Seven Ways to Convince a Committee
Many people who find it easy to convince a single individual become intimidated whenever they are facing a committee. A committee situation exists whenever you are presenting to, or being interviewed by, multiple people at the same time. Even for the most experienced professional, this can be a daunting task. Here you are, one individual, and sitting opposite you are three to more than a dozen people staring at your and carefully analyzing your every gesture, word you say, and question you answer.
Here are seven tips to help you make a more compelling presentation that lands you the job or the order:
1. Research your audience. This starts with finding out who will be in the audience – each person, their job function and role, and the correct spelling of their name. Utilize LinkedIn and other social media, plus Google, to learn everything you can about each individual. Sometimes it’s a good idea to prepare a chart of the people that you’ll be meeting and place basic information you’ve learned about each person onto the chart. Use the chart during your interview or presentation to help you keep track of each person there.
2. Prepare for people you weren’t told about. Even though you might ask your inside contact several times to confirm the list of people to whom you’ll be presenting, experience teaches you that there are often last-minute changes of who is invited to the meeting. So prepare by bringing at least three extra clean and crisp originals of every handout you plan to offer (résumé, business card, presentation, and the like).
3. Watch your body language. This one takes practice. Even without the pressure of the committee, we are often unaware of the messages that our body language is sending to others. Experts say that body language makes up half of all communications (the remaining 50% are the words we say (10%) and the way we say them (40%)). People often make up their minds about us before we open our mouth because of the impressions they get from our body language. For example, during the handshake, effective professionals use a firm handshake while smiling from the mouth and eyes, and holding the handshake long enough to say the person’s name and notice the color of his or her eyes. Done well, a handshake communicates warmth, sincerity, and trustworthiness; done poorly and it might not matter what you say afterwards!
4. Utilize effective eye contact. During the interview or meeting you should maintain a comfortable level of eye contact with the people with whom you are speaking. A general rule of thumb is that if you are addressing an issue you know to be of particular importance to one individual, such as answering his or her direct question, speak to both the entire group and the individual. An effective way to do this is by maintaining twice as much eye contact with the primary person as you do with each individual in the group. Another challenge is to avoid looking at who you perceive to be the highest ranking person in the group – doing this could alienate others.
5. Avoid technobabble. Technobabble is the technical terms, jargon and buzzwords associated with any industry, product or service. They are not commonly known outside the industry. While it might be impressive to sprinkle your answers with technobabble, unless you are absolutely sure each person in the audience knows the correct meaning of the word (and you do as well), it is better to speak in plain English. Keeping things simple and understandable will boost your credibility.
6. Tell stories. People love stories because they illustrate your claims. In a job interview, telling a story to illustrate your skill in handling a particularly sticky customer problem that resulted in a happy customer demonstrates the skills you claim. In sales, telling a story of how a customer utilized your solution to solve a problem adds credibility to your claim of an effective solution. Follow the ESR formula to tell a story to the committee:
a. E – Example. “Let me tell you about a time when…”
b. S – Specifics. “The circumstances were…”
c. R – Results. “As a result…”
7. Look the part. Whether a job candidate or representing a firm offering a million-dollar solution, how you present yourself will go a long way towards whether or not your audience will buy what you are selling. Careful attention to personal grooming and appropriately professional attire may seem unimportant, but remember that like body language, people make up their minds about someone in a matter of seconds, before that person opens his or her mouth. First impressions last. Whatever the standard of the group, always aim higher. Make sure your clothing is always clean, pressed and wrinkle-free, in good repair, and reflects good taste in style and color. Hair, if long, must be pulled back and not hide the eyes or be a distraction.
While there are lots of nuances particular to every committee situation, these seven areas of best practice will enhance your interview or presentation. Learn them, practice them, and master them. Then presenting to committees will be a breeze!
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