Admirable welcomes here a good American friend, Linda Fisher, who is an internationally recognized marketing consultant and founder of this unique firm that works exclusively for design businesses. She educates design firm principals on effective marketing, public relations and sales strategies. Her website is a valuable resource for the design community. Now, it is to read htis very useful article…
The Art of Speaking : Connecting with Your Audience
How to deliver a great presentation ?
In counseling clients, quite often I am asked about how to deliver a great presentation. My firm positions design firms as leaders. Of the myriad ways to do that, speaking engagements can be highly instrumental. However, many growing design firms are unaware of just how instrumental it can be. Designers who maximize the opportunity to deliver their message in an informative, compelling and creative way find they open up tremendous opportunities for themselves and for their firms.
Credibility, visibility and new business opportunities build as a result of this exposure. « We deeply believe in the valuable role that speaking plays in positioning design firms and their principals, » says Design Management Resources’s public relations associate, Jennifer Lieberman. « And we are passionate about delivering sensational presentations. »
A few months ago, a client who plans to speak at the same design conference where I will speak this year asked me this question : what is a successful presentation ? Not surprisingly, it stopped me in my tracks. There is a vast supply of considerations and responses to such a broad and important question. What are the factors of a really compelling presentation, the kind where you walk out of the room feeling truly inspired or richer with information that will provide solutions to issues you face. In discussing this question with my associates, we decided that the best way to fully answer the question would be to talk to the experts.We talked to our clients, colleagues, associates, notable speakers and influential conference producers. All of whom are thought leaders, representing a treasure trove of insight. We asked them to share their wisdom, their experiences and to enlighten us with the key, the skill, the art of delivering standout presentations.
Our mission is to educate businesses about the value of good design
But first, before their input, a few important points about speaking : Ours is an industry of progress. One that is onstantly changing, moving ahead, pushing the proverbial envelope. As an industry we offer the best and the brightest, some of the most refreshing thinking around on conceptual, visual and emotional levels. Our mission is to educate businesses about the value of good design. Therefore, we have an immense responsibility not only to our own firms, and ourselves but to our industry. When you have an opportunity to speak, you have an obligation to represent the design industry in an informative, compelling and creative way ; to uphold the integrity of what makes the design industry so remarkable.
Speaking plays a tremendously valuable role in the life of designers and design firms. Bruce Turkel, executive creative director, Turkel Schwartz & Partners, recently commented on importance of speaking : « Our whole business is about presenting ideas. If your clients don’t buy your point of view or find what you say compelling, if you don’t convince them of your message, they simply will not understand your vision. »
For clients that are just starting out, I recommend they get as much experience as possible. Speak wherever you can. Offer to speak at local schools, community groups, teach an adult education course on a topic that interests you. Join Toastmasters or take a public speaking class. Get in front of people as much as possible. Watch and really observe as many speakers as you can : politicians, celebrities, spokesmen, business leaders. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Speaking should, if it is not already, be an integral part of the way you market yourself and your creative business. Primo Angeli, who has spoken at conferences throughout his career, advises, « Every designer should take advantage of speaking. Speaking is extremely important. For me, it’s provided terrific benefits. If you manage it well, you can get a lot of PR out of it. I tell young designers to get out in front of the media as much as you can. »
Make the most of your marketing investment by establishing a public relations plan to maximize these opportunities. One of our clients who incorporated speaking as a way to establish credibility, generated press coverage and built strong visibility. As a result, prospective clients began to trust them. Speaking now accounts for 25 % of new clients and projects.
What is a successful presentation ?
This question that must be addressed from the perspective of both the speaker and the audience. The collective thinking is that a successful presentation is one where both speaker and audience benefit. As Michael Jager, creative director and principal, Jager di Paola Kemp, explains « Success is when a dialogue is established between speaker and audience. » Beyond the event itself, this dialogue can be one that continues to come up in the lives of both speaker and audience member. Often, for years down the road.
From the speaker’s perspective, success is measured by how the information is received. Stefan Sagmeister, Sagmeister, Inc., talked about what happens for him as a speaker that makes it a success : « Feedback afterwards is always a good indication. But, » he cautions « as a speaker, you tend to only get positive feedback. So, if nobody comes up at all I assume I have failed to move anybody. »
For the audience, success can be measured by what is gained. Susan Kacapyr, program manager, HOW Design Conference, offers that « Attendees want to learn how a designer approaches a creative project or solves a problem, ideally from conception through completion. They want practical information rather than theory. » After his eighth consecutive year presenting at the HOW Design Conference, Bruce Turkel says, « Success is when the listener comes away with information they can use to make their life better. »
Scott Davis, managing partner, Prophet and author of Brand Asset Management, elaborates, « It’s a success if your topic was relevant to the audience by addressing and offering solutions to issues the audience is dealing with. » He continues, « It’s all about developing a meaningful and thoughtful connection, which leaves the audience members with new ideas they can implement on Monday morning, six months from now and twelve months from now. »
Suzanne Hogan, senior partner, Lippincott & Margulies, believes she’s had a success, « When the audience walks away with inspiration and insight on a specific topic that will open their thinking on how to address issues they face in their daily professions. »
The Ins and Outs
In addition to the countless checklists that exist for what should and shouldn’t be part of a great presentation, there are some overarching pointers. Deborah Hatcher, sponsorship director, American Management Association, who produces the Corporate Branding conference, comments, « Speakers who turn their presentation into a sales pitch damage the integrity of the conference and rather than excite the audience about their products or services, generally turn them off entirely ! »
Greg Laubach, AIGA San Diego, Y Design Conference coordinator cautions against the typical « click-through » showing of work in a portfolio style. « What it should be, » he says, is « very visually stimulating, well-prepared, dynamic, and it should include a bit of humor, personal stories and experiences. » Beth Stimpson, Wolff-Olins, who spoke recently at Brands 2002 Summit offers that a presentation should be « engaging, entertaining, informative, visually stimulating, and, above all, provocative. » Sagmeister believes, « The best presentations I saw stood out because of their honesty. They included failures. »
Notable industrial designer Karim Rashid, prinicipal, Karim Rashid Inc., and keynote speaker at the 2001 HOW Design Conference adds, « You must be controversial. If you are not, then why talk. » Michael Jager, who recently spoke at BrandMasters, contributes that a presentation should be « humanized, well-prepared and always optimistic at its core ; you should walk around and become closer and more physically present for the audience. »
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