Insurance and financial meeting planners are notorious for either getting too much into the weeds or including a lot of jargon to prove to the client that they know what they’re talking about when, in reality, the client may not really care about the details.
Learning the skills to know what to say and how to get the details right is often done during presentations and seminars at meetings, where planners can get in front of a group of people and perfect their ability to communicate on the job.
Many public speakers find that improving their on-stage skills will improve their day-to-day interactions with clients, prospects and colleagues. They find that working on public speaking also helps to connect with a co-worker in the office, or a client sitting across their desk.
Chris Hooper, digital marketing director at M&O Marketing in Southfield, Michigan, works with independent financial advisors to help with their marketing needs and teaches them how to better speak in front of an audience. He notes a financial professional who is giving a client-prospecting seminar needs to be an excellent presenter to get ahead. “Connecting with your audience should be the first priority for any presentation,” he says. “The audience wants to be entertained, and they will respond to a speaker who is skilled at public speaking and presenting. The people who attend are looking for someone they can trust with their financial futures, and if the speaker isn’t a skilled presenter, they won’t earn the audience’s trust.”
Randa Hoffman, owner and financial planner with Radiant Wealth Planning, based in Newport Beach, California, notes having great presentation skills is not only important, but it’s critical to doing a job right. She often speaks at conferences and puts her presentation skills to good use on the job. “The topic of finances and financial planning is very confusing and stressful for a lot of people that meet with a planner,” she says. “A person with great presentation skills knows how to soothe the client’s angst so that the client can relax and take in the information, and feel comfortable to share what’s on their mind.”
After all, a great presenter knows how to articulate a complex topic or decision in a simplified way, and knows how much detail to give. A great example of this is the onboarding process of a new client. By having a clean process that is presented in an organized manner and easy to follow, clients will feel at ease. “The last thing we want clients to feel is anxious about the conversation, in addition to trying to follow along with new information being shared,” Hoffman says. “That’s when the prospective client leaves the meeting feeling drained as opposed to uplifted and ready for the next step in the process.”
Hoffman has shared this one little trick with many people and it has had a big impact: “When presenting, do it in a way where you’re following the natural sequence of events,” she says. “For example, I’m currently partnering with a lady that helps parents and students with the college admissions and student loan process. We first wrote down all the ways they help their clients, we then outlined a video series based on a child’s college lifecycle and through parenthood as they get loans for their children. By doing it this way, we touch on all the sections of the business by presenting it in a logical sequence where it’s easy to follow along from one video to the next.”
Katti Power, a performance coach in Las Vegas, Nevada, says while information is important, that alone is not enough to influence someone to buy in to what is being presented. “How the information is delivered makes the difference in the consumer’s comfort level with saying ‘Yes,’” she says. “Certain body language, vocal intonation and even energy levels can dramatically affect the way the information is received, and most of the time, this happens subconsciously.”
For example, let’s say the presenter is outlining the possibilities of what advantage could come from investing with the presenter. If the presenter has any kind of uncertainty or nervousness in their voice, the consumer subconsciously doesn’t trust the presenter to be able to deliver what is being presented and, therefore, is less inclined to invest. “If the presenter doesn’t take his time to explain or make eye contact when explaining the benefits of investing with them, the consumer once again will subconsciously lack trust in the presenter,” Power says. “If the presenter sounds as though they have memorized the content they are delivering, it will raise red flags with the consumer that this isn’t something trustworthy.”
Chris Abrams, founder of Abrams Insurance Solutions in San Diego, California, says someone can have all the knowledge in the world about their industry, but it’s all for naught if you can’t present the information in a way that resonates with clients. “Great presentation skills will help you establish your expertise and make your clients feel comfortable about moving forward,” he says. “When I discuss insurance offerings with my clients, I rely greatly on my presentation skills. I always cater my presentations to my client’s preferences. For people who are visual learners, I will screen-share to walk them through different offerings. This is when I put my presentation skills to use. I’m able to showcase coverage options while tying the presentation back to their needs.”
Jacob Dayan, CEO of Chicago-based Community Tax, notes great presentation skills always come in handy, whether it’s with an individual client or to a workshop audience. “Without this skill, you may not be able to effectively communicate your points,” he says. “When you’re trying to close a prospective client, having great presentation skills can ensure they are able to understand how you can personally add value to their organization. Another example: When you’re giving an internal briefing, you want to make sure you’re holding the attention of your employees.”
Randy VanderVaate, president and owner of Funeral Funds, says the great news is that presentation skills can be learned, so even if you’re not someone who is very good at it now, that can be changed. “To refine your presentation skills, you should check if it answers some of the frequently asked questions in your field,” he says. “Also, make sure the tone is conversational and infuse some humor or emotion if applicable.”
He suggests using stories and anchoring the presentation with how people just like them took action and how it has impacted them positively. “Stories work effectively because people are already hardwired to receive and comprehend information better by listening to stories,” he says. “After all, stories make things relatable, and demonstrate how your business helps humans, rather than looking like a faceless brand.”
Power says making eye contact is one of the best ways to improve one’s presentation skills, though there are tricks to doing it right. “In our society, eye contact is an interesting experience. We feel uncomfortable if someone is unwilling to make eye contact with us, and we also feel uncomfortable if someone makes too much eye contact with us,” she says. “I refer to the kind of eye contact that is ‘trustworthy,’ as point-of-reference eye contact. Establish eye contact in the beginning, look away to explain something organically while making brief returns to the point of reference, and then finish with the most important detail or the driving point by returning to the point of reference.”
Another tip she offers is to simply know what you’re talking about, but don’t come across as having memorized it word for word. Also, keep jargon and stuffy terminology to a minimum. “Whatever you are presenting, be familiar enough with the content that you can say it in your own words,” Power says. “Rehearsing is important so you know what you are talking about, but looking rehearsed is instant death. Memorize your talking points but speak organically on each point.”
On stage, Hooper notes it’s important to move with purpose. “If you are presenting from a stage or at the front of a room, don’t move across the room just because you think you should because, most of the time, you will look as though you are nervous,” he says. “Nervous energy translates as untrustworthy to the consumer 100% of the time. Oftentimes, nervous presenters will pace, wander, or set an established walking pattern, none of which have purpose and all of which come across as untrustworthy.”
When giving presentations, Dayan thinks the most important thing is to tailor it to your audience. “Whether it’s an individual financial review or a workshop regarding best financial practices, personalization will keep your audience engaged,” he says. “Finances aren’t always an interesting topic for people, so finding a way to get them to relate will allow your ideas to really get through.”
Abrams thinks brevity is key to a strong presentation, adding that people can best handle information in small bits. “I recommend covering a couple of key points before moving onto a new topic. It’s also helpful to regularly check-in and ask for questions throughout the presentation. It helps keep people engaged and ensures that you are catering your presentation to their needs.”
For many, presenting is not a one-and-done skill; your presentation style will likely change as you do. “Five years from now, your eager enthusiasm might develop into astute wisdom,” Dayan says. “And you might not be the only one changing. In this past year, presentation environments went from a stage to a screen, and many people had trouble adapting. By continuing to practice, you can be prepared for any changes.”
There are numerous things that people do wrong when presenting, whether it’s talking too fast, speaking too much or not staying on topic. These are things that also come back in play out of the meeting room when meeting with clients. “When someone is explaining a topic with money, a very important subject, we should be going slow and taking our time, and doing more listening than talking,” Hoffman says. “I’ve also seen planners include jargon to demonstrate that they have a right to be doing what they’re doing, this is a personal pet peeve. Another common one, but harder to identify, is when the information is not presented in a way that’s easy to follow, or it’s presented in silo chunks of information where it leaves you wondering how all the pieces fit together.”
That’s why planners should work on their presentation skills every once in a while and not get content with their abilities. “Many of us get lazy,” Hoffman says. “When we get to the point of repeating ourselves, we start getting lazy and cut corners when explaining something. We’re not as on point as we were when we first started.”
Great presenters aren’t built overnight. Abrams notes even after being in business for more than a decade, he still practices refining his presentation skills. “There is always room for improvement. Without practice, it’s easy to get stagnant and lose the skills you worked so hard to develop,” he says.
The amount of work on fixing any presentation problems depends on how much the person is self-aware and how much they’re willing to change. Before any big presentation, Hooper suggests practicing in front of a mirror or in front of family, friends, coworkers, or even your pets. “If you haven’t practiced your full presentation at least 20 times, you need to practice more. And after the 20th time, you should continue practicing,” he says. “It’s necessary to keep up with your practice, even if you’re already good, because there’s always room for improvement. A presentation is never perfect.”
Power provides a great exercise to practice organic movement: “Sit on your hands and deliver your presentation,” she says. “When you feel your body leaning forward or your hands wanting to escape from underneath you, that’s when your body wants to move.”
Lacking structure can be a detriment to a good presenter. Additionally, not having clear takeaways is a quick way to lose people’s interest. These are just two of the things presenters do wrong. Besides lack of preparation, the biggest mistake Hooper sees is failing to connect with the audience. “Eye contact and body language are essential, but many speakers also fail to personalize their presentations,” he says, as stated before, “They should be telling stories, showing vulnerabilities and looking for ways to make themselves relatable to the audience.”
To become a first-class presenter, Hooper notes fixing problems should become an ongoing process throughout someone’s entire career. “It should never be overly easy to give a presentation; it’s always a work in progress because there is always something that can make it better,” he adds. “Even an experienced speaker should ask for feedback for improvement.”
While some level of industry jargon can help someone prove their expertise, there can be too much of a good thing. “Using too many insider and technical terms can quickly confuse your audience,” Abrams says. “If you do use industry jargon, provide quick definitions and make sure that your audience fully understands you before moving on.”
Being a great presenter can help a career, and even if one only speaks at a seminar or meeting infrequently, learning valuable skills will help those in the insurance and financial industries go far. “It definitely helps to have great presenter skills, because it’s easier for people to see your vision and get on board with what you’re sharing,” Hoffman says. “As someone who doesn’t shy away from being in the spotlight, I would prefer to be the person that presents and be the person that is remembered for delivering the information. I have friends that feel the opposite, they prefer to stay behind the scenes and don’t want to be top of mind. There isn’t one right answer, it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. But if you do choose to present, be sure that it’s engaging and clear.” I&FMM