Archive for June, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunctions

June 10, 2009

Even before the bank’s senior franchise manger stood to give his talk I was transfixed by the hole in the bottom of one of his scruffy shoes. On closer inspection his suit was shiny through wear & tear and his shirt had a frayed collar. The over-riding thought going through my mind was, “Surely, on his salary, he can afford a decent suit and shirt. Surely he can afford a decent pair of shoes – or at least clean the ones he’s wearing.” I was really quite cross. So distracted was I by this thinking that he was a good five minutes into his presentation before I realised he’d started. What he talked about I couldn’t begin to tell you.


Isn’t that mad? I’d turned up because I was interested in what he had to say, but when push came to shove, once I’d clapped eyes on him, I couldn’t bring myself to listen.


When you leap to our feet to give a presentation you are fighting for your audience’s attention. They’ll only remember what you said – if they heard it in the first place! And of course they’ll only hear it if they are engaged and stay focused on you throughout. So, we have to fight against other things vying for their attention. Some of these distractions could be external; the room might be cold, someone’s mobile phone goes off, a fire-engine goes by. These can be difficult to control – but can be anticipated. Other distractions might be internal, i.e. within the presenter’s control. Messy hair, scruffy shoes, flies undone, comedy ties, short skirts, plunging necklines, lack of eye contact, reading from the screen etc. etc.

So, the lesson here is: make sure that what you wear doesn’t distract. Always project the smartest image you can, and an image that will impress (not distract) the audience. We have trained National Trust Gardeners in the black art of presenting and whilst I wouldn’t suggest they wore a suit and tie to give talks on Capabilty Brown’s Landscapes I do suggest they kick the mud off their boots, give them a clean and that they wear a clean fleece (not the one they were wearing when they spread organic matter on their marrows.)

Here are five key pointers on holding an audience’s attention:

Look the part!

Look the part!

  • Before speaking put yourself in your audiences’ shoes (especially if they’re shiny) and ask “What’s in it for them?” Make sure you speak about something of interest or value to them.
  • Dress smartly, shine your shoes, brush your hair.
  • Give your audience eye-contact (not the screen)
  • Interact with them, ask them questions
  • Tell stories or anecdotes to which your audience relate can relate


These are lessons the senior franchise manager at the bank would do well to heed. Ironic then that in the audience were two of the smartest chaps you could wish to meet. After the talk I met Alex Edwards & Richard Demczak whose sartorial DItchley (Alex) & Heythrop (Richard) suits were as sharp as sharp could be. Turns out they run Aptus Suits tailoring bespoke made to measure gents and ladies suits. Suits of exceptional quality. But here’s the rub; they keep down their overheads running their operation, away from the bright and expensive city lights, from a modest studio in the Cotswolds. So, even a senior bank manager on his significantly reduced bonus can afford to look smart and therefore be taken seriously.

For more top tips on presenting see our website

Selling Skills Matter – Globally!

June 1, 2009

IAPA logo

In May 2008 we were delighted to be invited to London to speak at the European Conference of IAPA. The Independent Association of Practicing Accountants is a global association of independent accounting firms and groups.  It was even better then to be invited back to speak at the 2009 event – this time in Malta – and pleasing to discover just how much the delegates and speakers had remembered from the previous year!

The New Tricks key-note presentations this year were: ‘Selling – Black Art or Vital Skill’ and ‘How to Remember People’s Names and other Networking Skills’.  The IAPA delegates are always a very responsive and appreciative audience and after the sessions it was fascinating to be approached by professionals from all over the world who told us that, not only had they enjoyed and benefited from the sessions, but that they also now realise that a lack of sales training was potentially holding back their businesses.

They were especially relieved to realise that professional selling is not about pushing unwanted goods or services on clients –  rather it is about ensuring that clients are fully provided with the services that they need.

On the networking side of life, it is also interesting to find that an inability to remember names is a global issue and having to remember the names of  co many delegates was certainly a challenge that kept us on our mettle! Our top tips for remembering names? Firstly, make sure you hear it (this may mean switching off your internal voice.) Secondly, “Use it, or lose it” – some people dislike this (“because,” they say,  “… it sounds cheesy”) BUT it works and generally people are impressed if you remember their name. Thirdly, make an association… do you know anyone else with the same name?  What does their name rhyme with? For a more fulsome Top Tips sheet download a factsheet from our website.

It is a always daunting prospect – presenting to an audience many of whom do not speak English as their first language but then equally humbling to realise not only how well they speak English but also the range of languages that they have at their disposal.

The Hilton Hotel Malta - a great conference venue

The Hilton Hotel Malta - a great conference venue

Malta is a fascinating and beautiful island and the Hilton Hotel, part of the Portmaso Complex, is a stunning conference venue.  Apart from the hotel with its pools and beach centre, there are apartments, a marina, shops, restaurants and a business centre which is housed in a tower. The host firm this year was Charles Scerri and Associates who organised the whole event superbly for both the business delegates and for their guests who enjoyed some enviable days out.

Thanks IAPA for inviting us. Their next global conference is in Madrid in September – can’t wait!