My Personal Nightmare
When I first started at Seer, I dreaded any opportunity to speak with clients for everything from presenting monthly reports down to simply giving an introduction about myself. Here’s a mostly accurate transcript of a conversation I once had with a client in my first month at Seer:
Client: So, how are you enjoying the account?
Me: It’s great, I love working with *Wrong Account Manager’s name*. Oops I mean, *Wrong Manager’s Name Again*. *Stutter*, I’m excited to work with you folks.
Client: I see.
Me: Internal Screaming Intensifies
This extremely awkward situation lit a fire in me to improve my client-facing communication and presentation skills. I met up with all of my AM’s and team lead at the time to outline ways in which I could begin to tangibly improve my communication skills. Below you’ll find the 4 biggest tips
Tip 1: Take Notes!
If you have a particularly stressful conversation coming up, I highly recommend writing out notes in preparation for that meeting. Have an introduction to a new client? Write that intro out! Have a big presentation coming up? Add the items you absolutely can’t forget to the presenters' notes! This doesn't have to be a script, however, I often add a bulleted list of the top 3-5 things on each slide.
Tip 2: Practice Presentations & Introductions While Standing Up and Walking Around
I don’t know about you, but for the longest time, I only ever practiced presenting while sitting down, reading my notes, and reviewing the slides. That doesn’t really prep you for the actuality of standing in front of your clients, moving around, and responding to questions. The more unprepared you are in these situations, the awkward and unconvincing your presentation will come off.
When I have a larger presentation coming up, I stand, walk around my house, and project my voice as if I was face to face with my clients. Sometimes I’ll even walk up and down my stairs to get my heart racing and in a similar feeling to when I’m speaking publicly.
Tip 3: Expect The Unexpected Questions
Know your client is likely going to ask particularly difficult questions? Prep answers to those! One of my enterprise clients is famous for asking complicated, intense “what if” questions. These typically require a larger analysis and fairly critical thought. Whenever I'm prepping for a presentation for that project I think “What types of “what if” questions might this client have for me?” and I spend a few minutes exploring the possible follow-ups and contingencies that might emerge in those situations.
Tip 4: Ask a Friend or Coworker to Listen to Your Presentation
This one will probably feel the most awkward, but I very much believe that practicing a dry run of a presentation will help to firm up your delivery of the most important points and will help you ID moments when you come off awkward. Ask your viewer to hit you with unexpected questions or critiques and use this as an opportunity to get into the headspace of presenting this information publicly.