Forensic delivery – a part of selling

Context and purpose

Having run training courses in communications and coached bid teams for many years, I set up this blog with the intention of passing on insights and tips associated with the design of the spoken word – essentially presentation design and delivery. This particular blog is really intended for people who have attended one of my company’s courses – Gareth Bunn Consulting Limited – (or The Rhetorical Company’s). If you have, you will understand the “kipper” – a tool for the design of messages devised by Willie Macnair and based on classical rhetoric. You will probably also have been introduced to the three main styles of rhetoric, two of which are relevant to this blog – “deliberative” and “forensic”.

I must also thank Willie Macnair for his commentary on my first draft of this piece. This is a summarised version.

Deliberative style

We tend to focus on the “deliberative” style of rhetoric – where the objective is to persuade others to specific future behaviour. This is applicable to most circumstances in business not least to business development – selling.

A complication in business development

Procurement processes though often make the design of presentations extremely difficult. This is partly because the presentation can sometimes be deemed (unhelpfully) to be a part of the bid documentation. In other words the presentation is regarded as, primarily, a visual production rather than aural – a projected document augmented with an opportunity to interrogate! However inappropriate this might be, we have to respect the expectations of a client and its advisors.

Design for the purpose

Different styles of presentation may be effective at different points in the selling process. It is essential therefore that the audience analysis undertaken by the bid team includes and thoroughly assesses the objectives of each interaction or presentation from the perspective of the client. This will determine not just the content and style but also the presenting team.

Typically, the initial stages and the final stages of a procurement will be more orientated to people, personalities and persuasion. This fits well with the deliberative style. However, during the central parts of the procurement there may be a stronger focus on technical content. This may demand more of a “forensic” style to afford the richness in content.

Helping your audience through detail

The spoken word is not great for detail, so it is likely that visual aids – models or diagrams of architectures, processes, spatial layout etc. will be needed to enable understanding. In addition, if your objective is to create long term memory, and bearing in mind the rule of 3, you will need to think creatively about what will help an audience preserve the “shape of things”. Spatial representations – maps and models – are especially useful. Do though bear in mind that “less is more” and an audience can cope with only a limited amount of detail.

You can build in the detail – for example explaining a complex technical solution or describing a multi-stage process – using workshops and walk-through sessions. These can be components of the event designed using the “kipper” approach for team messages.

Forensic design using the “kipper” – some pointers

You may decide to configure an entire “kipper” in forensic style. In this case, I suggest you take on board the following.

  • Ensure the Head is complete. Just as with the deliberative style, it is vital for your audience. The piece which may be different is Structure. Instead of 3 labels, tell and show your audience how they will be able to navigate the component parts of your presentation.
  • The Body of the presentation may not fit the 3-bones structure – there may be a greater number of steps. But it is still important to remind your audience (verbally and visually) where they are at the beginning of each step. Use mini-summaries at the end of each main step.
  • Use visual aids where they will be helpful in explaining concepts. Keep these as simple and uncluttered as possible. Before you show the visual aid, describe the points you are making and let your audience know what they are going to see and what to look for. Note that hand drawn flipcharts or whiteboards, are often a welcome relief to projected slides.
  • Design a handout for the audience to take away and refer to. This is not the same as a simple paper copy of the visual aids. Additional material – narrative and textual description – is most likely to be needed. Design a document!
  • The Tail needs to include a Summary of the kipper. Try and stick to the words and phrases you have used during the presentation. The purpose of the Summary is to remind the audience of the journey they have been through and reassure them it has been complete, believable and relevant – i.e. it “ticks all the boxes”.
  • The Big Idea is much the same as in a deliberative kipper, although one subtle difference is that it may not contain a verb in the imperative. Rather than “So… make your aspirations real” it may be “So, your aspirations made real”. In other words it is a statement of QED – case proven.
  • Build in consolidation. Often the technical or forensic parts of a team message are needed for the acceptance of later deliberation. It is often valuable to ensure that those parts have been assimilated beforehand. So, design in some consolidation in the form of an exercise or a discussion before moving to the next part of the event. Seek confirmation at the end that you have indeed “ticked all the boxes”.
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Visual aids and India PAN

Although accurate, I suspect this is an unhelpful ttle for this post. Actually, they are two unrelated things linked only because I have had the fun of running communications training programmes in India over recent years. And I thought my recent experiences with India withholding tax might be useful to some.

Visual Aids

It always surprises me that so much unhelpful and incorrect advice is given on presentation design and delivery skills. I suspect it comes from the “Give them a few tips” culture. I was running a training session recently and we were examining the use of visual aids, and the sequence which works best for an audience given the way in which our eyes, ears and brains work. It is as many of you may know: deliver the idea you wish to put over, describe what you are going to show your audience and what to look out for, then show the visual aid (and avoid talking over it!)….. and then remove it.

One of my course delegates said that he had recently been on a Consulting Skills course run by the “global University” of a major IT services supplier.The tip they provided for using visual aids (I think in this case flipcharts) was Touch, Turn and Talk. Although I understand that there may be circumstances where this sequence may be used – especially with flipcharts – as a general rule for visual aids, it is entirely the wrong way round. Perhaps it was a “tip”  conceived by someone who has been schooled in  “Show and Tell” at a tender age.

India PAN

If you do any work for an Indian company (but are registered elsewhere such as the UK) you will know that the Indian Tax Department levies withholding tax. Up until a couple of years ago this was levied at a rate of a little over 10%. So, you invoiced £8000 and the client paid you £7115.40. The client would also send you a certificate of withholding tax paid. If you are a UK registered acompany, you could offset this amount against your UK Corporation Tax later.

However, this regime changed in 2010 and new rules have been introduced by the India Tax Department which could cause you to lose money. You now need to have a PAN – a Personal Account Number – issued by the India Tax Department. It comes in the form of a credit card sized piece of plastic. If you have a PAN number for your company and can quote this to your client, they will deduct withholding tax at the rate of 10.56% and will also provide a certificate of withholding tax paid – just as before.

But now, if you do not have a PAN number, withholding tax has to be deducted at the rate of 20%. But the real rub is the fact that a certificate of deduction of withholding tax will not be issued if you do not have a PAN. So, no offset against Corporation Tax and you stand to lose 20% of your charged fees.

I did try and work out how to apply for a PAN card, but believe me, it is not easy. And, as I discovered, there are some pitfalls – things that are not included in the instructions provided with the forms on-line. But help is at hand – help that I would strongly urge you to get hold of before applying for a PAN card. In my case I used the services of the NRI Centre based in Hounslow – NRICentre.NET [nriservices@nricentre.net]. For a very modest fee, they provided much needed advice, and then took away all the hassle of dealing with the India Tax Department, including the payment of the PAN card fee.

Getting documents together and having them legally endorsed took a few days. From sending the application to the NRI Centre, it took 5 weeks before I got confirmation of my PAN number (from the NRI Centre) and a further 10 days before the plastic arrived.

So, if you are going to do work in India for an Indian registered company, it would be wise to apply for a PAN card well in advance.