Thursday, February 22, 2007

Again with the Presentations

At the risk of being redundant, as I've delved into the subject on numerous occasions, I want to talk about a couple of seemingly minor, yet crucial, things to remember when making presentations: timing and equipment.

First, let's talk about timing. Simply stated, if you have been alloted 15 minutes, then you MUST complete your presentation, with built-in time for questions, in that 15 minutes. You should never go over your time. Recently, I was in the audience at a program where one of the speakers nervously spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes longer than his alloted time. As a presenter, I couldn't help but notice the body language of the audience. As he continued talking well past his time, the audience was shifting, yawning, looking at their watches, and mentally checking out. I believe his nerves got the best of him, because he didn't even notice. The sad truth is that he lost this audience.

Why do you think presenters exceed their time limits? Many times it is lack of preparation. Most people are going to be nervous when making a presentation. If you not properly prepared, nerves will take over and you run the risk of rambling. I've done it, and its a killer. You are hating being the speaker, because you know you're not connecting with the material or the audience, and the audience hates it because they are captives.

The key is to rehearse. Rehearse in the mirror, rehearse with a friend, or have your child be your audience. Tape record yourself doing the presentation. Whatever it takes--learn the material and be prepared. It eases the nerves and lifts your confidence.

Now, what about equipment? Let's assume that you've worked diligently to put together a very visually appealing powerpoint presentation. You have made sure it is well structured, on point, and is designed to motivate your audience. You are ready to make this presentation and win over this group. When you get there, with your jump drive loaded with your presentation, you see that the hosts have arranged a Mac PowerBook for your talk. Nice computer! Wrong computer! If you don't have a back-up plan, your toast. (Always have a back-up plan!) Make sure you get these details straight when you agree to a presentation. Think about these things:
type of computer
type of software
projector issues
Internet capabilities (if relevant)
audio issues (if relevant)

Are there any equipment questions you can think of?

By the way, here's a tip. We've all seen the person fumbling with the mouse to try to go the previous slide when they have accidentally advanced the presentation. On PC's loaded with later versions of PowerPoint, there's no need to right-click and select "previous." Just use the forward and back arrow keys. It's that simple.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Mea Culpa...And Here's What I'm Going to Do about It

There is an excellent theme running today among several posts I read. The theme is that there are many ways to formulate an apology, with many wrong ways and only a few right ways. The gist is that an apology must be complete. So, you must apologize, take responsibility for the wrongdoing, and ask how you can regain trust. This is great. It will go a long way toward rekindling communication and getting all parties back to the business at hand. Here are some other things to consider:

Make your apology and have a clearly defined resolution.
If I have committed the mistake, wrongdoing, grievance, oversight, etc., I must be prepared to address the concerns and have measures in place to offer my customer. For instance, if I've overcharged a customer, I need to be ready and able to offer recompense and some incentive to regain the loyalty of that customer--at the time that I'm offering the apology. My apology will not have the same impact if I must receive permission to offer a refund and a coupon for a free whatever.

If it is a more complex issue, such as a failure to meet a product delivery deadline due to unforseen technical issues, and some clear failures to communicate these issues, simple apologies and incentives are not enough. Make sure to have a clear outline of the steps you have taken to resolve the technical issues, communicate the timeline for completing the steps, and select a mutually agreed date for delivery. At this point, the only way to regain the trust of the customer is to keep the lines of communication open and, by all means, deliver a quality product on the selected date.

Be aware of your procedures when "making it right."
When it is your mistake, don't put procedures in place that burden the customer in order for them to receive the resolution they seek. For instance, I've purchased defective electronic items from a well known electronics retailer in the past. When I have returned those items, I have always been offered a refund or exchange. In every instance the Sales Associate has been pleasant and apologetic for the inconvenience I might have experienced. However, and here is what gets me every time, in order to receive a refund, I must give them quite a bit of identifying information. I then have to sign some form. I feel a little like they are doubting my integrity, even implying that I might be cheating them. And, it just takes longer to get my refund than it did to purchase the product originally. Should that be the case?