By: Anne Banks
Principal, gr8 communications LLC
PAICR Board of Directors member
The appetite for content in the investment management industry has exploded in recent years, and so many firms have invested significantly to build out their content capabilities and to diversify the mix of communications channels they use to reach their target audiences.
But how many firms have invested in their most important communications asset: the ability of their investment professionals (and other market-facing ambassadors) to tell their story clearly, engagingly and succinctly?
My guess would be not so many!
But if your firm is savvy enough to be doing such training, or contemplating it, here are 5 steps I recommend you follow to increase your chances of a solid ROI.
Check the patient’s medical history in advance
I’m only kidding about the medical history—but I hope you get what I mean.
- You need to know, from the outset, the level of experience the participant has—be that in the industry, their current role, previous roles, previous presenting experience, and the nature of that experience (audience, frequency, solo or partnered.)
- More specifically, you need to know why the person is being asked to participate in the training—especially if they’ve had previous presentation training and/or would be viewed as a seasoned presenter or member of the team. The latter could be an indication that you are dealing with a protracted problem that previous training failed to resolve—and if that is the case, you need to know why.
- Also find out from the participant any specific concerns they may have about their presenting ability, which they would like to address during their session. (Remember, the training has the potential to broaden the person’s skillset, not just for the role they currently occupy, but for the benefit of the business more broadly.)
Set clear objectives and realistic expectations
You need to know who is behind the decision to do the training and what they want the business (and each of the participant’s) to get out of it. And how will they measure its success?
- If you believe the expectations voiced by the person are unrealistic, you need to say so, or somebody is going to be very disappointed when the job is done! For example—if one of the people to be trained has had training numerous times before to address the same issue, it would be unreasonable (and unrealistic) to expect that they will suddenly see the light after one more session with another trainer! There’s a strong chance that a more fundamental issue is at the heart of the problem than the person’s skills as a presenter—and it’s likely to be something a trainer has no power to change!
- Regardless of the issue that needs to be addressed with each presenter, the person requesting that the training be done needs to understand that one training session can only help the participant achieve so much. Sustainable improvement in their presentation skills will only come from presenting regularly.
Timing isn’t everything … but boy can it make a big difference
If you have the flexibility, schedule the training so that each of the participants has an opportunity to put into practice what they learn from their session very soon after—ideally at an external meeting within a week to 10 days (for which they should prep for in-house beforehand.) The sooner they get to use the pointers they’ve been given, the better. And the more frequently you can get them to meetings subsequently the better also. Practice may not make it perfect, but it will make a difference.
- Use familiar content for the training sessions: Unless the purpose of the training is to test-drive a completely new presentation, I recommend that you get each participant to use presentation material for their coaching session with which they are reasonably familiar/possibly have presented before. If they don’t, then any presentation weakness you identify is as likely to come from their lack of familiarity with the material, as their core ability to present.
- Capture it on video: The best way for a presenter to understand the errors they are making, is to watch themselves on video doing just that. And you don’t need any expensive equipment to capture that. Many investment professionals use iPads or similar tablets for work, which can be easily mounted on an inexpensive tripod stand to record the session. And they get to take the prize home with them J But seriously … it really does make a difference when they can see the things you are pointing out to them.
So when it comes to developing your content strategy, don’t forget about investing a bit of your time and budget in the people you depend on to deliver your message and secure the client. Ultimately, the face time a client gets with them may be the deciding factor in choosing you as their manager—and not the brochure they found on your website.