Have you heard yourself recently?

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“Are you sure you’re not depressed?”

That’s what I thought about myself when I listened to some presentations that I recently provided.

Over the past few months, I have been presenting and hosting webinars about a variety of topics. Some of these have been for my RIA, Finance for Teachers, but others have been on industry-related topics. All the topics are ones that I have a lot of passion for and spent weeks developing.

But I sounded terrible!

At some points, I sounded bored or didn’t really understand what I was talking about. There were several times where I kept talking to make a point, when I could have finished 30 seconds earlier. Even I was getting annoyed at myself listening to the playback.

I imagined the listeners looking something like this:


But it’s not just me; many presenters have this problem as well. So, if you present to clients or groups, my question to you is:

Have you heard yourself recently?

How do you sound when you talk to a client? Are you succinct or do you ramble? Do you ever see the worst feedback – the “glassy eyes”? Have you ever presented and seen the stifled yawns from the audience?

Everyone experiences these at some point, but there are some things that can help bring your presentation back to life:

  1. Speak slower and even stop talking. There is a magic in silence when you are face-to-face with an audience (of one or many). Presentations are supposed to involve talking, so when there is silence, it throws audiences off. They realize that no one is talking and it causes them to re-focus on the presenter.

Steve Jobs was the master of this during Apple Keynotes. In the example below, it takes him over 7 seconds to get started and 2 minutes and 15 seconds to even explain what the purpose of the meeting is. Lots of pauses, slow speaking – edge of your seat stuff.


  1. Stories engage, so start telling more. Regardless of whether you are taking a client through their financial plan, presenting a webinar or to a live crowd, stories change the game.

During a client presentation, pause when you come to talking about risk tolerance. Not many clients understand how to gauge the risk they want to take – so turn it into a story. Involve a risk / reward situation not linked to investing and give them three options as to where to position themselves.

My favorite example consists of asking a client their opinion of this story. They are purchasing a condo in a building that has a habit of catching on fire in the lobby. Everyone gets evacuated in time, but it’s getting closer each time where that is not the case. Would you want to purchase a condo on the lower floor where you could always get out, but you had no view to enjoy; the penthouse where the view is amazing but you might not get out in the next fire, or somewhere in between? It’s surprising what type of conversation this sparks.

This type of approach works well with clients and in larger presentations. The change of pace and causing people to use their imagination will keep things fresh.

(For more help with stories, pick up the book StorySelling for Financial Advisors by Scott West and Mitch Anthony)

  1. I always try to KISSASS when I give a presentation. But it doesn’t always work out that way.








There’s nothing worse than a speaker who goes long, with a complex topic that is only partially understood, and doesn’t impact the daily lives of the audience. So in order to be effective, you have to be the opposite:

  • Make your presentations shorter than you said they would be.
  • Either focus on simplifying one complex topic, or discussing a few simple topics.
  • Challenge someone’s thinking and how they go about their everyday life, as it relates to the topic you’re discussing.

When it comes to a financial planning update with a client, follow these guidelines. An hour meeting should run for 50 minutes, have 3 key points to cover, and have easily actionable items or a topic for your clients to digest when they leave.

When it comes to a webinar or presentation, it should be the exact same formula. If you are not following these rules, chances are, you may not be presenting to the best of your ability.

I know I’m going to go through the painful task of listening to myself until I know how to improve my skills – I encourage you to do the same.

Dave Grant, CFP®, is the founder of Finance For Teachers a fee-only RIA in Cary, IL. Dave exclusively serves teachers in Illinois by helping them to organize their financial lives and live a fulfilled life. He is also a columnist at Financial Planning magazine, a ghost writer for various companies, and the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for over 300 young, fee-only planners.