Being a presenter is a spotlight moment. It is an honor to be asked to represent a deal or a fund at an annual meeting, or to be featured on a panel discussion. It is often a sign of favor and of trust, as well as an indication that management wants to show you off.
It is also a spotlight moment when you walk into a meeting to learn about a potential investor and to share information about your firm. It could be the beginning of a long-term partnership, or the end of any possible collaboration – depending on how the meeting goes.
The stakes are high in both cases, yet people tend to prepare more for one type of public speaking than the other. Time is always short, and whatever time is available is given to preparing slides and a presentation deck. Rather than rehearse, professionals will rely on their past experiences and skill to get them through. That often works, but branding opportunities are being lost.
I ask my clients,
‘What will the investor learn about you?’
They reply, “I haven’t thought about that. I’ve been crafting the story about the (deal/market/fund.)”
I ask them to describe themselves using just 5 words. Often there is a long pause and the response will vary from, “That is a great question,” to “This is hard.” Some clients are delighted to stop and think about this definition, others find it uncomfortable to talk about themselves.
This is a distillation exercise.
It is a quick way to get a real understanding of how someone wants to be perceived.
Sometimes, the client will give me their work title, and I’ll press for something more personal to them.
Words that appear, such as: intelligent, driven, ethical, visionary, subject matter expert and collaborative, underscore the values of the individual.
I encourage my clients to be aspirational and bold in how they define themselves. The point is that they should talk to themselves in a positive way to help ensure the further development of these traits.
I learned many years ago, in an acting class with my wonderful teacher and mentor, Janet Sarno, that the intention you hold in your heart and mind will actually manifest when you speak. If you think that you are beautiful, you will walk and talk as if you are beautiful, and people will remark on your presence and poise.
It is the same for all the other words we might use to describe ourselves. When you know something to be true about yourself, it will be a part of your story and overall impact.
You won’t need to tell someone that you’re humble, they will learn it by what you say and don’t say.
You won’t need to tell an audience that you are passionate about your work, they will see it and feel it as you talk about the deal.
The messenger matters. Business is still founded on relationships, trust and chemistry. That’s what makes being a wonderfully imperfect, human communicator so magical.
When you prepare for your next meeting, presentation or important communication remember to define for yourself (and ultimately the audience) who you are, and why you are memorable.
What are your five words?