Forget elaborate PowerPoint presentations and reams of data. A good speech should have a clear message, a beginning, middle and end.
“I find that presenters take more time than they should—more time than is necessary—and every minute that a presenter goes too long a client will become more frustrated, displeased, dissatisfied,” says Joan Detz, a veteran speechwriter and coach and author of How to Write and Give a Speech, which has been in print for 30 years. “This applies not just to presentations or onsite meetings, but also to telephone meetings and conference calls.”
Michael Farr, president and chief investment officer at Farr, Miller & Washington, an investment management firm in Washington, D.C., is a CNBC television contributor and author of three books. Farr speaks to clients frequently on different topics at receptions that his firm holds. He also speaks in university and private group settings.
With clients, he says, “we try to explain the market and economic conditions in a clear, digestible way, and how and why our investment approach is thoughtful and well suited to the environment we just described.”
The goal, he says, is that “you want to expand your reach in terms of potential clients, you want to deepen your relationship with current clients, and you want to extend the branding of the firm’s name and reputation.”
Mark LaSpisa, principal of Vermillion Financial Advisors in South Barrington, Ill., interacts with clients and prospective clients in the Chicago area frequently through speech making. “Good speeches always start with a solid understanding of the material to be presented,” he says. “There is no faking if you know your material or not. Practice, practice, practice.”
Eve L. Kaplan, a financial planner in Berkeley Heights, N.J., views public speaking as a way to reach out to clients and raise awareness about planning issues. She typically speaks at public libraries in the evening. Evening sessions, she says, allow working individuals to attend. Her talks typically run about one hour, and she leaves 10 to 15 minutes for questions and answers.
“I was a somewhat nervous public speaker, but years of practice and my interactive approach with audiences has paid off,” Kaplan says.
Here are a few tips offered by Detz for connecting better with clients through public speaking:
- Look for ways to involve clients in the dialogue and use the word “you” frequently during presentations. For example, she says, ask, “How has this been working in your organization?” Or, “Are you seeing benefits from this?”
- When dealing directly with clients, the same approach applies. For example, “I want this to be as practical for you as possible.” Or, “I’ve gathered this material based on what you have told me in recent weeks.”
- Whether you’re giving a short speech or a daylong seminar, provide clients with three clear takeaways.
Public speaking can pay dividends. At the end of the day, if your message is clear, your ideas will be remembered more, and by association you’ll be remembered more clearly.
Bruce W. Fraser, a financial writer in New York, is a contributor to Financial Planning. He is writing a book on the ultrawealthy.
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