How to Open Your Presentation

How many times have you switched off your attention from a presentation even before it gets properly started? Sometimes there is just something about the opening moments that tells you this presentation is going to be like all the others. Does this matter? Well that depends on your point of view… Personally when I speak I like to know that people are wanting to hear what I have to say, that I command attention and that people are engaged right from the start and throughout.

The best way to do this, by far, is to make use of one of these powerful techniques to start your presentation. They may well be different from what you normally do and this is perfect. Most speakers start their speech in exactly the same way as everyone else, so in a conference where several speakers stand up, we hear a succession of slightly nervous jokes, apologies for less than compelling content, questions about whether the slides can be seen from the back and so on…

You might be wondering if it matters so much if people start presentations the same way… After all this is business, not high drama, but the reason to ensure that the start of our presentation is different from others is a sound one, rooted firmly in getting better results. Let me explain it this way.

You might not have ever considered, but much of what we do on a day to day basis is pattern and habit. Perhaps you have arrived at work one day and suddenly realise you remember nothing about the journey in. There are things you do for work you don’t need to think about, they happen literally automatically. And even opening a door, walking across a room or taking a drink of water are all actions you no longer need to think about because they have happened so many times.

It is this repetition that is dangerous when speaking, because when we start to recognise a pattern or a structure we start to switch off our attention. It’s not something we intend to do, it just happens. Instead I am looking to use sufficient difference right from the start of a presentation, to literally force an audience to pay attention. It is not that we are looking to be different for the sake of being different, rather that we understand that when the start of our presentation is unlike others, our audience is considerably more likely to pay attention, and to listen to what is happening. And that is what we are striving to achieve, isn’t it?

So here are three powerful ways to grab attention right from the beginning. in all these three cases these are the first things you do, even before introducing yourself. You’re still going to be able to do that later, but first we want to grab that attention and have people listening and watching.

Start with a story. Stories are fabulous ways to really get access to our audience like no other way. The problem is that people often make the mistake of explaining why they told the story (if it needs explanation, it’s the wrong story) and often are too constrained on what is or is not acceptable. Personal stories are often best, since you are less likely to forget the content, and personal stories also allow us a little glimpse at the life of the speaker. Stories allow us to suggest themes and ideas in elegant ways, to bring humour and other emotions forward, and allow a far more natural way of speaking. They often allow for a sense of pace, of some animation since stories really tap into our interest in other people. Think about how we tell our friends our”worst holiday” stories, about the natural interaction, the energy and so on. These are all benefits we can bring to our presentations, and if we put a story at the start then we achieve these right from the beginning and really help ourselves

The second technique is to ask a question. Many people I have worked with are nervous of asking questions, the most common concern being what if no one answers! Actually, whether or not people answer is not so important, for this reason. Imagine for a moment that this is a start to a presentation, in which there are a number of speakers, all of whom have opened in pretty much the same way before proceeding to work through their slides. Then one guy gets up, and starts like this…

“What is the biggest single threat to our industry today, one that if we don’t sit up and take action, will destroy us all within three years?”. At this point the speaker stands, looking at the audience. If anyone shouts an answer, or raises their hand the speaker takes their points. If not he just pauses calmly before continuing, “that was what I was asked to talk to you about this morning, and I’m interested to get your views on what I have discovered. My name is….”

Now look at that, and the compelling nature of asking a question. It really doesn’t matter whether or not we get an answer. What matters is how different that feels and looks and sounds as a start to a presentation. It literally hooks our interest.

Finally, the other technique I make extensive use of is to run an activity of some kind. People are somewhat wary of energisers, but this is because in most cases people don’t run them very well, they are poorly introduced and audiences see little point in their inclusion. An activity doesn’t have to link to the subject, it can be purely for it’s own sake, or it can link in, but what really matters is how we get it up and running before anyone almost has a chance to notice what we are doing. Discussion points work really well, even when the expectation is that you will do all the talking… Perhaps because that expectation exists we find ourselves able to gain that edge over other speakers. Again, an example. Imagine a session where the speaker, as she moves to the stage says

“Before we start, I’m interested in knowing what you consider to be the biggest threat to our industry today. You may have a few ideas about what might be causing us issues, so let me ask you to work with the people on your table, take a moment to introduce yourselves, then consider that question. I’ll give you three minutes to do the introductions, and come up with some ideas, then I’ll take your thoughts.”

Wouldn’t a session starting like that start with such energy and difference really get us interested and engaged? Whatever else followed, the speaker would have our attention at the beginning and can then really maximise her chances of getting us listening throughout.

All of these three approaches are powerful ways to engage and interest your audience right from where it matters, right at the start, and if you’re looking to improve your presentations, have a go with some of these, right at the start of your presentation.

Negotiate Like a Professional When Buying Your Next Home

As a professional Property Search Agent I’ve learned that 4 factors determine the Negotiability of any property’s asking price. These 4 Factors are Desirability, Comparability, Supply and Proceed-ability. Understanding how these work helps you avoid over-paying by equipping you with a persuasive argument in favour of your best offer. This enables you to negotiate like a professional, rather than haggle like an amateur.

Searching for a new property is a famously stressful experience. So when you eventually reach the point of negotiation you’re in a high-stakes game, one where you’re likely to feel as if the vendor’s agent holds all the cards. Fear of losing out naturally makes you vulnerable. Once you’ve set our heart on somewhere, all those media reports of slow markets and falling prices offer little comfort or assistance. In reality every house price will be negotiable to a greater or lesser extent.

N is for Negotiability

After months of fruitless searching you finally see somewhere you really like. It’s got everything you want in a home. Unfortunately it’s at the upper edge of what you can afford.

So how can you tell whether your dream home is really worth the asking price?

And if the price is too full, how much lower might you sensibly offer instead?

You want to know the property’s Negotiability (or N-Factor for short).

Establishing the N-Factor is not an exact science. There’s no magic formula. But Negotiability is generally determined by the inter-relationship of 4 variables: Desirability, Comparability, Supply and Proceed-ability.

D is for Desirability

Obviously you like the property – but how many others are really interested? And are any of them really interested at the current asking price? It’s harder to tell with fresh instructions. The longer a place has been on the market the lower its D-Factor will be. Changes of estate agent or multiple agencies are both tell-tale signs of a lower D-Factor.

C is for Comparability

How many comparable properties exist in your favoured area? In a typical suburban street the answer is very clear. Consequently variations in asking prices between similar houses in the same street are not too hard to assess. Character or period properties in the country are naturally more difficult to compare in this way.

I always employ a few simple principles when assessing value for clients, whether in town or country. I use UK Land Registry data which is easily available online.

Firstly I adjust recent historic selling prices for property inflation (or deflation) by postcode.

Secondly I assess fair value from the top down or the ground up. What’s the ceiling and basement price in any given street, neighbourhood or village? I’m always wary of “herd pricing” by estate agents, an inevitable consequence of the way that competition to secure vendor instructions can push up asking prices.

Thirdly I benchmark both these measures against total internal floor space. Outbuildings such as garages, stables or garden rooms should be treated as distinct from living and working space in the main dwelling.

A good Comparability analysis is invaluable. It enables you to make a reasoned assessment of what intangibles (such as a quiet site, large plot, Grade 2 listing, or thatched roof charm) are really worth to you as a premium over fair value based on the C-Factor.

S is for Supply

How many similar properties are there currently on the market? In other words how much choice do you the buyer have in practice?

The lower the S-Factor, the more important it is that you are decisive in choosing what to offer, and how best to frame your offer. Because the longer you wait the more likely you are to face competition.

P is for Proceed-ability

Are your finances ready? Are you a cash buyer, chain free or under offer?

Proceed-ability has a clear hierarchy. Cash buyers are in pole position, followed by sale agreed chain free buyers. Next come sale agreed buyers with a chain, and so on. The importance of the P-Factor is easily under-rated. It is increasingly screened at all price levels by vendors’ agents who will always favour the more proceed-able buyer.

A Working Formula for Negotiability

Property valuation is not an exact science. But we can illustrate the relationship between the 4 Factors with a simple formula:

D/(C+S) – P = N

It doesn’t matter whether this is strictly robust, mathematically speaking. What counts is the relative (high/ medium/ low) levels of the component Factors, and how they modify each other to drive that critical Negotiability.

The higher the right hand figure (N), the smaller the gap you may expect between the asking price and the selling price to be. To secure a place with a high N-Factor, you may have to pay close to the full asking price. But as that right hand figure gets smaller, you may reasonably expect a bigger gap between asking and selling price.

Using this approach has three big advantages.

Firstly, it lets you put a sensible figure on Desirability in the context of a given property type and location. Sure, it’s nice – but is it really worth XXX,000?

Secondly, it helps you turn Comparability into an effective and meaningful lever to make a reasoned case in support of an offer below the guide/ asking price to the vendor’s agent.

Thirdly, it reminds you to emphasise your Proceed-ability in your opening offer and any subsequently improved bid. Sell your property first and you’ll be treated much more seriously by vendors’ agents. They may well even favour such buyers over higher bidders who are less able to proceed.

Applying these principles should make your negotiation less daunting and more straightforward, to deliver the home you deserve at a fair price. Happy house-hunting!

The Art of a Presentation

There is always the opportunity for a Presentation

Presentation is a generic term that includes every time someone tells something. It could be a formal presentation to boss and colleagues with the support of technology or can be a story told to friends in a pub. Considering the actual crisis, it could also be a presentation of a job seeker to the Human Resources department of the ideal company. Or a salesperson who has to convince a customer that is product is the best in the world, even it is not true!

In every situation, the following elements should be mixed and used in different proportions, but every time it is important to use them. One of the best public speaker is Steve Jobs who is able to use some features to create an effective presentation. In this article there are highlighted the most popular secrets (most popular and secrets?!?) that are used to present our story, whatever it is.

First of all, it is normal to see persons who are great to tell stories, and then they are not able to say a single word when the boss comes. Or people who could sell a refrigerator in the North Pole, but they are not able to talk to a girl. The good news is that everybody can learn how to do a convincing presentation. To have a prove of that, just check Steve Jobs in his presentation at the university talking about his life and health diseases, where everyone was crying full of emotions and his first presentations decades ago, where everyone was crying but for the horror! After that, everyone can fell better.

Generally a couple of messages should pass in a presentation: to inform and to entertain. So it is important to consider what it is said as well as how it is said.

Plan the story

The first step is to be prepared. Planning the plot of the story with analogical support give the possibility to be check the single parts of the story. To do that, software supports are useful but paper and pens, pencils with different colors and mind maps are much better. The explanation goes more in the mind that is more stimulated the emotionalpart. Planning a presentation gives also the possibility to insert into it all the possible elements to get the audience attention active. This is the time when it is possible to consider the use of demonstrations, video clips, slides and every other external elements.

The main message

Presentations are used to be remembered by others, therefore the main message should be clear and easy to remember. To do that a short message is more influenced. TV spots usually use this approach and some short sentences from the advertisements are commonly used in the normal life. Just think few minutes and you will be able to think a lot of them. The characteristic they have in common is they are short. We can compare the length as an sms or a Twitter message. Even if your message will not be told by thousands of people, it must be associated to what you want to say. “The world’s thinnest notebook” fits perfectly to MacBook Air.

The story

Like comedians or writers, a presentation is about a story that needs a hero and an antagonist. In this way the listener can identify himself/herself with the hero and can fell the possibility to fight against the evil. Again, just think to some movies to have a clear example of that. Steve Jobs used IBM as the antagonist in one of his presentation, and Apple was the new force that could save the world.

Audience benefits

The message must have a benefit for who is listening. It could be the best presentation, but if the public is not interested in it, no one will listen. Therefore, the message should be tailored around the audience, and in particular around the benefit they can get out of that. It is not interesting for customers that the iPhone can make Apple incredibly reach, popular with a huge market share (that’s more important for Apple management). Customers can be attracted by the benefit for them that the iPhone is twice as fast at half of the price.

Rule of the three

Once again, writers use to divide their stories into three parts. It helps to keep the attention high and it is a good number to remember. Steve Jobs used this rule in his presentation about his life and everybody can remember those three stories.

Logical plus emotional

It depends on the audience, of course. In any case, a good mix of both should be used. Everybody is impressed by numbers and rational facts, and the emotional factor is usually the winning one. The presentation should convince the others with facts: for example our product is the fastest. And customers must have a good feeling about that, or about us. Sometimes a pair of jeans is nice but we don’t buy it because the clerk is not polite. Even more, Steve Jobs likes to sell dreams, not products. It could be like Martin Luther King. In any case, it works and it is easier to remember. An example could be: “in our own small way, we are going to make the world a better place”.

Visual impact

Words are important and images can communicate lots of them in one moment. Even more, a picture can evoke different feelings in the audience. Is the Apple Macbook Air incredible thin? A picture with the Macbook fitting into an envelop is much more powerful. And easier to remember: it has more impact.

Numbers for the audience

Numbers are important because they access to thelogical part of the mind. In any case, they must beadapted to the audience. 220 million iPods is a meaningful number for sales, not for the customers. 73% of market share for iPods gives the customers the feeling they are buying the most used product in the market. No number is right or wrong in absolute: it simply depends on the audience.

The emotionally charged event

In every presentation there should be the most important moment, the one everybody will remember. It must be introduce with a sense of suspense and then the main message should be launched. Prepare your audience to listen to it, or to see that.

Practice makes it perfect

Training is the secret of everything. The first time could be fine, the next will be better. Steve Jobs is the example of that.


Every time there is the possibility to show a presentation. It could be a story or us or our product, whatever. We should be ready to that moment and keep the attention high. Some rules are useful to frame our presentation in a way that will be better remember by the audience. That’s a challenge, but everyone can improve himself/herself getting great results.


Steve Jobs video at Stanford: