Learning from the leaders

If the pre-election televised political debates have revealed anything, it’s
that, despite new forms of spreading messages like Twitter and YouTube, there is
no single more powerful way of communicating than standing before an audience.

Most accountants won’t have to deal with a presentation as intense as a
battle in front of millions for the keys to Number 10, but there are lessons to
be learned from the debates that could help you at your next presentation,
whether presenting to your firm, to clients or to contacts.

Politicians and accountants have two things in common: both are very
knowledgeable and need to appreciate the details in very complex areas. However,
accountants need to learn, just as politicians are acutely aware, that just
because you are interested in the small details, that doesn’t mean the audience
will be too.

Accountants often bombard their audience with masses of complex information,
facts and figures, tables and graphs. This can lead to your audience feeling
overwhelmed, switching off and learning very little. Just like Cameron, Clegg
and Brown, the focus for a presentation ought to be imparting the information
that your audience actually needs and wants to hear. What they really want to
know is what it will mean for them.

The TV debates also revealed how important delivery can be. Accountancy
topics can be complicated. Accountants sometimes assume that in order to be
understood better, they must speak slowly. Unfortunately, all this does is turn
your voice into a tiresome monotone. The right speed of delivery is your normal
pace, with your head held high.

Lastly, what is really important is where and for how long you pause: some
politicians (and the new deputy PM Nick Clegg in particular) are masterful at
this. The speaker normally fears silence. A silent room, full of faces staring
back is a terrifying prospect. And so often the speaker delivers a fast flowing
stream of noise. But the speaker must learn that it is not only acceptable, but
utterly essential to pause. Pause adds emphasis.

This coupled with plenty of eye contact with the audience shows conviction in
what you say and allows people to think about what you have said. And, if they
think about it, they’ll remember it.

Jack Downton is the managing director of The Influence Business.

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