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posted: 12/3/2012 6:00 AM

Developing a stage presence can help you sell an idea

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Jeanie Carter teaches stage presence -- a potentially important difference-maker as you walk confidently to the podium, shake the hand of the individual who introduced you and begin your presentation to an audience of peers and potential customers.

But presence also matters when:

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• You're representing your industry in a meeting with government officials.

• You discuss your concept on a talk show.

• You're being interviewed for a TV news segment about a product recall.

• You acknowledge the decision-makers as you start your sales pitch to an important prospect.

"Hand gestures, your facial expression, your voice quality and diction, how you tip your head all matter" when you are, in effect, onstage selling your ideas, products or services, Carter says.

As a business owner, or perhaps senior sales officer, you're almost always onstage. That might make Carter important.

Owner and artistic director of Bel Canto Studios Inc., Barrington, Carter works primarily with musicians, kids to adults. Increasingly, however, she is turning her attention to business owners and executives who want to polish their presentation skills.

From Carter's coaching perspective, there's not that much difference in performance techniques.

Many business presentations falter because "we tend to do things at the eleventh hour," Carter says. "Everyone is rushed. We have a lot on our plates. But we need to be strategic. (Effective presentations) are all about being prepared."

While it might be possible to wing a presentation if you truly know your subject and can stick to the topic, Carter likely would disagree. She has a plan.

"Get your ideas on paper early, then rehearse," Carter says. "Rehearse in front of a coach, so you can get some constructive feedback." Carter's constructive feedback might include a "let's rephrase this" or "that's a good angle," because an effective coach will help with both style and content, she says.

At the least, rehearse in front of a mirror, Carter suggests.

Carter's approach is a tad different in that she doesn't worry much about audience reaction. Neither, she says, should you.

"It's a mistake to worry about what the crowd thinks of you," Carter says. "You can't control what others think. Ignore the guy in the third row who seems bored out of his mind, and concentrate on the here and now of your presentation.

Focus on what you're doing.

The first task in working with a presentation coach is "knowing what you want (the presentation) to accomplish," Carter says. "Bring the speech" to the initial coach meeting.

"We'll talk about the audience, the venue, the conference and the presentation," Carter said. "What's the length of your speech? What are the hot buttons? We'll run through the whole thing, so we can get on the same page."

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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