It’s a challenge to get your communication ‘right’ – achieving that special blend of professional competency and personal connection. Yet, so many professionals and business owners have long ago sacrificed their humanness for the sake of public credibility.
The Great Divide
One of the main reasons is that the business world still considers ‘professional’ and ‘personal’ to be opposite ends of the spectrum. Despite many achievements in bringing the two ends closer together, many businesses still see such a merger as too risky.
And that’s exactly where Robert, a highly skilled engineer in his early 30s, was stuck when we started working together. Robert had managed to get funding for his start-up while still finishing his studies and had eventually launched a micro-business with a university colleague. However, even though they worked 24/7, they had serious issues attracting enough clients to survive.
Robert had spent his life gaining academic credentials and working in his specialist area. Only as a business owner did he hit the communication wall. He hadn’t yet realised that people do business first of all with people – who can then prove their expertise and professionalism. Robert believed that he could skip the first step – human connection – by emphasising his professional credentials.
It wasn’t hard to identify Robert’s problem connecting with clients. He communicated solely in scientific and business jargon. Even as he explained why he had contacted me, he could only talk about the problems of ‘leveraging’ or not having the ‘bandwidth’ yet.
Robert clung to the idea that professionalism and personal were polar opposites even when I mentioned how they could actually compliment and enhance each other, especially in the way we communicate. “I can’t risk my public credibility”, was his definitive response to my suggestion of replacing the jargon with a more personal style.
What’s behind the public credibility argument?
Once I began to scratch beneath his public credibility argument, another layer of Robert’s communication problem appeared. When I explained the importance of communicating person-to-person to build rapport and trust, Robert emphasised how much he “hated” the way so many businesses “rolled out intimate details of their personal lives as a cheap trick to get attention.” As a quiet, private person, he found such open sharing of personal details in public very intimidating. He also explained how challenging he found engaging with the public at trade fairs and marketing events. All he really wanted, was “to do the work he was good at” and not have to be part of that “fake world of marketing and social media”.
Until now, Robert had ‘solved’ the problem of engaging with people at public events by distributing expensive brochures from behind his trade stand. He had actually hired me to ‘redo and improve’ the PR-material. His hope was that distributing ‘better’ PR-material would somehow solve all his marketing problems.
Better PR-Material is not the Solution
It was a challenge explaining to Robert that the solution was bigger than re-doing his marketing material.
I assured him there was a huge difference between having a personal conversation with someone and sharing irrelevant personal details. Also, as a conscientious person, he didn’t have to engage in the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to marketing his business. He did, however, need to find a strategy that was aligned with his personality and worked for his business, too.
Jargon as a Mask
Using and overusing business jargon is often a mask to hide behind. Sometimes it’s to hide a lack of expertise and experience. Or, as this article claims, it’s a tool used to hide the “rise of meaningless work”. It’s also used in the workplace to exclude those who don’t speak it. And, as this article puts it, using jargon “is a form of control. If you can get people to talk like you, you can get them to think like you.”
In Robert’s case, he used it to protect his privacy and shield himself from the sleaze and over-sharing that dominate a lot of marketing styles. But as Robert slowly learned, there are alternative marketing strategies that are very effective.
One of them, as I’ve pointed out here, is to develop your own voice as a marketing tool that is aligned with your values, your personality and those you want to work with. To find out how to do that, check out my short self-study course on developing your voice.Learn More
Have you noticed how noisy it is ‘out there’ and how it’s getting noisier by the nano-second as more and more ‘hot’ tactics and glitz are rolled out? The increasing noise level raises the question ‘how can we be heard in a noisy world so that we can be found by the right audience?’
However, It’s not just that is getting more difficult to be heard in a noisy world. There’s also something else going on, as Sarah, one of my clients, pointed out recently.
“Why is everyone sounding more and more like copy-and-paste versions of everyone else,” she asked.
She’d just read a new post by a ‘respected’ coaching professional, who she said, “should know better”. (i.e. she’s been in business for some time!).
According to Sarah, she’s now talking about “deets” and “peeps” and her every post is now “a thinly disguised ‘pitch’ that I can see coming from the first sentence.” Then she summed up her frustration:
“I can’t feel the person writing these posts anymore with all the fancy words and tricks, so I’m not going to bother reading them!”
I’ve noticed the same trend, too, and find myself unsubscribing and un-following more and more to what I call ‘template junk’ content.
Why are we sacrificing our voice at the altar of algorithms?
Why are we sacrificing one of our greatest assets – our unique voice – to the algorithms?
What I mean with ‘voice’ is not just the ‘how’ of writing (style, language, etc.). It’s also about how you show up in your communication – having your own perspective, the topics you choose to write about, the way you interact with the reader, etc. Having a voice is about having a distinctive identity that others can see, feel, sense, identify and hear. It’s about showing up as YOU!
In a world that seems addicted to the automated ‘clicks & likes’ game, isn’t it important to stand back and just be yourself?
The pressure to conform
Being yourself, however, is not so easy in a world where the pressure to conform is enormous.
When clients ask me how to be heard in a noisy world, I encourage them to develop their voice. There is an immediate resistance to my advice and they generally give me a list of reasons on what is holding them back.
This list below includes the most common ones, but it’s certainly not comprehensive:
- No one would want to listen to them if they used their own voice. (If you haven’t tried, how can you know they won’t want to listen?)
- The voices that are seen and heard ‘out there’, i.e. the ones that have high numbers of views & likes, all sound similar. (Numbers don’t automatically convert into paying clients)
- They’re afraid that using their own voice would expose them in a public space, which makes them feel very vulnerable. (If you concentrate on connecting with your own audience, it greatly reduces the ‘dangers’ of being exposed)
- Using the same language as everyone else makes them feel like they belong to the group. And having a sense of belonging is important to them. (Exchanging your identity and individuality in order to fit in, is a very high price to pay)
The benefits of developing Your Voice
While the pressure to conform and fit in is huge, it also overshadows the benefits of developing your voice. And it does take courage to take that step.
Not only do you enjoy the freedom to discover your unique voice and express yourself in way that feels aligned with who you are and what you do, it makes it so much easier for those looking for you to find you. As I’ve already pointed out in relation to your story, your voice is also your USP.
Why is speaking in your own voice one of the best ways to position yourself to be easily found?
Because your voice acts like an antenna for those on your wavelength. They are the people already tuned into the service or product you provide and how it can help them.
Developing your voice also helps distinguish you from the crowd. It makes you ‘one of a kind’ for an audience that will spot you immediately.Learn More
When you own your story, you easily stand out in a noisy and crowded world by being your REAL self. The benefits are huge.
I was asked recently if and how my work had ever changed a client’s life. I have a few such stories, but this is the one I told.
Years ago, I was hired to help prepare a job-interview presentation (10 mins) for a leadership position in a semi-state company. Like 90% of the applicants, my client had extensive experience and relevant skills.
Your Story defines your USP
So, the personal aspect was key here. He needed to identify and clearly define his USP in relation to the job description. Owning your personal story is, as I’ve pointed out here, one of your brand stories and the more real it is, the more we need it now as we navigate our way in a post-pandemic world.
His personal story was ‘unconventional’ – left school and home at 17 and “bummed around” for 8 years, which included becoming an alcoholic (like his father), being homeless for a stretch, after three attempts finishing addiction therapy, completing a training-education programme with the help of one particular boss, who “gave me some slack, a lot of encouragement & kicked my ass when needed.”
It’s one thing to own your story and easily stand out. It’s another to get the value & relevance of that story across in a short presentation. Here’s what we did.
Your Story should build Audience Expectation
We decided to weave episodes of encounters between him & his boss into his presentation, incl. support, expectations & confrontations, etc., not revealing the identity of either party until the end (we’re building curiosity and tension here).
According to my client, the panel was clearly pulled into his story and anxiously waiting for the finale!
It wasn’t what they expected!
He was NOT the model boss. He was the difficult, sometimes disruptive and often challenging employee whose life had been turned around by a great leader!
A Story with an unexpected Outcome
Life, we know is NOT a Hollywood film. He didn’t get that job. He described afterwards the look of “horror” in some faces when he dropped the bomb at the end.
But that interview marked, he told me, a major turning point for him. He finally owned a hidden part of him that he’d kept well hidden in his career. It was the part that made him a REAL human.
And I helped him own that story!
That’s why I do what I do.
He was offered a very suitable job three job interviews later. We kept tweaking his presentation for each interview and he kept me posted on the different reactions to his ‘plot twist.’ When he was offered the job an hour after the interview, he got the external confirmation for what he himself knew and believed: “They saw the value of my experience for the role they had to fill. And they got me as a person”.
Getting your tagline right is one of the essential steps to connecting your business with the clients looking for what you do. That means when potential clients read it, they know they are in the right place and they are curious to find out more.
Here’s what I’ve learned about getting your tagline right from helping my clients. The advice itself it simple. However, implementing it is not always straightforward. So, to help you make the task easier, here’s my guideline to the essential Dos and Don’ts.
Your Tagline tells the reader, “This is for YOU!”
What exactly is your tagline?
Whether it’s on your website, your social media channels, or PR material, it’s the short message that tells the reader, “This is for You”! On your website it’s the banner beside your company name and logo. Getting the tagline right is all about getting these three elements synchronised to communicate the same message, to expand on and compliment each other and to create a clear, unified visual and written message about your business.
The essential Don’ts
A few warning shots on what to avoid when trying to get your tagline right
Let’s begin by removing those elements that muddle and confuse the reader.
- Drop the jargon and the buzzwords. We’ve heard these terms millions of times already and they numb our senses. Listen to how your potential clients describe what they want. That’s your best guide to knowing what will resonate with them when they read it.
- Don’t try to be clever or catchy. Instead of trying to impress, go for clear, simple words that make it easy for the audience to immediately understand the message.
- The shorter the better! A tagline should be between 3 and 7 words. (8 is not a crime!). Remember the wise words of Francois Fenelon: “The more you say, the less people remember.”
- Avoid vagueness. That means avoid a general slogan-type tagline, such as this one from a Health Coach: Enrich your life, health and well-being. (How do I know what this person offers: fitness classes, dietary advice, mindfulness courses, etc.?) Or this one from a graphic designer: Helping you run a successful business. (There are many skills needed to run a successful business, e.g. financial planning, marketing strategies to technical organisation, etc.)
The purpose of your tagline is to connect you with potential clients and start a conversation
The essential ingredients of your tagline
Your tagline is there to let the visitors know that they’re in the right place, i.e. you are the person or company that will help them get what they want. Like every message, its purpose is to connect you with potential clients and start a conversation.
To do that successfully your tagline has to answer the following questions the visitors are asking as they click and scroll. Remember, they want the answers immediately!
1. Who is this person/company?
2. What does this person/company do exactly?
3. Do they solve a problem that I have and/or provide an outcome that I want?
The name and logo (and in some cases the photo) should provide a basic answer to the first question.
Your tagline (together with complimentary images and headlines on your website) answers the other two, which also defines your ideal client.
Getting your tagline right
There are formulas that help you get started, that get you thinking about what exactly you do and for whom. They provide you with the raw material that you then tweak and edit to make it resonate with your potential clients and make it easy for them to feel it’s about them.
I use this simple formula to get the thinking juices flowing for my clients:
I help ______________ (define your ideal clients) who struggle with _________________ (state the problem you solve for them) get this outcome (describe the benefit of working with you).
Here are a few examples of simple, specific taglines, tweaked for the message and the audience, that skip the guessing games:
From a chiropractor’s website: Backpain relief for those who sit at work
It’s simple, clear and catches the attention of someone who needs this kind of therapy.
A dating site for women: Finding your soul-mate for divorced women over 50
A website designer: Websites that work! It’s short and it captures what everyone wants from their website – it does the job it’s designed to do.
This speaks to a specific kind of clients who can recognise themselves in the tagline instantly.
A final word on getting your tagline right
Like you business, your tagline is always evolving, so make sure to revise and update it as required.Learn More
In a world becoming increasingly polarised between us vs them, right vs wrong, etc., we’ve lost sight of what connects us to each other. Our stories create the common ground that allow us to connect with each other.
It’s easy to have our attention diverted by the stories of division and difference peddled by various news platforms 24/7. These stories blind us to seeing what is so important and so very simple. We have far more in common with each other than divides us.
Where do we put our focus?
What can we do to make that change? We can shift our focus away from staring at how wide the divide is between us. Instead we can look for the stories that create the common ground ground we all share; the common ground that is right in front of our noses if we took the time to look.
While this might seem an impossible task right now as the fractures between us seem to grow wider and deeper every day. It’s actually not that difficult once we choose our starting point.
We can begin by focusing on the stories we tell, the stories we listen to, the stories we share and re-share, the stories we decide to own, ignore or discard. What are those stories about? Are they stories that celebrate our common humanity – the common ground we all share? Or, are they stories that pitch us against each other and highlight our differences and disagreements?
Stories are the common ground
The writer Kate Forsyth nails how stories can make or unmake us, can build bridges or widen the divide between us:
“Stories are the common ground that allow people to connect, despite all our defences and all our differences.”
What if we started to REALLY listen to the other’s stories and talk TO each other – the essence of real dialogue? We could discover a simple, obvious truth. We all nurture the same fundamental desires – for love, security, fulfilment, healthy + wellbeing, happiness, …
What if we first identified the common ground we share and then work on narrowing the gaps on how we want to reach our shared human desires. These are the experiences that make the stories we tell each other?
Contrary to the hype, story is not a stand-alone solution for all communication problems in the business world. Story is part of an interdependent trio in which each part is reliant on the other to create a successful synergy.
The Three-legged Stool
To implement story as part of an interdependent trio, think of story as one leg of a three-legged stool. Story engages the heart and emotions. Our head or logic is the second leg of the stool. Our hands represent the practical application of combining head and heart. When the three legs are aligned, the stool is solid and stable. If one of the legs is weak or misaligned, the stool wobbles and is unstable.
The Two-legged Stool
Not very long ago, the business world relied on facts and stats to convince potential clients to buy. The reasoning being, people make decisions based on logic alone – if the factual information adds up, then the correct decision can be made. If we weren’t ‘ready’ to make a decision, then we just got more facts and data until we were.
However, neuroscience showed us that the decision-making process is not based on logic alone. Once we have sufficient information, it is our emotions, our gut feeling, or our intuition that play a pivotal role in making a decision. It would seem we humans are indeed three-legged stools and each leg contributes to a steady, stable stool.
One of the spin-offs of these science-based insights is re-discovering story as a powerful business tool. Not only did storytelling help translate facts and stats into easily digestible information, it humanised how we do business by creating human-based contexts in which to connect.
The Science of Storytelling
Whether through video, image and text, there is ample evidence of the neurological effects of storytelling on our brain. Telling or listening to a story stimulates a range of chemical responses and cortex activities which aid memory and support easy identification. This process is often referred to as Neural Story Net (NSN). It illustrates how the brain turns arbitrary information into a story that makes sense to the individual.
That’s why businesses raced to embrace storytelling because science proved that it does what no amount of facts can do. Storytelling inspires and motivates us to act, i.e. to change our behaviour. The popular catchphrase that quickly ruled showed us exactly the nature of ‘change’ the business world craved: “Story sells!”
Marketers queued up to show us how ‘compelling’ stories make our service or product ‘irresistible’. What exactly should we not resist? Our logic?
Does that mean we by-pass the head and go straight from the heart to the hands?
The Danger of Creating a Direct Link between Emotions and Behaviour
Science shows how story supports the way we process facts to make sense of the the myriad of information presented to us, via our neural story network. However, the business world also saw an opportunity to instrumentalise storytelling for pragmatic purposes.
It does this in two different and often intersecting ways.
- It’s an opportunity to short-circuit data, and create a direct line between our emotional response and our hands. Story now directly influences our behaviour by ignoring the facts. Suddenly we celebrate the heart as king. It provides us with a direct route to creating change, glorified in the new catchphrase: “Change your story, change the world.” Did anyone question either the nature of the planned change or the integrity of the story?
- It also saw the potential of implementing the Neural Story Net via its limitations to influence and misrepresent the facts. By prioritising the outcome, facts became malleable material to be shaped into ‘compelling’ stories to manipulate the audience. (The world of politics provides endless examples of how certain groups create ‘alternative’ facts to fit an ideological story and influence outcomes)
How to Avoid this Subtle and Dangerous Manipulation of Story
It’s easy to say that we should always interrogate the intention behind the story and double-check the facts. But the task of fact checking is becoming more difficult and less reliable in our changing social media landscape. The advancement of artificial neural network (a branch of AI) now has the capacity to craft stories according to algorithms.
We don’t know what the future holds. However, one step to retaining our autonomy as storytellers is to remember that story is part of an interdependent trio. We should choose the three-legged stool model, always questioning the integrity of our intentions and use whatever reliable means we have available to double check the facts.
Another is of course to engage in dialogue – as opposed to monologue. I’ve written about the benefits of dialogue as interactive communication here. While dialogue is not a cure-all solution for our communication problems, it does help us safeguard our autonomy and integrity.Learn More
Stories are key to effective business communication. They engage us emotionally, facilitate better understanding, create meaning and build personal, trustworthy connections. Simple stories amplify all these benefits.
Simplicity: A Navigation Tool in a Complex World
How do simple stories help us communicate more effectively in an increasingly complex and confusing world?
Simplicity is our best navigation tool for many reasons:
- On a practical level, ‘simple’ is user-friendly, i.e. it’s shorter; quicker; it’s easier to remember, understand, evaluate and use
- It’s the outcome of a process that distils complexity into its essentials – without stripping it of substance to create a simplistic, dumbed-down version
- It helps us easily recognise new ideas, systems, products, brands in an increasingly overwhelming and confusing marketplace
Simple Stories Simplify Communication
Simple stories are not just shorter stories. They clarify and refine complex ideas and data, making it easier for an audience to engage with what is being communicated and eventually act on it. The great physicist, Albert Einstein, gave us advice on how to do just that: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
We are complex human beings who live in an increasingly complex world, so our task is to make complexity simple, not simplistic! Simplistic is a when we dilute the substance of our message to the point that it can be consumed without reflection or question.
Editing, organising and sharpening our ideas are part of a skills-set we can develop and then improve with practice. The benefits of investing time and effort to learn these skills are huge. By making complex material ‘user-friendly’, i.e. simpler, you create immediate access to it, which in turn makes it more relatable, relevant and applicable.
That’s a huge part of my job. When clients present me with a 3/4-page document, I help them create a 2/3-sentence back-story, or a brand stories or a personal profile statement. The work is first of all finding the pattern in all the detail: it’s the pattern that connects it all together. Then creating the simple story to illustrate that pattern.
How to Tell Simple Stories
I. The Story Structure
The structure needs to be simple if you want your story to be simple. That’s easier said than done when most storytelling courses and workshops present beginners with needlessly complex diagrams and structures, while at the same time assuring us we’re all natural-born storytellers!
The story structure is the container for what happens: the details of who, what, when, why, how. The structure creates a pattern that helps us grasp and remember those details. The simplest structure and easiest one to use is created around a linear, temporal pattern:
Before – Turning Point – After
II. The Storytelling Structure
Once we have our story structure we then need a structure to tell that story. The same rule also applies here: the simpler the storytelling structure, the easier it is to communicate the story and the easier it is to receive it.
The most natural and effective structure to communicate information is the one we use every day – conversation, or dialogue. Dialogue is about reciprocal exchange, response and interaction, as opposed to the monologue, which is a one-way form of communication.
Another characteristic of telling simple stories is using simple language. That means getting rid of the jargon and the buzzwords because they act as a barrier to real connection. Replace them with personal, straightforward, simple language that supports and promotes human-to-human connection. Use the same language you would use in a conversation with a good friend.
The Benefits for Business of Making it Simple
How does keeping it simple actually translate into better outcomes for businesses?
The simplicity-index surveys show that simplicity pays. The top brands globally and nationally all share the common feature of offering their customers a simple experience that is communicated as simply as possible. Here’s how Ben Osborn from Siegel+Gale puts it:
“Our research shows us that 55% of consumers are willing to reward brands that make their lives simpler – and penalise those that do not. Simplicity is an important metric for the communications industry because empathy is the cornerstone of the contract between creators and consumers.”
If simplicity pays, how do we recognise it in how other brands communicate and then implement it in our own communication? Start by asking yourself this question:
Do I consciously choose to communicate in a way that is simple, honest, transparent and personal for my audience?
Isn’t it time to simplify?Learn More
If 2020 caused an explosion in virtual presentations, aka ‘webinars’, it has simultaneously created an avalanche of time-wasting, mind-numbing ones.
After attending some really excellent virtual presentations and some incredibly awful ones over the last year, I’ve learned what one thing separates the best from the worst. This blog is very much a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ to help you avoid the many pitfalls and focus on what makes a virtual presentation worth watching.
I’ll start by giving you some early warning signs of the worst ones. My advice here is leave early!
No Attention given to User Experience
The shared commonality between badly prepared and self-promotional virtual presentations is easy to spot. The presenter doesn’t prioritise user experience:
- You haven’t been given any orientation on the event at the beginning – format, length, options for audience engagement, etc.
- The host hasn’t done a trial run to pace the event or get familiar with the technology. For example, screen sharing is awkward, internet quality is unreliable, hosts forget to unmute their own microphone or forget to mute the audience, slide transitions are not smooth, etc.
- You have a worm’s-eye view of the host’s face. You’re looking up into their chin and nose – which makes human-to-human connection very difficult.
- The background is a distraction. It’s caused by the regular ‘disappearance’ of the host into the virtual background because of the lack of the necessary colour contrast. The non-virtual background is either too cluttered, or so strategically organised to show ‘taste’ that you are constantly drawn into it.
- It’s quickly obvious that you are attending a read-the-slide presentation, with slides that are too full, too rushed, too many, too few, too complicated.
- Everyone anxiously waits for the sales or self-promotion pitch’ – that’s the elephant in the room waiting run loose.
- The only reason you don’t leave early is the promised ‘bait’ at the end – usually a freebie, or a special offer.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Presenting is about Creating a Relationship
You can’t learn how to create and deliver a virtual presentation that engages and entertains the audience as well as one that gives them value from a cheat sheet – regardless of the hype! Yes, I do have a check-list below! Those guidelines will help you improve your presentation.
A check-list will NOT create a great presentation, not even a good one if you don’t establish why you’re presenting in the first place – whether it’s online or offline. Sure, presenting online does offer additional challenges and I’ll address those below.
The point I want you to get is this. Every time you present you create a relationship with your audience and it’s that relationship that determines the quality of your presentation and the follow-up. That relationship is what you need to get right.
To get that relationship right you need to know the simple fact that people are sick of being manipulated and sold to in these curated virtual presentations.
The unsuspecting newcomers quickly tire of the pitch, even when the packaging is becoming more subtle and sophisticated. If you present to sell or self-promote, even if you give the mandatory ‘crumb’ of value to justify your agenda, you’re wasting a great opportunity to build an authentic relationship with your audience.
I’m going to show you how to create a relationship with your audience that inspires, educates, entertains and gives value. And opens a door to doing business.
The worst were curated monologues
The worst online presentations I’ve attended over the past year were self-serving monologues from beginning to end.
They did not prepare the presentation to deliver audience-relevant information in an audience-friendly way. Instead they were one-way communication events, in which the audience was there to listen to the presenter. The presentations were generally driven by a thinly camouflaged agenda – usually a sales pitch.
The presenter talked at the audience throughout and tried to impress with jargon-filled slides and fancy technical manoeuvres. Only in the Q & A after the pitch did the audience have the opportunity to participate. Even that was structured as a follow-up from the pitch.
The best were engaging dialogues
If the monologue-format defined the worst virtual presentations, then the dialogue format was the feature of the best ones.
What defines a dialogue?
It’s reciprocal communication, i.e. two-way communication in which an exchange is happening between those involved as I’ve already talked about here. The best presentations are interactive dialogues that invite and facilitate audience engagement.
Here are some of ways you can integrate the dialogue format into your presentation:
- Make the tone, language and content personal, relevant and conversational
- Talk to the audience about what concerns the audience
- Tell personal, simple stories to create ways for the audience to easily identify with you and illustrate the point you are making
- Ask relevant questions to invite participation. For example, use closed yes/no questions at the beginning to get quick, easy responses in the chat boxes. Then as you move through the presentation ask open questions to get the audience to reflect and give their opinions. At the Q & A they let the audience ask their specific questions. That lets them control the dialogue.
How to create an interactive presentation
Here are a few ‘basics’ to create an interactive virtual presentation that holds the attention of the audience and helps establish meaningful relationships:
- Create a simple background that doesn’t distract the viewer (Use a plain wall, a blur background option, or a simple green screen)
- Use audio aids, i.e. a microphone with ear pods or a headset. They make a huge difference to the audio experience (There’s plenty to choose from, ranging from visible to invisible, etc.)
- Make eye-to-eye contact, i.e. look into the camera not the screen and ensure that your eyes are level with the camera. Use books, boxes, or whatever else you have available to raise your computer/camera.
- Ask yourself what does the audience need to hear about the topic, then give them that perspective – not yours!
- Create a structure to your presentation (use a simple story structure)
- Prepare well – do a few trial runs to check the technology, timing & the flow
- Prepare your slides as visual aids, i.e. they should arouse interest & curiosity
- Drop the manipulation tactics – NO ‘bait’ to keep people until the end & NO sales/self-promotion pitch! (What, NO sales pitch? If the only reason you create a virtual presentation is to sell, then you are wasting a golden opportunity to engage with an interested audience).
- Give them the promised FREE online presentation, i.e. tell them upfront there is NO pitch. Now everyone can relax and listen to you. This will be a new, authentic experience for many and one they will appreciate!
- Give them real value on your topic. That will open a doorway to building a sustainable, long-term relationship.
- Have your contact info. on the last slide so people can easily follow up.
Here are two pointers to help you plan and deliver your next virtual presentation:
Some people only want ‘free’ content. They are not YOUR real audience.
Engage with those who are genuinely looking for someone like you to help them.Learn More
A Response from the Irish Business Community in Germany
I wanted to take the pulse of how my fellow Irish Business Network members are coping with the effects of the coronavirus on their business as we step into 2021. The responses to the questions below are from professionals, small business owners and employees right across Germany.
I What are the biggest challenges facing you right now?
Two major challenges emerged immediately (that are obviously connected):
- On-going uncertainty was mentioned by everyone
- Financial issue by 90%
It’s not just businesses dependent on travel and physical presence that are financially challenged. Even those that managed to ‘switch’ online are as well.
II What kind of support would help you deal with these challenges?
There was an overall consensus on two issues:
◆ The need for more direct and indirect government-backed financial support
◆ The need for more personal and professional support
The personal and professional support required includes:
- informal chats with friends & colleagues
- professional advice on dealing with pandemic-related problems, such as training on how to manage staff working from home
- support in creating more networking opportunities for the Irish business community
The supportive role of the IBN’s bi-monthly, online event, Thursday Cuppa, organised by Edmond O’Donnell, was mentioned by 60% of respondents. As Róisín Russ points out, “It’s one of the upsides of the pandemic. I love how we can connect with Irish business communities across Germany and present ourselves in our professional capacity as well.”
III What effects, both positive and/or negative, have you experienced since March 2020 that are directly related to the coronavirus?
On the positive side, the benefits of remote working are in the forefront & include
- the time and money saved on travel
- the flexibility it offered, particularly for those with family responsibilities
- Over 50% remarked on how the exponential improvement in online tools is making the shift to remote working easier and more productive
On the negative side:
- 70% mentioned the isolation and how that has negatively impacted on motivation & moral
- new communication challenges, ranging from the slower pace of problem solving with colleagues to difficulties connecting with current & new clients
- 50% of the responses mentioned how quickly ‘zoom fatigue’ has replaced in-house ‘meeting fatigue’!
The Personal Effects of Corona
I asked specifically about the effects of the coronavirus on their business. What emerged in the responses is how quickly the coronavirus has erased the divisions between the personal and the professional.
“The pandemic has prompted many to re-examine their identity” was how Margaret Haverty summed up the consequences for the Irish community living in Germany. Margaret, a Historical & Cultural Anthropologist, is writing her PhD on this topic at the University of Tübingen and began her research in March 2020.
According to Margaret, for over two decades the Irish in German-speaking Europe have lived what sociologists term ‘transnational lives’, i.e. they live in two countries. The arrival of Corona put an abrupt end to the “hopping between homes”, as Joanne Galvin describes: “I’ve always had the feeling since moving abroad that I somehow lived in 2 countries and did not have to decide for either! 2020 turned that thinking on its head!”
Margaret’s research is highlighting how “this seismic shift is forcing the Irish to re-negotiate their lives in Germany”. The parameters within which they are doing that are currently … uncertain.
The Road Ahead?
In times of uncertainty, moving forward also calls on us to check our rear-view mirror for orientation.
According to our Celtic ancestors, the beginning of February marks the festival of Imbolc, or it’s Christianised name St Brigid. The significance of Imbolc is that it falls between, what farmers called, ‘the freeze and the thaw’, meaning deep winter is almost over, but spring has not yet arrived.
On a practical level, this in-between phase (lasts until the 21.3) is the perfect time to prepare, to organise, to do the spring-cleaning, to put our house in order for when the thaw is complete. It’s a time to prepare for the changes that are coming; for the emerging ‘new normal’.
How can we apply the ancient wisdom of Imbolc to the current challenges we face at the beginning of 2021? And how can it help us cope with the effects of the coronavirus on our business?
Your Route Planner
Here are a few simple steps on how to use this time wisely to anticipate the road ahead & ready your responses:
- Organise your physical working space (office, desk & computer)
De-cluttering gives you back a sense of control and order in your personal space, which in turn helps clarify ideas, activate motivation, improve productivity & ignite creativity.
- Optimise & Streamline
Have a look at your technical systems & business strategies. Ask yourself what do you need to upgrade or replace? Is this the time to pivot?
- Build Bridges
We’ve discovered the importance of belonging to supportive groups in 2020. Now is the time to strengthen and expand our networks.
- Be easily Found, Seen & Heard
When ‘spring’ finally arrives – and it will! – it’s crucial that your business is perfectly positioned to cut through the clutter of noise that will be released. Now is the time to clarify your marketing message, update your ‘pitch’, revise your content (presentations, profile, website, etc.) and select the most relevant communication channels to connect & engage with the right audience.
Imbolc is a time of stillness AND a time of preparation.
It’s the time to get ready!Learn More
Crafting Your Marketing Message: The ONE strategy that guarantees to connect you with your ideal clients
Maybe you’re like most professionals and small business owners who believe that crafting your marketing message is an easy exercise of arranging basic information about your business into a concise format. There’s tons of advice offering you 30 tips, 20 hacks or 10 steps on how to identify those pieces and combine them to craft your perfect marketing message.
The myth of crafting the quick and easy marketing message
So why then if it’s so quick and easy, do so many marketing messages fail to deliver, i.e. attract the right clients?
The answer is simple
It’s not a quick and easy task to get your marketing message right.
It’s a process; a challenging and time-consuming process, that forces you to reflect on the essence of what you do and how you want to get your business into the market place. But it’s a process that is well worth the time and effort you invest in it, as you’ll discover below. It’s a process that is becoming more and more relevant in a post-pandemic world.
To understand why the process is so importance, let’s cut through the confusion surrounding your marketing message by answering two primary questions.
Getting clarity about your Marketing Message
♦ What exactly is it?
It’s how you communicate what you do to the audience you want to reach.
Here’s where the problems begin.
A lot of people confuse a marketing message with a mini bio, a self-promotional pitch or a catchy tagline. Yes, it’s connected to them, but it’s not reducible to them.
Your marketing message should inform your bio, your pitch and your tagline. It should, in fact, inform all your content, e.g sales letter, social media posts, website copy, etc. It should function as the golden thread running through all your marketing material, that gives it a distinct identity.
Your marketing message is the blueprint for your marketing strategy and all your marketing content.
♦ What does it do?
Some people promise that your marketing message will get you more paying clients, build immediate trust, explain your offer and get people to instantly buy from you.
The truth is it won’t and can’t do any of those things.
It’s the starting point, the cornerstone that gives all that a consistent frame of reference.
The job of your marketing message is to position you to be easily found by the clients you want to reach.
It does that by getting their attention and making them curious to know more so that they then want to connect with you.
How Your Marketing Message Creates Connection
Let’s start at the end and reverse engineer the process.
If the purpose of your message is to connect you with your potential clients, then what creates human-to-human connection?
Communication. Our ability and willingness to talk to each other.
That means we have to abandon the conventional monologue we string together about our ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ and replace it with an interactive exchange that invites a reciprocal response.
Your marketing message is the beginning of a dialogue!
This is the ONE strategy I promised you above.
It’s a strategy that evolves organically once you have clarified who your ideal clients are and what they want. During the process of crafting your marketing message, your intended audience become the ideal clients you want to reach.
So how do you craft a marketing message that connects you with your ideal clients through dialogue?
Your Marketing Message starts a Dialogue
Because your message starts a dialogue, you have to shift from the monologue mode of talking AT the other to talking TO the other in the form of a dialogue.
How then do you start a dialogue?
You can’t start a dialogue with by ticking the boxes on a best-of list. Nor can you start a dialogue by talking about yourself and promoting your business.
Starting a dialogue forces you to shift your focus away from your perspective to that of your dialogue-partner. You have to know who exactly your partner is – what are the unifying factors in that group – and what matters to them. To know what matters to them, you first have to do the vital preliminary work of listening.
When you listen deeply, you’ll discover what they want e.g. more clients, different clients, increased revenue, more efficient systems, etc., You’ll also hear how they describe what they want, so that you can use their language to explain how you can help get it and create a better outcome. And finally you can tell them why you are the right choice to get them those results.
But if you’re talking to them all the time in your marketing message, how can they engage in a dialogue with you?
They don’t respond verbally. They respond by self-identifying with your message because it shows them you know them and know what matters to them. For example, their auto-response to finding their problem described is, “Yes, that’s me. That’s what I struggle with!” or, when you describe the outcome you provide, “That’s exactly what I want!”
Your marketing message has done its job!
You now have the attention of your potential clients who found themselves and what they want described there. It invites them to take the next step and continue the dialogue.
Have you made it easy for them to continue the dialogue? Can they easily (one click) book a call? Do they know exactly how and where to get more information, etc.?
A Personalised Marketing Message is Authentic and Unique
What I hope is obvious from the above one-step strategy for crafting your marketing message is that you can dispense with ticking the boxes on a best-of list. You can also disregard the typical manipulative tactics and the conventional sleaze-bait in the language of mainstream marketing.
You can drop the language of scarcity, guilt and fear whose only purpose is to manipulate audience response. The ‘irresistible’ buzzwords and jargon are unnecessary as you are not trying to coerce a response from your dialogue partner. Because you’ve listened and responded directly to your potential clients, your marketing message is customised for them and communicates the value of what you do in an authentic, empathic language. Your potential clients helped you craft it after all.
You can learn from other successful marketing messages, not by mimicking their language or the tactics they use, but by understanding how they crafted a message that speaks directly to the audience they want to reach. What works for a corporate brand – no matter how brilliant or successful – does not transfer on a scaled-down version to service professionals, micro or small business owners.
How we communicate is gaining on relevance as we move into a post-pandemic world. People have had the time to reflect on their ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ and plan for a more personalised, sustainable and authentic way of doing business. Dialogue belongs to the emerging ‘new’ normal.
Your marketing message is your unique identity – it communicates the essence of why your clients choose to work with you.
Why Your Marketing Message is so Important
To understand why it’s so important, let’s summarise again what your marketing message is and what it does:
- It’s the blueprint for your marketing strategy and all your communication
- it positions you to be found by the people looking for what you offer
Crafting your marketing message is the vital first step in your marketing strategy. Think of it as the resonance of a pure tone or the ripples created by the pebble.
You now have the attention of your potential clients and they’re curious to know more. How do you keep their attention, build a sustainable, trust-based relationship and turn them into ideal clients ready to buy from you?
You continue the dialogue you started with your message.
How do you do that?
Watch this space!Learn More