Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a Presentation

November 28th, 2018

Eleven Things You Should Never Say In a PresentationCrafting a great presentation is like navigating a minefield: In order to achieve your goal, you have to avoid all the potential missteps along the way. And like a minefield, we often don’t know where those missteps are, because typically we’ve never been taught how to create effective presentations. Which is one reason why so many presentations—sales and otherwise—are so terrible.

As a professional keynote speaker and seminar leader, presentations are my livelihood. And over the years I’ve done a lot of studying and received a lot of coaching to be able to craft them well. Which enables me to easily spot the mistakes others make in their presentations. So think of me as your personal mine sweeper, pointing out the dangers so you can safely get through your next presentation without anything blowing up in your face.

Here are eleven common yet dangerous things that you want to avoid in your presentations.

1. “How are you all doing?”
To some presenters, this is their idea of audience engagement. But it reeks of insincerity because if you really wanted to know how they were doing, you would have asked them individually. (And listened empathetically to their answers.) Further, unless the organization just laid off 10% of their workforce, or their stock price just tripled, the answer is irrelevant. (And if something that major has happened, you should already know about it.)

2. “Without further ado”
Saying the words “Without further ado” is actually further ado, because the words are meaningless and contribute nothing. (And what about those of us who like ado? And want more ado???)

3. “To make a long story short”
If you have to say this, the story’s too damn long already. Edit your stories before you tell them.

4. “To be honest” (or “honestly” or “frankly”)
So you haven’t been honest so far? And everything you say after this one item won’t be true either?

5. “It goes without saying”
Then don’t say it. If you had to say it, then obviously it doesn’t go without saying. Stop contradicting yourself.

6. “Literally”
Literally nobody ever uses this word correctly. (See what I did there?) When you use a word incorrectly, it literally makes you appear ignorant.

7. “Outside the box”
When you say “think outside the box” (or “outside the box thinking”), you demonstrate that you’re not capable of that. By using this cliché, you prove that you’re not original, clever, or innovative.

8. “110%”
It’s not physically possible to give more than 100% of your effort, focus, or commitment, so stop saying that you will. And anyway if you’re going to make up an imaginary amount, why limit yourself to 110%? Why not 120%? Or 200%? Or 673%?

9. “At the end of the day”
The most annoying business cliché, according to a recent British study. It means nothing, it says nothing, it’s worth nothing. And too many people use it repeatedly in their presentations, adding to its fingernails-on-chalkboard quality.

10. “No-brainer”
When you use this term, you’re saying to your audience that if they don’t immediately agree with you, they’re stupid. Which is a great way to instantly alienate them.

11. “I know you can’t read this”
There is absolutely no reason to ever use a slide that requires you to say this. It marks you as an amateur. Either simplify the slide or break it down into several slides that they can read.

All of these words and phrases devalue your message. Not just because they’re all clichés (which you should avoid as much as possible), but because they’re particularly incongruous, annoying, and offensive ones. All of them damage your credibility and cause your audience to like you less, trust you less, and tune you out. It doesn’t matter how good your message is if your audience doesn’t hear or believe it.

Crafting a powerful presentation is hard enough as it is. Don’t sabotage yourself by using words and phrases that jeopardize your ability to be effective. Avoid these figurative (not literal) land mines and your presentations—as well as your sales—will be the better for it.


Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?

November 20th, 2018

Are You Being Too Accommodating to Your Customers?You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger advocate of good customer service than yours truly. I have long argued that sales is service and service is sales. As a keynote speaker and seminar leader, I have evangelized the importance of taking care of the customer in every step of the sales process from prospecting through ownership. And of course, I’ve written many, many articles on the subject, like this one, this one, and let’s not forget, this one.

And yet…

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States—a day of feasting, friends, and family. It’s followed by a national day of bargain shopping known as Black Friday. (My friend, the brilliantly funny speaker, Dale Irvin, suggests Saturday’s color should be burnt sienna.) Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season and features heavy discounts on popular gift items.

The problem is that as stores have tried to get the jump on each other over the years, the start time of Black Friday has gotten earlier and earlier: from 6 am to 4 am to 2 am to midnight. To the point where now Black Friday actually starts at 5 pm Thursday evening!

Black Friday on Thursday combines two things I caution my audiences against: 1) massive discounting, and 2) aggravating your employees. One or the other is bad enough, but both??

To wrench your employees—whom you claim to value—away from their loved ones on a national day of gratitude to make a few additional sales at little to no margin, is insensitive, short-sighted, and self-destructive. In short, it’s bad business.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “But Don, people clearly want to shop on Thanksgiving! We’re just catering to their needs!”

First of all, nobody needs to buy TVs, clothing, and jewelry on Thanksgiving (a day we’re supposed to be grateful for what we already have). Are you really afraid that if you wait another twelve hours, nobody will show up?

Second, just because your prospects and customers want something, doesn’t mean you have to cater to that desire. Buyers make all kinds of outrageous, ridiculous demands, and trying to accommodate them all would drive you out of business. People would love for you to give everything away for free. Are you going to do that?

And third, if your only enticement to get people to buy from you is insanely low prices, then your brand sucks.

Instead of abusing your employees by forcing them to work on Thanksgiving, create a corporate culture that employees are grateful to be a part of. And create a brand promise that makes people want to buy from you. Note that Costco closes on all major holidays and their sales, profitability, and employee loyalty are all excellent. Chick-fil-A is closed every Sunday and they’re one of the most successful fast-food chains, with rabidly loyal customers.

Should you do your best to accommodate your customers’ needs and desires, even going out of your way at times? Absolutely. But should you do so at the expense of your employees and your company values? Absolutely not. Because once you start sacrificing those two things, your business is in trouble. You need customers for your business to succeed, but you need clear values to attract them, and good employees to serve them. Better to sacrifice a few low-profit sales than the two elements you need for long-term success.

May you, your employees, your vendors, and your customers all have much to be thankful for.

Nine Holiday Networking Strategies

November 13th, 2018

Nine Holiday Networking StrategiesThe holidays are officially upon us. (Judging by the ads, store displays, and TV listings, Christmas now apparently starts on November 1.) Which means that your calendar will soon be filling up with holiday events organized by friends, relatives, charities, clients, vendors, and possibly even your own company.

The annual abundance of holiday parties presents both opportunities—sales, career, romantic, and otherwise—and risks. How can you maximize the former while minimizing the latter? Here are nine strategies for effectively navigating the season’s social obligations.

1. Don’t feel obligated to attend everything
The holidays are a great excuse to throw a party. And every year, lots of people and organizations take advantage of that excuse. Which can result in your calendar being awfully full. Even too full. And that can add to the stress you’re already feeling due to all the other responsibilities and obligations in your job and personal life. So understand that it’s okay to say no to some invitations. Prioritize the events on your calendar and attend the ones that are most important to you. Let the rest slide with your apologies. The great thing is that everyone is so busy during the holidays, the hosts you decline will absolutely understand.

2. Split up
When attending a function with colleagues or a significant partner, a good strategy is to split up shortly upon arrival. That way you get to meet more people. If you meet someone you think your boss, colleague, or spouse should meet, you can introduce them. And they can do the same for you. As a bonus, it gives you a polite way to extricate yourself from bad conversations: just say you need to check on your partner/colleague, and you can easily make your escape.

3. Stick together
If you’re uncomfortable in social situations—whether you’re a serious introvert, you have a social anxiety disorder, you’re battling depression, or you simply lack social skills (as was the case for me for years)—the prospect of attending holiday events can fill you with dread. Yet avoiding them can hurt your career and cause you to miss out on potential sales opportunities. To help you survive—and reap the benefits of attending—bring a trusted friend or your partner with you and stick with them. And feel free to take breaks to be alone as often as you need during the event.

4. Don’t be too business-y
Social holiday functions are about being social. And even business events are only nominally about business. So while you may encounter business, sales, or career opportunities, don’t focus on those. Be social. Be fun. Be a good listener. Keep in mind that people are more likely to hire you or buy from you if they like you.

5. Get to know people
How can you avoid talking about your business too much? Simple. Ask questions. But while at a trade show or business networking event you’d ask questions about their business, at a holiday function you have the opportunity to ask questions that are more personal. And for your acquaintance, questions that are a lot more fun and interesting for them to talk about. Ask about their spouse, their kids, their pets, their sports teams (college and pro), their favorite holiday traditions, their vacations, their accomplishments, their plans. Get to know them as people, not as prospects.

6. Don’t talk religion
I don’t care what God you pray to. I don’t care whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or none of the above. I don’t care if you think the holidays have become too secular and we need to remember “the reason for the season.” And nobody else does either. Nothing will turn a new acquaintance off faster than proselytizing. So unless you’re attending an overtly religious function, keep your beliefs to yourself.

7. Be positive
You may have had an off year. You may have had a terrible year. You may have had the worst year of your life. No one needs to know that. Complaining, lamenting, and whining will cause the people you meet to run in the opposite direction. And do their best to avoid talking with you in the future. Find the positives in your life or business. Highlight what you’re grateful for. Think about what you’re excited about or hopeful for in the coming year. And smile.

8. Don’t drink too much
Alcohol often flows freely at holiday parties. Which can be both tempting and dangerous. So err on the side of caution. Keep in mind that at business events, you need to always be “on” because you are always representing your company. And even at purely social functions, your reputation can be sullied in an instant. Remember too, that at either type of event, anything you do or say can end up on social media. And stay there.

9. Follow up
One of the most important elements of networking is the one that most of us—including me—struggle with: following up after the event. Schedule some time in your calendar to write thank-you notes, jot emails, and send LinkedIn invitations. Because the follow up is where the new relationship really starts.

The holidays can be a time of stress, angst, and frustration. But what it should be is a time of connection and reconnection—with friends, family, and community. Take advantage of the opportunities to create and strengthen relationships and other types of opportunities will follow.

How Badly Do You Want Others to Succeed?

November 6th, 2018

How Badly Do You Want Others to Succeed?I’m going to talk about basketball for a moment, so if you’re not a basketball fan—or a sports fan in general—just bear with me. The point I want to make is important, and it will help you boost your organization’s sales and performance.

Last week, history was made in the National Basketball Association. In a game against the Chicago Bulls, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors made a record fourteen 3-point field goals, breaking the previous record of thirteen held by his teammate, Stephen Curry.

After a tremendous first half by Thompson, Curry reportedly encouraged him during halftime to go for the record. And throughout the second half, Curry—and the rest of the Warriors—worked furiously to get the ball to Thompson and set up blocks to give him open shots.

Let me emphasize this: Curry actively helped Thompson break his own record. It’s that kind of unselfishness that has enabled the Warriors to win three NBA Championships in the last four years.

Warriors players understand that when others on their team succeed, they succeed as well. And the same is true in your organization.

Everyone in your company either succeeds together or fails together. When people are primarily focused on themselves, the organization suffers.

So who needs to succeed in order for you to succeed? Your employees? Your sales team? Your customers? And how focused are you on helping them succeed?

Brainstorm ways you might help those you depend on. Ask people how you can support them. When you make decisions, consider their impact on those around you.

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, or CEO, you only succeed when others do. So make the success of others a priority. You may just set your own records.