Presentations and authority

Having arrived home from Canada and the US I have some observations that have relevance to our roles as presenters.

Lets start with image. Background data: As part of the trip I had to transit through New Zealand and change aircraft in Auckland. I noticed that the airport security staff (likely part of the Ministry of Transport) wear light blue uniforms. Very nice and low key. In comparison the US Transport Safety Authority staff wear dark blue uniforms. The typical US Police Officer at say LAX wears a black uniform with very prominent badges and insignia’s.  To the point: who do you think telegraphs the strongest message of authority? Who do you think telegraphs the least strongest message of authority? There is no doubt that the Police Officer commands your attention and respect due to their appearance and manner.

Now to you…when you are presenting your product, what level of authority do you command? Do you stand out in the room? Does the audience focus on you and what you are presenting? Now I know that some folk reading this will be thinking “tell me something that I dont know” however others may not have considered this issue either at all (it would seem) or actually have done something about their “visual presence”.

I spent years demonstrating application software for organisations such as SAP and Oracle. These are big ticket items and require quite a volume of pre-sales activity due to their inherent capabilities and complexities. When you demonstrate/present these products you are expected to be an authority – knowledgeable, skilled, able to answer questions accurately and convincingly.

If I was in front of a room of 20 staff from a prospect I needed to be delivering the right message both verbally and visually. The visual includes appearance, style and manner.

In sales “people like to buy from successful people” so presenting to an audience that will by purchasing say $1m of software means not wearing a t-shirt, jeans and old runners. Again folk reading this will say ” of course” but just look around the next presentation that you deliver/attend and check out how others present themselves. You will be surprised at the lack of congruence that will exist.

Gents: trousers that are too long ARE too long. Get them taken up. There is no excuse for looking like a music video rapper in a business situation. And whilst you are at it polish your shoes. I see so many men, especially younger guys, in business situations with scuffed, dirty, grubby shoes that may be “stylish” but have no place in business (eg white shoes). Lift you game people.

Ladies:  I noticed a young professional woman in a shopping centre recently. She was smartly dressed, carrying a nice bag with her paperwork. All neat and tidy, very businesslike. Then I noticed the heel of her right shoe. A dark blue shoe with heavy light coloured wear caused by driving a car. Her overall image was lacking congruence. It was more a case of “trust me to help you with improving your business even though I can not be bothered to check my image”.

By now you will either be agreeing with me, remembering others that you have seen and smiling to yourself, or hopefully reaching for the shoe polish…

So if you are selling tractor parts to farmers you probably don’t want to arrive in a BMW wearing a suit. Equally, if you are selling BMW’s in a major capital city dealership, moleskin trousers and an Akubra hat would not be suitable either.

We need to be congruent with the image our product represents and therefore believable. Ultimately that is the key.

How do you stack up? Any comments?

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