Monday, 25 July 2016

Without enunciation your business presentation can fall at the first fence

I have talked before about the importance of enunciation in a business presentation – especially as you open and close. This is not simply an old-fashioned notion – unless your audience members receive your introductory message with crystal clarity, then anything that follows could be rendered meaningless.

The concept was brought into sharp focus for me recently when I was coaching a foreign entrepreneur for his investor pitch about a new material he had invented. Key to the concept was that his material had great advantages over its traditional competitor - ‘vood’. I was confused but eventually worked out why, necessitating a conversation about composer Wagner, actor Robert Wagner and guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Rex Harrison in 'My Fair Lady'
Language difficulties can be sorted out relatively easily, but speakers of the Queen’s English can fall into similar traps, especially with words that sound very similar to another word or even the opposite of what was intended. If, for instance, you were to say: ‘this is unnecessary’ or ‘unnatural’, that could easily be heard as ‘necessary’ or ‘natural’ – the opposite of what you meant! The problems with these examples are of course exacerbated by the double Ns, but you need very clear enunciation in such cases to make yourself clear. It may well be better to change the words to something like ‘this won’t be needed’.

My favourite real life example of mumbled delivery that was potentially going to have very expensive repercussions was the presenter who appeared to announce, in a rather offhand manner: “This is a $17 million opportunity.” “Hang on a minute”, I interrupted; “if this really is a $17 million opportunity, then please ‘spit that out’ loud and proud.” He replied rather sheepishly that it was actually a $17 billion opportunity. “In that case”, I said, “my advice stands; but multiply it by 1000!”

So by all means relax a bit in the middle of your presentation – keep it conversational and tell some stories to bring it all to life. But open and close with crystal clarity that leaves your audience in absolutely no doubt about what you have come to talk about and what you want them to do as a result.

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