Presentation attendance is important for keeping sharp and up to date on topics and techniques. With that in mind, I often attend seminars and presentations on a variety of topics, from business development and consultancy to investing and asset management. Most recently, I attended a seminar from David Lerner and Associates on “Building and Protecting your Assets.” While this is clearly a sales seminar, looking to create a buying impulse, it also provided great information and food for thought. Mostly, however, I want to discuss the techniques used in the seminar, as I found it to be very well done.
I will begin by saying that David Lerner is a very polished and entertaining speaker. His use of technology was well integrated with his manner of walking the room. Three video screens were used, One large central screen and two smaller screens to allow the viewers at the peripheries to see the information clearly as well. On top of this, a wireless sound system was used to project the speaker’s voice effectively. The facility was a moderate sized convention center/ballroom, with a crowd that I would estimate at 600 people.
Utilizing an array of speakers connected to a wireless receiver, and a handheld wireless microphone, every word was able to be heard clearly. Volume and clarity are both key factors for successful speakers. However, it was not so much the technical details which made this a good presentation, it was the presentation style. Mr. Lerner made several overtures to connect with the audience effectively. First, he was adept at using humor, which is often touted as a public speaking tool.
I personally liked his references to Mel Brooks’ movies, as I am a huge fan of his work. Bringing the audience back to those references at points throughout the presentation also created memory points for the audience. This is a fantastic technique for getting an audience to remember key points, without seeming like a pushy teacher. Mr. Lerner also connected with the audience by sharing details and experiences from his personal life. Humanizing yourself as a speaker should not be discounted; an audience is far more likely to “buy in” to a speaker’s pitch if they see him as one of their own rather than an outsider. Sharing stories that the audience can relate to is crucial, but a speaker must know the audience well enough to make this work. Both the humor and personal connection set the audience at ease and allow for a greater capacity to listen and accept what is being shared without a highly guarded affect.
The presentation itself consisted of information presented orally through Mr. Lerner and other speakers, visually through a PowerPoint presentation, and physically through audience participation (question and response). This allows for the greater learning and interest, as it touches on multiple learning styles. The investment strategies discussed were put into simple terms and graphics which could be easily understood. The presentation was laid out logically in a manner that was easy to follow and built from the bottom up. Basically, there are three levels of investment to consider, base-level – safe investment with moderate returns, mid-level – some what greater risk and slightly higher returns and top-level – higher returns and higher risk.
The base-level should be the largest investment amount, consisting of the monies which cannot be risked; the housing, food, and health cost funds. I will not discuss the investment vehicles mentioned as this is not a sales article for the company, but rather a discussion of the presentation techniques used. The mid-level should contain less of the funds, but should only be invested in after the necessities have been covered with safe investments. This level consists of relatively safe investments but carries some risk of loss or lowered returns but a higher projected return. The top-level consists of the smallest portion of the investments, and includes stocks, mutual funds and potential high returns but much higher risk of loss as well. This level should only be filled with cash which can be lost without harming the investor’s lifestyle appreciably.
As an MBA with an educational background in finance and economics as well as marketing, the strategies fit well with my own views and do make sense. However, even without that education, the presentation was clear enough and concise enough to be easily understood. I think that this was one of the key strengths of the presentation, it provided information which was interesting for knowledgeable participants but also simple enough for novices to grasp easily. It played effectively for the full range of the audience.
This explanation of the strategy was augmented with specific numbers on returns delivered by various product components. Here, audience participation was a key part of the presentation as well. Many audience members were clients of David Lerner Associates already and had investments in specific products. Their enthusiasm for the products and affirmation of the returns boosts the credibility of the presentation. Due to the numbers of people, it is not likely that they were plants, although that thought would cross my mind otherwise. I should also disclose that I was there because I know people who work for the company and I have the utmost respect for the character of those individuals.
Lastly, certain tools were used to keep audience members from leaving prior to the end of the presentation. First, food and refreshments were served prior to the presentation. This ensured that the participants were comfortable and not thinking about getting food or being otherwise distracted by hunger or thirst. Secondly, desserts were served, and coffee was made available at the close of the presentation. This allowed for the associates to mingle with the participants after the presentation to set up appointments and to discuss the presentation details. This reinforces to presentation and allows for clarification of details where needed.
It also attempts to lock in clients while they are still focused on the presentation material. Finally, a drawing was done at the close of the seminar, after the dessert and mingling, for several items. Only those present would be able to win items. Therefore, an incentive was given to remain in attendance until the end, and the vast majority of those who came for the presentation did remain. As noted, I found this to be a well done presentation and wanted to share these techniques, as they can be readily employed by others to enhance their own presentations and seminars.