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By Frances McGuckin

We get people through the doors, but we don’t get the closes,” complained Gerry, the vice president of a long-established car sales company, as he reviewed the mediocre monthly sales. “I can relate to that,” replied John, a marketing manager for a large automotive parts dealership. “At a board meeting last week, I had a great marketing plan to boost sales, but just couldn’t seem to convince the other directors. Then I ran out of time and my presentation got the thumbs down.

These scenarios are not uncommon in business. Business – and life – are all about communication. How you get the message across makes all the difference, from a customer’s telephone call to speaking at a trade show or conference. What is the solution?

Use the Five Ts of Terrific Talking
The most successful business people know and understand the importance of learning presentation and communication skills. There are many business situations where you are asked to make or organize a presentation – at a chamber or networking event, a sales presentation, presenting an important proposal to a committee, being interviewed by the media, or hosting a workshop or board meeting.

People remember, are inspired by and buy from you when you deliver a powerful presentation. Learning to speak and present effectively requires many skills and factors intrinsically working together. The “Five Ts” of Terrific Talking can be applied to all facets of communicating in life. They are:

1. Tuning in: know your audience and material
To connect and deliver a powerful message, be knowledgeable about the subject so you can clarify the messages you are delivering. Talk with passion and conviction. Know where, when, why and whom you are speaking to, and the audience’s demographics and educational level.

2. Talking: present a dynamic delivery
Carefully design and organize each presentation. Your job is to persuade and inspire people to be motivated into some sort of action. Use these techniques:

Speak from the heart: Clearly express your knowledge and beliefs. Allow feelings and passion to show; use the pause for effect. Watch for “ers” and “ums” as listeners form the opinion that you don’t know what you are talking about and tune out.

Beef up body language: Approximately 93 percent of your messages are transmitted through body language. Use facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact. Vary vocal tones to draw attention from listeners. Put pep, passion, personality and vitality into your voice. Speak clearly and audibly without racing or mumbling.

Watch your words: Avoid using difficult to pronounce words, acronyms and jargon. Deliver a clear, concise, comprehensible message with confidence. Use word pictures, and most importantly, be yourself.

3. Techniques: connect to and inspiring your audience
Use a variety of techniques to connect to and inspire listeners. Involve them by soliciting responses and using appropriate visual aids and props. Use personal stories or examples to demonstrate your messages. Humour helps listeners to connect, relax and relate, but should relate to the topic and not be degrading, racial, ethnic or sexist.

4. Technical preparation: ensure a smooth delivery
If all is not in order when you make a presentation, your confidence and professionalism are eroded before you start, so be prepared. Order audio/visual equipment and other requirements well in advance. Know the size, seating style and capacity of the venue. Arrive early to check that all is working and in place.

5. Timing: deliver in your allotted time
Don’t extend your allotted time as you will lose the listener’s attention You then upset the rest of the meeting’s timing and are deemed unprofessional. You may lose business or other opportunities to present. When you plan a meeting or conference, schedule time to allow for latecomers, problems with equipment, seating, clapping, introductions, thank-you’s, handshakes, and for presenters to enter and leave the stage. .

By applying the Five “Ts” of Terrific Talking to every presentation you make, your confidence and reputation dramatically increase each time you pitch to impress.

Frances McGuckin is an award-winning small business expert, motivational business speaker and best-selling author of Business for Beginners, (US and Canadian), Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business (Canadian) and Taking Your Business to the Next Level: An essential step-by-step success plan (U.S. edition), released April 2005 through Sourcebooks Inc. The U.S., Indonesian, Saudi Arabian, Chinese and Thailand editions are due for release in 2006. She can be reached at 1-888-771-2771, e-mail at

This column is available for syndication. For information, contact Frances McGuckin at

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