Carmie McCook speaking at Hogan Lovell's conference

Legally speaking: Carmie McCook is Featured Speaker at Hogan Lovells’ Global Conference

Law firms are realizing that learning outstanding presentation skills are as essential to building their business and their brand, as the ability to expertly analyze legal issues.

This weekend I had the honor of speaking at Hogan Lovells’ annual conference in Baltimore to their team of attorneys from around the world practicing in the field of life sciences. In my talk, Presenting Like a Pro, I shared key insights and tips guaranteed to make their content more compelling and their delivery more dynamic.

There are hundreds of techniques that must be used to take public speaking skills to a higher level, but here are three big “dos” and three big “don’ts” that I addressed at the conference:

  • Don’t use a data dump approach and address every aspect of a topic. Information overload buries your key message points, and the audience recalls little to nothing.
  • Don’t use slides filled with rows of text unless your goal is to bore your audience to death.
  • Don’t “wing it.” Great presentations require taking the “3 Ps” seriously: Prepare, Practice, Perform.
  • Do speak a bit slower and louder than you typically do. Give the audience time to hear and “digest” every sentence.
  • Do tailor every presentation to each audience. “One-size-fits-all” never fits anyone well.
  • Do practice several times and video record yourself. We never see ourselves the way others see us. The video camera is a great teacher!

Today, competition is fierce, not only in the legal world but every field. So, how do you set your self apart from everyone else? Globally respected business magnates from Sir Richard Branson to Warren Buffet have said the same thing: The art of communication is the most important skill any business leader can possess.

I couldn’t agree more!

Handshake between an American hand and an indian hand

Part 2: Seven more tips to help foreign businesses communicate more effectively with American business professionals

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This article appeared in the August 2017 edition of The Business Matchmaker. You can read it here.

 

Carmie McCook is an internationally respected public speaking media interview trainer and coach based in Washington, DC. She has helped thousands of Global 500 business leaders, as well as start-up professionals, become more persuasive and engaging speakers for B2B presentations, keynote speeches, and media interviews. Visit www.carmie.com for more tips. carmie@carmie.com

 

Congratulations! It’s 8:00 in the morning in Mumbai and you just read an email that brings a big smile to your face! After months of emails, calls, and text messages, you now have a face to face meeting scheduled with the management team of that big, American company that you have dreamed of adding as a client! Immediately you began developing the perfect presentation that will impress the American decision makers and lead to a nice contract!

 

Days are spent developing that presentation. A week later, as you sit on the plane for Chicago, you read through the presentation again and plan to rehearse it one more time in your hotel room before meeting with the client prospect. You feel confident. You and your team have thought of every detail!

 

Or have you? When your potential client is an American company, and you come from a different country and business culture, not all presentation styles work well across borders. Being aware of culture variances in the U.S. and adjusting your presentation presence accordingly, can be a real asset in a competitive environment. Often, making small adjustments to “Americanize” your presence when in the U.S. can significantly help you grab and hold an American business leader’s attention.

 

This is Part Two of my article that appeared in last month’s edition of Business Matchmaker entitled, “Want to sell your products and services in the U.S.?” As a Washington, DC-based public speaking trainer and coach, I shared seven insights and tips on verbal and non-verbal cultural differences that have helped my non-American clients be much more effective when presenting to U.S. business leaders. Here are seven more:

 

    1. Speak a louder when presenting: I’ll admit, Americans are not known for being soft-spoken. As an American, I admit that I agree with my intercontinental friends that most people here need to dial their voice volume down quite a bit. But, in American business meetings, soft voices will not have the same positive impression that stronger voices have.I almost always have to advise my non-American clients to project their voice more and increase the volume. This doesn’t mean shouting, but speaking at a level a bit louder than your normal conversational tone. Bolder voices hold our attention better, and your message has a stronger impact.

 

    1. Speak a bit slower when presenting: Giving an important presentation can cause some nervousness. And, nervousness usually causes most people to accelerate their speaking speed. Why? Because they are constantly thinking about what they will say next rather than focusing on the point they are making at that moment.That alone makes it difficult for others to follow any presenter’s verbal content.And, when you add the additional element of hearing English spoken with a vastly different accent, it can be a real challenge for your American hosts always to understand everything you are saying.Take your time. Slow down. And most importantly, pause a moment between sentences. Practice speaking in short sentences then pausing one second before continuing to the next sentence. You may be thinking that a moment of silence may appear as though you have forgotten what to say next.Trust me; it will not. It actually helps you sound more credible and gives your American audience a moment to absorb each new bit of information you are sharing.

 

    1. Smile when you speak: Smiles are a magical facial expression that have incredible power! Give a smile when you mention real benefits your product will give your American prospect. A pleasant smile makes you look more confident. Studies have also shown that a speaker’s credibility is higher when he or she smiles when sharing positive information with others.

 

    1. Keep slides simple and do not read your presentation from slides: This is advice that everyone should live by. Slides filled with line after line of verbatim text, then recited by the presenter are guaranteed to extinguish your audience’s attention within minutes. Slides should simply enhance what you are saying verbally.They should never be a word-for-word script. Keep slides simple. Think “billboard” for each slide. Use only a few keywords and relevant pictures and images. Slides should be designed to trigger your memory so you can just talk about the key points you want to share.

 

    1. Use confident body language: In some countries, appearing humble is a sign of respect. In America, this can be perceived as being less confident and makes you a little less convincing. I have noticed that many people from some cultures keep their arms very close to the sides of their body when presenting or their hands clasped in front of their bodies. They also often avoid making direct eye contact with the audience by slightly keeping their head lowered.For presentations to U.S. businesses, move your arms out from your body and practice using natural gestures more when giving your presentation. Stand straight. Keep your head up and look at individuals in the room when speaking.

 

    1. Initial conversations: Americans are friendly and want foreign guest to feel welcome. They will usually greet guests by saying things like, “How are you? How was your trip?” This is just our way of being cordial and are not actual questions. You may feel terrible, have a horrible cold, your house just burned down, and you had the worst flight of your life. But, do not assume friendly questions are an invitation to share your problems. Just smile and say, “Very well, thank you.”

 

  1. Do not give your American hosts expensive gifts: In some countries, the tradition of gift-giving is important to building professional relationships. However, in the U.S. most businesses have very strict rules about accepting gifts to prevent any perception of bribery. This often includes accepting dinners at a nice restaurant paid for by an active or potential vendor. The policies of what gifts are “acceptable” vary from business to business.When I worked for a huge multi-national company many years ago, they had a “zero gift acceptance” rule.To be on the safe side, if you give anything, I recommend you give nothing more than something with your company’s logo on it, such as a lapel pin, key chain, or coffee mug. This will prevent any awkwardness of your American hosts having to decline the gift.

 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Today, nearly all businesses want to reach beyond their borders to sell their products or services. Americans are always interested in hearing about innovative solutions that will help them be more efficient, save money, and increase profits. But, just having a terrific product is not enough. How well you communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, has a big impact on the outcome of any meeting.

So, when you prepare for your next face-to-face meeting in the U.S, review the presentation tips shared in this article as well as the first seven tips in the July edition of Business Matchmaking. The difference between giving an ordinary presentation and a memorable presentation is in the details!

 

 

Attention Foreign entrepreneurs: When you present your products and services to U.S. businesses, you need to pitch like an American

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Today’s business world knows no boundaries. From Beijing to Boston, Seattle to Seoul thousands of people make business presentations every day to audiences in countries who not only speak different languages, but also have different business cultures from their own. What may work beautifully in your home country could be a failure or, worse, an insult, in another.

 

Every country has its own unique business culture. While some differences from country to country are striking, many others are subtle. In both cases, anything that becomes a distraction to your host audience will diminish the success of your presentation.

 

This is enormously evident in my business. As a business-to-business communications trainer and coach based in Washington, DC, I have many international clients requesting help for an upcoming presentation to U.S. companies or government agencies.

 

Over the years I have observed hundreds of business characteristics unique to different countries. And, while cultural differences are delightful, in international B2B business meetings, some can put foreign business professionals at a disadvantage when making presentations to American business leaders. So, a large part of my job with my non-American clients is helping them utilize both verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that will ensure they better engage their American hosts and result in more positive outcomes. This is the first of two articles with verbal and non-verbal communications advice that has helped hundreds of clients have more productive meetings with American business leaders.

 

  1. American businesses #1 rule: Time is Money

In general, U.S. companies are all about making the most money in the shortest amount of time. Business meetings here are focused on bottom-line results, and the quicker the ROI, the return on investment, the better. When developing your presentations to U.S. companies, keeping this American business attitude in mind will improve the chances of making those meetings more successful. This will build professional rapport with your American host quicker.

 

  1. Keep your presentations short. How short? In general, for your first meeting, no more than 15 to 20 minutes is a good rule to follow. Keep your verbal presentation big-picture to explain the overall benefits of your products and services. Do not start explaining every detail. When you conclude your presentation there will then be plenty of time for your American hosts to ask questions about the details they care most about. This also gives you and your hosts the chance to engage in conversation and get to know each other better. Americans like to discuss issues rather than having a presenter monopolize the meeting time doing all the talking.

 

  1. Talk about benefits first. Many cultures start presentations with a chronological overview of their company’s history and the development of their product or service. American business leaders are primarily focused on one thing: Results. What have you got that can help me either save money or make money?

 

My advice: Introduce the big overriding benefit your product will give your American hosts within the first three minutes of your presentation. This will grab their attention immediately and they will then be much more interested hearing some of the essential details and other information you will share in your remaining presentation time.

 

  1. American business people are typically very direct. By this I mean that Americans will not hesitate to say things such as, “I don’t think that is a good product for us.” “That is too expensive.” or “I don’t like the design.” As said before, Americans are focused on bottom-line ROI so do not feel offended. I suggest you smile and reply, “Okay, let’s discuss the specifics of your concern and let’s work out a solution.”

 

  1. American business leaders are less formal. Times have changed in America. It’s not uncommon to have a meeting with a CEO and her or his team and the average age is 30. Younger people are very informal in business settings and this concept has grown to include most business people of all ages and all ranks. To be polite, you may begin by addressing your American hosts as “Mr. Johnson” or “Ms. Adams.” They will usually immediately say, “Call me James” or “Christine is fine.” A word about female business professionals: The title “Ms.” is preferred to “Mrs.” or “Miss.” Still, most women will also suggest you call then by their first name.

 

  1. Arrive on time. Business meetings in America are scheduled with a start time and an end time. Not being on time is considered disrespectful to your host and no one likes being stuck in a meeting going past the end time. Americans usually squeeze meetings in between an already over-packed schedule. They will often have to leave immediately for another meeting. If a meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM, be in the reception area five to ten minutes early. This also gives you a few minutes to relax and gather your thoughts before being called into the meeting room.

 

 

  1. In the introductory phase of meeting Americans, men and women will always extend their hand to shake hands with others. I often get questions about the proper way to shake hands. Here are the simple steps I suggest:
  • Hold your right hand straight, your palm facing left.
  • Extend your hand so your thumb gently folds on the top of the other person’s hand, parallel to their thumb, and your fingers gently fold around the lower side of their palm. You hand will be enveloped by the other person’s hand so that your palms are touching. Do not just grasp the fingers.
  • Gently squeeze the other person’s hand while looking them in the eye and smile.
  • Slightly shake three quick times and release.

 

Avoid greetings that include hugs, kisses on the cheeks, and shaking hands then hugging. Americans are usually caught off guard when these greetings are used and many times this leads to awkward and sometimes embarrassing moments between them and their foreign guests.

 

Of course, there are many other big and small differences that can make or break having a smooth and productive meeting with U.S. businesses. I’ll share more in my next article. In the meantime, feel free to submit questions you have about communicating more effectively with American business leaders. The more aware you become of these differences means you have the knowledge you need to adapt your verbal and non-verbal business-to-business skills with contemporaries in other countries.

 

A media interview, man holding a mic

Got a media interview coming up? Here are some tips

Got a media interview coming up?

If not now, just wait.

Today, it isn’t a matter of “if” you are interviewed by a member of the media, but when. In this 3 minute interview with Simon Lock, President of CommunicationsMatch.com, I was asked to give three good tips to help executives prepare for an interview.

 

 

For more information, have a look at Simon’s website : 

  • https://communicationsmatch.com/
  • https://communicationsmatch.com/insights-blog
A newspaper headline

Fake news! What if you are a victim?

I was recently interviewed by Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch.com, as part of CommunicationMatch’s Insights video series. Check it out for a variety of short, yet highly informative, interviews with global communication experts on hot topics of the day :

My topic: Tips for managing fake news. Click below and in 3 minutes you will get 3 great tips!

For more information, have a look at Simon’s website : 

  • https://communicationsmatch.com/
  • https://communicationsmatch.com/insights-blog

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