“…So please give a great big welcome to Bill Jenkins!”
(applause, Bill Jenkins strides to the stage, peers out at the audience as the applause recedes and trickles out)

“Hell—hello?” (looks around, taps his lapel mic) “Am I on? Can you hear me? Good. Okay…wow, what a great-looking group! I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here tonight. Before I start, I just want to thank Jim Benkins for putting this together—give Jim a hand!”

And just like that, before he’s even really gotten started, Bill’s presentation is over: nobody in the room is listening to a single word he’s saying.

Why? Because you only get one chance to make a first impression. Bill wasted that chance blathering on about himself.

Every time you open your mouth to speak, you are responding to a question in your mind. Here are the questions Bill’s opening is responding to: “How do I look? What should I say? Am I still nervous? Will they like me?”

I don’t mean to pick on Bill. His heart is in the right place, and he does have something of value he genuinely wants to share with this group. But asking himself the wrong questions has led to this pseudo-folksy, gosh-I’m-excited, break-the-ice opening riff that is how 99 percent of all speakers open their talks.

The percentage of great presenters who start that way? Zero. Why? Because they’re polished, skilled, have nerves of steel? Nope. It’s because truly great speakers know how to take their focus completely off themselves.

When a great presenter faces her audience, she asks herself questions like, “What do these people want most? Who are these folks? What are they searching for? Why are they here? And what is the single most valuable thing I could possibly convey to them?

As network marketers, we rarely present from the stage. Our presentations happen on the phone, through email, over coffee at Barnes & Noble. The art of presentation works here too.

Of course you want to have a grasp of your informational key points: product, company, opportunity, benefits, vignettes and anecdotes…but relax. You will not be graded on how well you’ve mastered delivery of this information. What you will be graded on is the quality of the interaction. Bring yourself to the conversation with these questions: “Who is this person? What does she want? What is she searching for? What is the single most valuable thing I could possibly offer her?”

Because the truth is, your “audience” is not here to hear about you. They are here to hear about them. You can help shed light on that fascinating topic: that is the art of presentation.

 

JOHN DAVID MANN is Editor in Chief of Networking Times.