By Kim McWatt
I recently had the pleasure of being the photographer of record for a Middle Eastern Belly Dance recital which took place in my home town. A lovely and talented group of ladies (some of whom I used to dance with) performed before a group of their friends and family. The choreography was excellent, the costumes and colors visually engaging, the music fantastic. Overall, a wonderful evening for everyone in attendance, and executed without a hitch.
Looking through the camera lens, instead of being a dancer or a spectator in the audience, gave me the opportunity to really capture the essence of what presentation skills coaches impart to their clients. How you present yourself to the audience makes all the difference in the world.
From experience, I know all about the tension, stress, excitement and exhilaration of performing before a live audience. No different from presenting before a group at work – people often get butterflies in the pit of their stomach before having to present. It’s only natural.
The most important skill is to know your content. At the recital, the skill of the choreographer was clear in the beautiful movements elegantly timed with the music. However, wonderful choreography falls flat if it is not ingrained into the dancer’s mind. The outward appearance becomes one of uncertainty not confidence. The camera didn’t lie – I could see the looks of concentration and concern etched across many faces, thinking so hard about that next step they forgot everything else.
For any presentation, knowing one’s content inside and out, backwards and forwards is critical. This is the only way to deliver content with confidence. Practice really does make perfect. Only then can a presenter relax and deliver without looking like a deer caught in the headlights or a dancer looking like they’re worried about falling flat on their face.
Second, establish rapport. While not everyone can relate to Middle Eastern music or feel comfortable watching their grandmother on stage in a belly dance bedlah and skirt, the skilled dancer can remove those feelings instantly by drawing the viewer into their world. Too often the camera caught the dancers looking above the audience, never truly touching them. Or they looked down, almost inwardly, not really seeing the dancers around them, or anything else for that matter. Even if on a stage removed from the audience, rapport is established by making eye contact, using gestures like clapping which get people involved…and loving every minute of it.
Within a formal presentation environment, establish rapport by talking directly to people – make it a conversation with each person in the audience – rather than staring at a blank spot on the wall. Relate to the audience, draw them in with a story, talk at their level, never patronize. Making the effort to relate to your audience, and they will relate to you.
Third, smile. Smiling gives the impression of confidence, friendliness, and openness. But it should be genuine – a fake smile, practiced and frozen can be spotted a mile away, and isn’t particularly appealing in the photos either. Dancers who smiled and exhibited genuine warmth elicited the most audience response. Even more so, based on the mood of the music, dancers who matched their expression to the music made for a truly engaging and wonderful experience for the audience.
In any presentation situation, people who smile, appropriately, command the most attention, respect, and credibility. When smiling, the tone, cadence, and posture of the speaker seem more engaging and confident. People are more apt to listen to someone who is smiling than frowning.
Finally – relax and have fun. The best dancers, and the ones who were a delight to photograph, were the ones who looked like they were having a great time. They portrayed confidence and credibility – even if a novice dancer. They made mistakes, but no one in the audience knew because they continued with their dance as if nothing happened. Others who seemed frustrated or nervous showed it in their faces and posture, which was extremely clear in the photos.
If at the end of a presentation the audience walks away remembering your key points, and the fun they had learning about them, the session was a success. Even if mistakes are throughout. Even if some content is missed because of nerves. Enjoy the opportunity to impart information to a group who clearly thinks you are the expert – otherwise they wouldn’t attend your presentation. Don’t worry about the missteps – move on and focus on the key points you want to make. No one will know the difference, and it gives you the chance to follow-up and network later.
It does take time to master these presentation skills (just as it does to master one’s choreography), but ultimately, whether in dance or in a work setting, the result is audience engagement. And an engaged audience, is a happy audience.
By Kim McWatt
A colleague passed along this posting by David Dunlap on the LENS blog at the New York Times:
Attention: everyone with a camera, amateur or pro. Please join us on Sunday, May 2, at 15:00 (U.T.C./G.M.T.), as thousands of photographers simultaneously record “A Moment in Time.” The idea is to create an international mosaic, an astonishingly varied gallery of images that are cemented together by the common element of time.
What will be your moment in time?
What an amazing chance to be a part of the global photographic community and share your experience of that single moment. Have a read and get all the information you need to post your photo record.
I’m excited about the opportunity to share my moment. What a fascinating social experiment – I will definitely be interested to see the results.
..how about you?
by Kim McWatt
Mitch Joel, in his blog post “The Business of Kindness”, was spot on with his commentary. With the ever increasing transparency of business interaction going on out in the market today because of social media technologies, every company will need to review the way they interact with their customers. Kindness could indeed become the new competitive advantage for an organization.
As mentioned in the post, kindness shouldn’t extend only to the customer relationship – it should permeate every interaction, internally and externally. Kindness, respect, transparency…these are important ingredients in any working or personal relationship.
Consider the supplier relationship. How often does anyone really think about how they treat their suppliers? Are these relationships cordial or adversarial? In many cases, suppliers are being beat up to lower pricing or provide increased levels of service for the same cost. Ultimately, how often are suppliers actually thanked for their efforts and hard work?
In today’s economic climate, many would argue that in order to stay in business, you have to be tough on your suppliers to get what you need. Looking at it from the standpoint of the supplier, to keep the business, you need to ensure you’re providing the best possible products / services at a competitive price. If there is dissatisfaction, and if the relationship is built on integrity and trust, you should be able to work together to resolve any issue.
But, that’s not always the case. I heard a story the other day of a manager at a local manufacturing firm who, during a conference call with a key supplier, put the phone on mute and proceeded to insult the supplier because of a pricing issue. However, the manager actually did not hit the mute button and the supplier heard every… last… nasty… word. The response? The supplier pulled his business from the company. [Note: the manufacturer did find an alternate supplier for their parts in this instance. They were lucky.]
Perhaps there was a long-standing issue behind the scenes that precipitated this type of response by the manager. Even if there was, there was no reason to treat the supplier with disrespect, even if out of sheer frustration.
I mentioned in an earlier post it’s better to be a “client partner” and build relationships based on trust and transparency. And if you can build such a relationship with a client or customer, you can also build this type of relationship with your suppliers. With a strong supplier partnership you can resolve issues respectfully and to the benefit of both organizations.
Karma…what comes around, goes around. Just like any customer who stops purchasing your products / services because of poor customer service, suppliers also have the option of not dealing with an organization who doesn’t subscribe to the concept of kindness. And, such organizations may not be around in the long run, especially when they’ve run out of suppliers to insult.
By Kim McWatt
Recently we completed a competitive analysis of online marketing communications for our client. Over thirty websites were reviewed and evaluated with a focus on e-commerce capabilities. Here’s a few things we noticed.
- First impressions are everything. If you make the commitment for e-commerce then follow through. Unfortunately, not everyone does this. Some sites offered online ordering, but failed in the execution. We saw anything from product search being non functional, to missing order policy information, and even missing images of products on offer. Wanting to get in on the e-commerce game is admirable, but customers will not come back if their experience is not optimal first time around. First impressions are everything.
- Why do I need to register? Nothing is more irritating from a customer experience standpoint than having to register or login to find out about the products available, or shipping, return, and payment options. If you’re going to provide online ordering, then allow your customers to view your product offerings and policies without making them register. In this age of total transparency, unless there’s something you want to hide, give customers the information they need to make a sound buying decision. Registration can then take place at check-out – if the customer knows all about your policies and is committed to purchase, they will be happy to register.
- Be aware of the “fold”. Sites often showcased huge lists of parts available, but you had to scroll down to see everything. As noted in Jakob Nielsen’s recent blog: “Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold.” It’s the old 80/20 rule at play here. Customers will scroll down long pages. But only 20% of the time. Although you may want customers to see everything you have to offer, if the goal is to allow for quick easy purchase online, keep product features and pertinent information above the fold.
- Call for pricing. As in the first point, you’re either committed to e-commerce or you’re not. Why promote online ordering if customers must “call for pricing” or “request a quote”. Customers will simply go elsewhere to purchase what they need, unless your product offering is truly unique.
- Need a GPS to navigate. Is your information categorized and presented properly? Is your shopping cart and checkout area free from clutter and unnecessary steps? Having a clean, easy to follow ordering process will guarantee higher conversion rates, and increase sales. Which leads to…
- Who am I ordering from? In some cases, customers were redirected to a separate site to complete their purchase transactions. Redirecting customers does not build brand loyalty or repeat visits – why bookmark your site if they can simply bookmark where they actually made the purchase?
- Give me options. Provide an option for in-store pickup (if available). Often, the in-store pick up was faster than receiving via courier (order online, pick up within 24 hours). For many consumers, being linked to an actual bricks and mortar location provides a sense of comfort and consistency. This also helps to build relationships face-to-face. Not everyone is ready for a full online transaction…yet.
Needless to say, the sites reviewed were quite diverse with respect to their online customer experience. Things can only get better as companies benchmark against the leaders in their respective industries.