduced Facebook Questions, which some feel can be a useful tool for polling your already existing community.

Getting to know your audience so that you can be an effective communicator isn’t terrifically complicated. It’s more a matter of taking the time to do your due diligence. Of course, sometimes it’s tempting to skip this step. After all, many people find the thought of “research” and “interviewing” a little dry and dusty. But what outcome would you prefer – reaping the rewards because you put in the time? Or watching as their eyes glaze over?

Are Your Offers Even Getting Presented to the Seller?

If you’re trying to buy a house in Southern California, your realtor may be submitting each and every one of your offers to the listing agent but some offers will never be presented to the Seller.

The following are just 10 of several reasons why one’s offer may sometimes NOT GET PRESENTED:

1) Failure to provide the “cross-qualifying” Approval Letter from the Sellers Preferred Lender. What this means is: The Listing-Agent/Bank Representative has specifically asked that ALL prospective buyers “cross-qualify” with the seller’s preferred Lender to verify that the Loan Approval provided by Buyer’s Lender came as a result of the most thorough vetting process. (keep in mind, you’re typically not obligated to use the seller’s preferred lender in order to get acceptance, though I’m certain some will tell you that at times, it can be the difference maker)

2) Lack of LEGIBILITY of One’s offer. Sometimes, the offer documentation must be faxed to the buyer for completion and signatures, then it must be re-faxed to the buyers agent. The buyers’ agent must then take that and fax it for the 3rd time to the Seller’s Agent. Then the Seller’s Agent has to fax it to the Sellers. The sellers then fax it back to the Seller’s Agent. In many cases, the Seller’s Agent has to fax it for the 6th time when he sends it to the Bank’s Representative who reviews all offers. (When ever possible, it’s recommend that you and your realtor use electronic signatures at least for the submittal of initial offers. The method is not only faster, it’s completely legible and the Listing-Agents greatly appreciate not having to try to make heads or tails of the multi-faxed documents or poor penmanship of authors)

3) Incorrectly completed Offers or Misspelling of verbiage entered by Buyer’s Agent. These 2 mistakes often give the impression to the Listing-agent that the Agent may be New or possibly challenged in other ways. (Believe me, It matters!) Ps. YES, that is the correct way to spell VERBIAGE.;-)

4) Buyer’s Earnest money deposit may be too low. The average earnest money deposit sought by sellers in most areas is between 1% to 3% of the purchase price. (for Cash buyers, it’s almost always going to be at least 3%)

5) Buyer is requesting an Escrow timeline that’s too far into the future. Most sellers are genuinely interested in finalizing a transaction in as close to 30 days as possible. Though it can sometimes be tough to accomplish that with certain Loan types, it’s typically best to submit one’s offer with an illustration of as close to a 30 day escrow as possible. Extensions are often obtainable so long as reasonable progress is being made. (Keep in mind that in the case of Bank-Owned homes, most of the contracts aka “Bank-Addendum’s” that come back from the Seller, typically allow for up to a 45 day escrow even if buyer originally submitted an offer promoting a close of escrow of 30 days. Banks sometimes prefer to grant additional time from the get-go as a cushion because they’d rather NOT CHARGE the buyer the typically required per-diem fees when closing late without extensions. Banks know that additional fees may cause the transaction to fall apart because of a buyer’s possible inability or lack of willingness to pay those penalty fees so they try to avoid it when they can.

6) SHORT-SALE Approval is authorized at a particular price and one offers lower than the Approved Price. What’s important for Buyer’s to remember is: Typically it has taken several months and in some cases more than a year to negotiate and arrive at the Approved Short-Sale Price. It would stand to reason then that, in most cases, having just authorized the Approval on the Price after such a long time, the note-holding bank is not likely to ACCEPT an offer for less.

7) Buyer is asking too much in the way of Seller-Concessions for repairs or money for Buyer’s closing-costs. In the end, it’s all about the NET OFFER to the seller. In most cases, the Seller will opt NOT to accept THOSE offers because they perceive financially-challenged buyers {who lack the funds for closing-costs} as having a higher risk of having a minor financial need during the escrow period which could absorb or exhaust the money they set aside for down-payment or as cash-reserves. This would, of course cause the transaction to CANCEL in most cases. Regarding a requests for repairs, often the Seller is interested in finalizing the transaction in a much shorter time-period than what would be required if repairs need to be made. Consequently, you’ll find many of THOSE homes marketed at price-points low enough to allow for only Cash-Buyers or Cash-Investors who recognize the Seller has already priced the listing as per it’s current condition. (Some buyers walk in and say, “I think we’ll offer less because it needs all this work” —Attention Buyer’s… In most cases of Bank-Owned homes, the current condition of the home has already been taken into account in arriving at the list-price)

8) Buyer is Offering too much for the house. That’s right, TOO MUCH. In their desperation, often buyer’s and their representing realtors will choose to institute a strategy of “Let’s just write all of our offers at $10k, $20k or $50k over list-price” (depending on the area). This strategy will often back-fire. You see, the Seller knows that this strategy is most often used by buyers with weak financial profiles (i.e.: needing closing-costs paid) or those buyers who perceive themselves as NOT being able to compete in the open market due to the type of financing they require (i.e…: FHA or VA). As such, a seller is sometimes more inclined to ACCEPT an offer from someone who is within the range of reasonably anticipated Appraisal Value than to simply jump on the highest priced offer which will ultimately need to be reduced anyway.

9) Employing the strategy of “…Let’s start low and see what they say… they can always send us a counter-offer”. WRONG! Don’t fall for this trap. If one seeks to buy a home in some of the very competitive areas of Southern California, it’s important to know that in most cases, you’ll only get ONE-SHOT at submitting an offer. This is because the homes in good condition or with the lowest prices, or in the most desirable areas, will almost ALWAYS get multiple-offers. Sometimes as many as 30 to 40 if a listing-agent doesn’t check out their email in-box or fax machine over a weekend. In the competitive market climates, you’re almost always best to work closely with your realtor to prepare your HIGHEST & BEST offer up-front and submit THAT.