On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly’s joined by presentation coach, Pat Quinn, as they cover how speakers can effectively communicate their message for the greatest impact. Pat shares some best practices—how to train your audience (prospects), set momentum and gain clarity for executing the perfect pitch presentation for new business.
EP 32: Better Presentations for Winning New Business, with Pat Quinn
Kelly: So welcome to another episode of Thrive. Today we’re talking about better presentations for winning new business, and I’m really excited to have Pat Quinn on the show today. Pat’s a presentation coach, specializing in helping speakers to effectively communicate their messages for the greatest audience impact. And you can find out a little bit more about Pat at amazingpresenters.com. But Pat I’m really excited to have you today. Thanks so much for joining me.
Pat: Absolutely. It's a thrill to be here.
Kelly: So you work with all types of professionals who just need a ton of help with presentations, speaking engagements; how to just effectively get across or really impact their audience. Why do most people, in your opinion, why do most people get hung up on this aspect of business and even I guess you could say, crosses over into life. But presenting in front of an audience, why is it so tough?
Pat: Oh, that’s one of the greatest fears that people have, standing up in front of others and presenting. And I think a lot of times we get in our own heads. We worry so much about what everybody else is thinking, and we worry that this is the break-all, end-all presentation in the world.
And the truth is, if you just got up there and were yourself and you’re authentically and transparently you, it wouldn’t be any different than a conversation. It wouldn’t be any different than picking up the phone and talking to somebody or walking over to your friend’s house and having a conversation.
But we get in our heads when we hear the word “presentation” or we have to present or we have to pitch. And then, all these games start to play and a little voice in our heads says “They’re not going to like you.” And a little voice in your head says “You’re going to blow it.”
And a little voice in your head says “This is high stakes.” And when you have high stakes presentations, but we have high stakes conversations too. Our mind just seems to treat them differently.
Kelly: That’s really interesting. So what would you say…? I mean I know that you’ve done keynotes all over the world for RTI and other things, but you’ve also probably seen a ton of keynotes, the good, bad and the ugly, right?
Pat: Oh yeah.
Kelly: What would you say are the characteristics of an effective presentation to an audience? Well … I’m sure that there’s like a few common things that you know, as long as they hit these marks, you would consider that effective.
Pat: Sure. Well actually I didn’t get my start as a professional speaker. I got my start as a professional magician and I work magic for 10 years. Then I realized I needed to get a real job, and so I became a public school teacher and I taught school for 12 years, high school Math. And during that time, I picked up an advance degree in how adults learn.
And so one of the real focuses of what I do, is to focus on how the audience receives the information. And so I think two things come out of that when I look at presentations, and I watch other presenters, and I put together my presentations. Yes, there’s a little bit of stage craft in getting the audience to pay attention based on how you’re moving, and how you’re facing, and what you’re saying.
But the other part that I think is really important, a thing that I think great speakers do that other speakers don’t is to pay attention to the audience more than paying attention to yourself. I know tons of speakers who film themselves, either with their phones while they’re speaking or they have a friend with a little video camera and film themselves. And I always tell people “Turn the camera around and film the audience.”
Pat: You know what you look like, but you will learn so much simply by watching the audience during your presentation. You’ll learn the boring parts of your presentation. You’ll learn the super exciting parts of your presentation. Most importantly, you’ll see when the audience is leaning in toward you and holding perfectly still. When the audience is still, that’s a good sign. That means they’re in the moment with you. When the audience is shifting in their chair, looking through their phone…
Kelly: Checking their phone.
Pat: Oh yeah, checking their phones of course is the worst. When they’re doing anything like that, you haven’t captured them. Those are the parts of your presentation you should cut. And when they’re taking notes, holding still, leaning in to you is when you really have them. Those are the parts of your presentation that are the best. Keep those parts, get rid of the other parts, and your presentation will get better like that.
Pat: But nobody focuses on the audience. Everybody has the camera on them like “Oh, I don’t like what I do with my hands there.” I don’t care if you like what you did with your hands. Did it quiet the audience? Did the audience like what you were saying at that moment? That’s the most important thing. So I would say the greatest speakers in the world focus on the audience more than they focus on themselves, and that’s the fastest way to get better.
Kelly: Right. Who do you think is one of the best speakers that you’re ever heard?
Pat: There are some speakers who are technically perfect, there are some speakers who are just really good to listen to and so, I would… Marcus Buckingham who’s like, “Now go discover your strengths.” He’s one of the strengths guys. He is just an amazing presenter.
He sets the rules early in his presentation often when presenting in the United States, he’ll tell a joke, and he’s British so he’ll be like, “Well that was British humor, you probably didn’t get it. I’ll hold my hand up like this when I tell jokes from now on and then he’s kind of trained the audience." So if he tells a joke and it goes over or doesn’t go over, he can just stop, pause a couple of seconds and go like this and then the joke goes over.
Pat: So what he’s actually doing there and what great speakers do is from the moment they go on stage, they’re training the audience. Like I tell speakers, “You know you should walk on stage about one and a half times your normal walking pace, not your normal walking pace, not saunter around the stage.” And the reason you want to do that is because you’re training the audience.
If you saunter on the stage, the audience will be like “Oh, this is going to be a slow moving presentation. I’ll have to think about things and solve problems while I listen to you. I’ll have time to check my email while I listen to you.” But if you walk on stage a little faster than you normally do, start talking a little faster than you normally do, start delivering real solutions right away, the audience will be trained from the very moment you go onstage.
“Wow, this is going to be a fast moving presentation that I have to pay very close attention to. I better set down everything that I’m doing and pay very close attention to this.” So I think Marcus Buckingham probably trains the audience probably better than anyone that I’ve ever seen, and because of that, his presentations are just amazing.
Pat: They’re funny, they’re fast-moving. Joel Osteen, Pastor of Lakewood Church, is technically one of the most perfect speakers in the world. You can learn… he’s on your local television station every Sunday with a 25-minute message. Look him up, watch him. You can learn more simply by watching his technique. He gives a different 30-minute message every single week, and they look like they’re all memorized. If you watch, you’ll barely see him checking his notes.
His stage movement, the way he warms up the audience, he really understands audience momentum as well as anybody I know. At the start of your presentation, you know, I talk to presenters, or just business people who are presenting to a group that they are trying to sell to or pitch you, and they’ll come out of the room sometimes and they’ll be like “Wow, they were just dead” or “The audience just didn’t have any energy today.”
A lot of speakers don’t realize that it’s actually the role of the speaker to bring the energy into the room, not the role of the audience. And if you have a speaker who’s blaming the audience for being low-energy too often, there’s good rooms and there’s bad rooms to be in.
If every time you’re coming offstage and saying “Oh, the audience was just dead. The audience just lacked energy,” consider the possibility that it may be you who’s not bringing the energy or you who’s not warming up the audience. And you watch Joel Osteen warm up his audience, from having them say a chant … repeat something in the beginning to opening with a joke, he’s so intentional about it. He starts every week by saying “I’d like to start with something funny,” like he tells you the technique that he’s going to use.
Pat: Of course, you’re going to start with something funny. Most people just don’t admit it, they just try it. He comes out and says “I’d like to start with something funny, so here’s something a little funny to get you laughing.” When the audience laughs early, the audience is breathing. When the audience is breathing, the audience is ready to learn, and they’re ready to listen, and they’re ready to sit.
And so he does technically, he’s about as perfect a speaker goes. I tell everybody to watch him because you can learn from his technique. And then I point you to David Copperfield. David Copperfield is a magician. He’s performed in front of more people than any other human being in the world. He performed in front of more people than The Beatles, than Elvis, than anybody and he is the best at controlling the audience’s attention. When he wants you to look this way, he gets you to look this way.
Pat: He does with his eyes and his hands, with his music. When he wants you to stand up and clap, he gets you to stand up and clap. They raised the house music up, they brighten the lights just a little bit. He goes like this with his arms and you stand up and clap like you can’t stop yourself and you don’t know why. He’s really the best at it. So from pure physical standpoint, David Copperfield controls the audience better than anyone I know.
Kelly: Right. So aside from pastors and magicians, let’s talk a little bit about those in the creative agency world. So in those cases, you have people that are creative directors or account directors, you know, maybe someone in client services that’s head of a department, there’s a ton on their shoulders, and they are basically pitching for new business that’s going to impact the success of this agency, right? It could be this year or it could be longer term but, obviously, they have some pretty high stakes.
What are some of the best practices for those, you know, in our audience who are watching and listening from that perspective where the audience is smaller. There might be 3 to 8 people around the table and, you know, you’re kind of presenting either a strategy, a new creative concept, whatever it is, but it really has to be exactly what you’re talking about, getting that audience to just really sink in to … maybe not so much the content but how it’s being delivered. Like what are some best practices for a situation like that?
Pat: Absolutely. I mean even though I’ve worked with New York Times best-selling authors and 6 different Olympians and some of the best speakers in the world, most of my clients are business owners; business owners and principals who want to grow their business and get new clients through presentations, and so that’s most of what I do.
Pat: And the number 1 thing we want you to do when you go in to any presentation, whether it’s a keynote in front of a thousand people or a pitch in front of 3 people is to have total clarity, total clarity on the problem you’re solving for the audience. And what we find is that if you have clarity on the problem that you’re solving for the audience, that you would… it’s very easy to put together a cohesive, short, direct presentation.
If you don’t have clarity on that one question, “What problem are you solving for the people that you’re speaking to today?" Then your presentation is usually a mess. It goes down a bunch of cul-de-sacs. It’s disorganized. It’s much longer than it needs to be. And so one thing that we have you do when … before we start writing a presentation or put one before you start thinking about what you’re going to says is, get real clarity on what problem are you solving for the group of people that you’re speaking to.
Put it up on the whiteboard in the room as you’re putting together the pitch, and you’re going to give a much better presentation. And then, the second thing, right before you walk into the room, take a deep breath, get your nerves together, and remind yourself “This is the problem that I’m solving for them.” Because if you don’t know that, the presentation itself is going to be a mess. And so, that’s one thing that we want to right off the bat; just make sure that we have total clarity on that.
If you want to engage the audience in front of you, whether it’s 1 person or hundred people, there is no technique better than episodic storytelling. Episodic storytelling is to switch from being a third party narrator, where for instance maybe you want to talk a little bit about the qualifications or how your business got started if it’s a new client that’s never met with you before, and you just want to tell them your founder’s story a little bit.
You can say, “You know, 16 years ago, we started this agency,” and now you’re telling it like a third party narrator, like if somebody wrote a copy for your website, they would write it that way. Or somebody who was writing your biography, they would write it that way. Instead, switch over to episodic storytelling. "It’s 2001, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m driving my Ford Taurus through rural Kentucky, and I asked myself, 'What am I doing here?'" And immediately, anybody who’s in the room with you, is going to be into the story.
Pat: Like they’re in the car with you at 2 o’clock in the morning driving to rural Kentucky wondering what… “Okay tell us, what are you doing here? It’s 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Pat: The moment you switch over to episodic storytelling, which is to take somebody in the room with you, bring him to a moment with you, and they will hear what you hear, see what you hear and see what you see. If you do it right, they’ll even smell what you smell. It… this doesn’t have to be an epic 30-minute story, by the way. You could do this in 30 seconds. You can do this very quickly.
"My daughter got into a car accident the other day and she called me. I got the call no dad wants to hear, which is my daughter got her first car accident. When I talked to her on the phone, I realized she was only about a mile from where I was, so I drove over there. And when I got there, I saw her talking to the police office, and I parked my car, and I walked up to her. And she was holding it together when she was talking to the police office. When I walked up to her, the moment I walked up to her, she just gave me this big hug, and she just let it all out on my shoulder and just started crying." And at that moment, everybody in the room is like right there with you.
Pat: Like they’re at the moment with you. They’re hearing her cry. They’re feeling her hold you. They’re like feeling her fear, and her worry, and her concern.
Kelly: And her relief when she saw her dad.
Pat: And the relief when she saw her dad! Like they’re in the moment with you, and that’s the difference between episodic storytelling and third-party narrator story telling. And most people, when they’re in a presentation like that they go, "I got to have this all buttoned up. I should read them my resume."
"We’ve worked with these clients, we’ve been doing this for this many years. Here’s our specialty," and it’s like that… They’re going to read that like they would a resume. They’re just going to like glance over it, not hear any of it. But if you can switch even a moment of that into episodic storytelling and take him to the room with you, now they’re emotionally invested with you, like you’re emotionally invested in that story.
And once they become emotionally invested with you, they’re going to want to do business with you. They’re going to … and they’re going to see you from a creative standpoint like it’s going to show them how well you can draw people in with your creative work.
Kelly: Yeah that’s … it’s such a great takeaway. I love that. Now you actually refer to your coaching process as total audience mastery. Can you talk a little bit about that? And one of the things that I found really interesting about it was that you’re helping people improve but without changing their own style or changing their content. So, if you can talk a little bit about that process, I think I would find that interesting.
Pat: Sure. The biggest fear that somebody has when I tell them I’m a presentation coach is, “Oh, you’re going to get me to change my style. I stand still. You probably are going to want me to move around like in a V formation.” I don’t have a formula. Some people do, apparently. And I’m not going to teach you tricks. I’m not going to teach you tricks to manipulate the audience because I actually don’t want you to manipulate the audience.
People often ask me, “Do you work with actors and actresses?” And I don’t. I actually do just the opposite. Actors and actresses are pretending to be someone they’re not. I’m actually getting you to be authentically you so that they can see you, and want to do business with you, and want to come close to you. And so from that standpoint, when you’re pitching, I want you to be authentic and transparent.
We call it as “palms up presenting.” Don’t think of it as a performance where you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. Think of it as just standing there with your palms up saying, “This is who I am.” And I think you’ll be attracted to that and want to do business with that. And so from that standpoint, we want you not to change your style or change your content.
We want you, instead, to use our technique which we call Total Audience Mastery, because we’re going to insert into your already ready presentation, or we'll write a presentation with this already built in, up to 15 things. These are not my opinion, these aren’t nice things to have in a presentation, these are research, research by Robert Cialdini, research by Daniel Pink, research by Scott Adams, research by a bunch of people who are out there every day researching how an audience responds to information that they’re receiving.
And so, one technique that we recommend you using is, for instance, referring to yourself by first name during your pitch. And so, "I was taking the garbage cans out this morning and the guy next door to me was taking his garbage cans too and he yelled across the driveway, 'Pat, today is the recycling day or is that next week?' And I said, 'No, that’s next week. Just garbage today.' And he said, 'Oh, okay. Thanks Pat.'"
And when you do that, what you’re actually doing… if you do that early in your presentation, like… and if you’re going to do it more professionally, you might say, “You know, one of the most common questions I get from people I work with is, “Pat, what is the best way to begin our presentations?” Then I just go on, and I teach, and I teach, and I go on with my presentation.
I don’t draw attention to it. I just do it. What happens when you do that is the audience immediately begins rehearsing in their mind having a conversation with you. Even if there’s two people in the room having a conversation with you, it’s amazing how the human mind works. You immediately begin rehearsing, “Hey, if I talk to him, I’ll probably call him Pat,” which is all of a sudden is informal.
Pat: Which, all of a sudden, indicates, “I trust you, and I know you because I’m calling you by your first name.”
And, all of a sudden, I trust you more than the person who came in right before you and pitched them, because you referred to yourself by first name. That’s one of like 15 things that we build in to your presentation that aren’t like…
One thing that we often will say is, I don’t really care what my opinion is. I don’t care if I like that part of your presentation or not. If it’s scientifically proven to get the audience to respond a certain way, that’s something that we want to add to your presentation. We want to add it in a way that is cohesive. We want to add it in a way that is true to you and authentic to you.
But, oftentimes, people just go in when they give a presentation, and that’s what they like, when they don’t realize it’s actually a ton of research. Daniel Pink has been researching this for years. Robert Cialdini has been researching it for 40 years, how the audience responds.
What pictures you have if you’d have a slide deck, what background pictures you’re having between your opening… behind your opening slide. It makes a huge difference. All these little things that we build into your presentation that are going to make a difference in how the audience… even if it’s an audience of 1 or 2, will respond on the back and to your presentation.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah. That kind of stuff is so interesting to me because it is so nuanced. You’re not talking about changing the big concept, or the big reveal, or anything like that, but it’s all the little things that everyone else thinks doesn’t matter. They matter… Those things matter a lot, you know?
Pat: Oh, yeah.
Kelly: So as we start to wrap up, that’s actually a great segue to my last question which was more about this idea of “From the audience’s perspective,” right? Because we could talk about the actual presentations and you know how the nuance changes that you make or suggestions that you make. But at the end of the day, the audience is really the whole thing, right?
I mean we’re trying to convince them or to get them to emote. We’re trying to get them to connect, to trust us, all of those things. So, why is an engaging speaker one that hits all these marks that we’re talking about today, why is that engagement so much more important to the audience than even the content sometimes?
Pat: Well, the reason that it’s more important is because if you don’t do these things correctly, the audience won’t even hear your content.
Pat: If you say something in the opening 30 seconds, when you’re introducing yourself that hacks off the audience, or is offensive to the audience, or just doesn’t connect with them…
Pat: Then they train themselves in their mind, “Oh I’m not connecting with this person.” Nobody actually says these things, but this is how the mind works. “Oh I’m not connecting with this.” And then, I think of the human brain like has some bandwidth. It has processing power and sometimes we devote 100% of that to the speaker and sometimes we devote just enough to be polite, you know? We usually don’t walk out of the room in a live presentation. I’m telling you, if you do these things in a webinar, they’ll just click off.
Pat: If you do these things in a webinar, they’ll just go check their email while during the webinar and it might look like they’re still on your webinar, but they’re not actually in the webinar. In the room, nobody gets up and walks out. Usually, they’re not that rude, but they’ll just be present and thinking about other things. They’re going to be thinking about their next meeting. They’re going to be thinking about some problems they’re trying to solve.
They’ll be thinking about what they’re going to do tomorrow night after dinner, and they’re not really paying attention to you. On the other hand, if you do the right things in the opening few minutes of your presentation, they’re going to devote a lot of bandwidth to you. They’re going to give you all their processing power and actually hear your content. And so the reason it’s more important than your content is because if you don’t do it right, they never get to hear your content.
So from the audience’s point of view, I do think that going in there... and one mistake that many, many professionals make, you are giving pitches and trying to draw business in clients is they speak the language of “my side of the table.” And so when I’m speaking, I’ll speak the language experts. When I talk to …coach medical professionals like chiropractors, they’re speaking the language of medical experts.
With creatives, you’re speaking the language from your side of the table in words that you use in your office, but they’re not the same words that the other side of the table would use. I’ve heard it said once that all great presentations start in the language of the client, or the prospect, and they finish in the language of the expert.
But at the start of your presentation, you’ve got to be describing the problem that you’re solving, which you have total clarity on. You have to be describing that in their language, not your language. And most people, when I say, “What problem do you solve for the audience?” don’t actually give me a problem. They actually give me a solution that they’re offering and selling.
Pat: And that’s a sure sign that you don’t have your language right.
Pat: You haven’t thought about the problem from the client’s point of view, and that’s why this hyper-focus that I have on the client, on the audience, on the prospect. That’s why it makes all the difference, because if you don’t speak their language in the beginning and do things to draw them into the presentation, they aren’t going to even be there to hear your content.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah. Great points. Pat, thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really appreciate it, and I’ll definitely put a link to amazingpresenters.com into the show notes.
Pat: Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity.
Kelly: All right. Thanks. Take care.