November 28, 2007

The Two Tools PowerPoint Presenters Need

Teens make great slaves. At a recent open house, the high school guidance counselor leaned on a podium on stage throughout the requisite PowerPoint presentation while a student kneeled on the floor near a notebook computer and advanced the slides. Really! Only the student's hand was visible, which made me think of a horror film with a decapitated hand.

I felt like shouting two suggestions:
  1. raise the microphone to your height
  2. give that boy an A+ in Spacebar Pressing 101
but decided to write instead.

Where To Find A Teen
If slavery is banned in your part of the world, you can't use a teen. Why not use what they love? Technology. If you're using a PowerPoint presentation, you need two tools
  1. a wireless presenter mouse / remote control
  2. a wireless laser pointer
You can combine both features in one device for extra convenience.

Look, Ma! Ho Hands!

The presenter mouse lets you advance from slide to slide without touching your computer. Better models have extra buttons that let you move backwards and even to blank the screen.

A typical presenter mouse uses infrared (IR) signals, like your TV remote. That means two disadvantages: line of sight and short range. You have to point the remote at the receiver and make sure there are no obstacles like a podium the way to block the signal. You also need to be fairly close to the receiver. The result is restricted mobility.

Get a radio frequency (RF) mouse instead. The range is much larger --- 100 feet or more. Radio signals bounce around: obstacles are no longer obstacles. You can move around.

Laser Pointer
A laser pointer focus the audience's attention where you want on the screen. You can even use one if you're in the audience and in a playful mood.
Tips: Be sure you have steady hands. Be sure you have good aim. Be sure you don't accidentally point at the audience.
Spare Batteries
I bought some batteries, but they weren't included - so I had to buy them again. --- Stephen Wright
If your devices lacks an off switch, remember to remove the batteries when not in use. Otherwise, you may find that a button remains on when you cram your equipment in your travel case.
Tips: Be sure to reinstall the batteries. Be sure to use a well-lit spot to reduce the chances of inserting the batteries backwards.

November 18, 2007

Expectations Change Experiences: What Do You Call Yourself?

You meet a prospective manager for your money. You decide she seems smart. And so she is. --- Harry Beckwith, What Clients Love
Harry Beckwith writes about the placebo effect in What Clients Love, the followup to Selling The Invisible, his brilliant book about services.
We have the experiences we expect to have based on the perceptions we have before those experiences. Our perceptions create our expectations and those expectations so influence our experience that we can say this: Our expectations change our experiences. --- Harry Beckwith
Snap judgments stick, as confirmed in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. So we want to do what we can to create the right first impressions and overcome stereotypes. That involves how we look, dress, talk and move. No surprises there. What about how we label ourselves?

Pity Financial Planners
Beckwith observes that "financial" matters are private and sensitive. Similarly, "planning" sounds tedious and difficult, resulting in mandated steps that reduce freedom. Now combine "financial" and "planning". Who wants to see a financial planner? Let's be honest.

(click to enlarge
Common Titles
Scanning through my database of contacts, here's a sampling of what advisors call themselves, alphabetically
  • agent
  • associate broker
  • consultant, insurance services
  • (corporate title, e.g., vice president)
  • estate and insurance planning specialist
  • estate planning advisor
  • estate planning specialist
  • financial advisor
  • financial broker
  • financial consultant
  • financial planner
  • financial planning advisor
  • insurance broker
  • insurance specialists
  • investment advisor
  • investment funds advisor
  • life insurance agent
  • life underwriter
  • (none)
  • regional insurance specialist
  • sales representative
How our clients perceive us is influenced by our title, along with our pen, briefcase, watch and hair.
"All those are on one side. Maybe some of them are unimportant. I won't argue about that. But look at the number of them." --- Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon

November 6, 2007

How Can You Make Your Message Stick?

If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered. --- Edgar Allan Poe
Sitting through a day of presentations is mind numbing. It doesn't matter if you're in the audience presenting. An hour-long presentation can be just as bad. What to do? Let's assume the presenter is prepared and has good material. That's not enough. What do you remember the next day or the next month? Not much.

You can't overinvest in becoming your best. Most days, I listen to audiobooks while driving --- especially those related to self-development and thinking. I've noticed that the most engaging books use a conversational style, simple words, memorable stories, insights, summaries and repetition. And questions.

Questions Are The Answer
Sometimes questions are more important than answers. --- Nancy Willard
Presenters will sometimes ask the audience questions. Rarely will many hands go up even to simple queries. Do you have a dog? How many of you don't have a dog? Add up the number of hands and you'll get less than the number of attendees. Audiences don't like raising their hands. It's as if they resent the attempt to force their participation. So why ask questions?

Because we silently answer the questions in our heads. Are you a good driver? Why do you live where you do? What do you think of this topic? Have you seen a pink elephant? Even if we don't want to answer, we can't stop.

The questions can be rhetorical. Open-ended or closed. Asked of one person or a large group. It doesn't matter. When asked a question, we automatically reply. This interaction keeps us involved even without us realizing that we're being manipulated.

Have you noticed that I've been sprinkling questions in my writing? I've been focusing on this consciously. Similarly in meetings and presentations. People get more involved and feel better. What do you think?
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. --- Maya Angelou

November 1, 2007


I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence. --- Publius Syrius

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. --- Lenin
Forget Universal Life and other forms of permanent insurance. Instead, buy term and invest the difference. That's the consensus among the public. We as individuals and an industry say little and what we say is seen as biased. So misconceptions persist and grow. And find a permanent home on the Internet.

There isn't much positive information about permanent life insurance or the folks who sell it. Consumers lump all insurance together: home, auto, life, medical, dental, disability, extended warranties, etc. A bad experience with one type, company or advisor, taints the rest.

Even so, should we remain silent and only enlighten new prospects? After all, "insurance is sold, not bought" and there are so few of us. If only there were more credible supporters (read Does Warren Buffett "Buy Term and Invest The Difference"? on Riscario Insider).

We arrive at the truth, not by the reason only, but also by the heart. --- Blaise Pascal
"A quite mathematically detailed and negative critique" in Universal Life: The Answer or the Problem? shows how strong views can be. I'm more worried about attacks in places with larger readership such as Million Dollar Journey where a CFP, CMA slams UL and gets an astounding 46 comments (11 on part 1 and 35 on part 2).

Ellen Roseman of The Toronto Star has many readers. Here's what one writes about UL on her blog: "I find a major problem in this industry is salespeople who either unknowingly or willingly recommend bad or incorrect products to their clients." That's from an insurance advisor commenting on "Insuring your life and your health".

Blowing In The Wind
You can blow out a candle but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will take it higher. --- Peter Gabriel, Biko
There are many debates which no one can win. Passive vs active investing, for example. At least there's a debate. People know there are two sides, each with merits.

Do you know of nonpartisan information --- ideally online --- to help the public understand the value of universal life, other products and the advisors who sell them? Please share by leaving a comment below (even anonymously) or sending me an email. Thanks.