On Point: Refine your skills as a presenter and communicator


Paul Homoly, PSP

I bet we would agree that it’s never been more difficult to hold people’s attention than it is now. Text messages, email, voice mail, social media — they all compete for listeners’ attention.

It’s been my experience that experts in fields with complex issues such as finance, law, health care and fraud investigation say they’re frustrated when the people they’re trying to inform and influence don’t listen, don’t “get it,” or resist the need to take action on their expert advice and opinions.

Many fraud examiners believe the completeness and accuracy of their fraud examination findings are the keys to their influence. Unfortunately, a blind spot exists for many fraud examiners: being interesting and influential is the experience of the listener. No matter how complete your fraud investigation findings are, if they aren’t communicated in a way that’s interesting and influential to the listener, your findings are not interesting or influential.

Interesting and Influential Fraud Examination Reports

What constitutes an interesting and influential fraud report? Let’s assume your technical findings are accurate and complete. When you present your findings to your listeners, the next step is to support your findings with a process called The Leader’s Pyramid. The Leader’s Pyramid is the process of making content-intensive presentations both interesting and influential.

Build interest and influence from the base of the pyramid and work your way up. Begin by establishing a connection. Connection is about relationship. If you want people to follow you, they need to know who they’re following. Give your listeners a personal experience. You can do this by sustaining one-on-one eye contact (talk to one person at a time; don’t scan the audience while you speak). Disclose a bit of your role as a spouse or parent. Tell a story from your childhood. Make disclosures brief (a minute or less) and link them metaphorically to your topic. You’ll be amazed at how influential a short interval of disclosure is.

Next is movement. Movement is about confidence. When you stand to deliver your fraud investigation findings, keep movement to a minimum. Don’t pace back and forth. Pacing reveals a lack of confidence and nerves.

Plus, it interferes with your train of thought. Instead, use simple body rotations with one- to two-step movements, at most. Movement will do more to hurt you than help you — the less movement, the better.

Finally, there’s dynamics. Dynamics is about energy. Dynamics is the sound of your voice — tone, volume, pitch and rhythm. Dynamics is the best speaking tool you have to earn and hold listeners’ attention. Use voice dynamics immediately before and during critical content points of your presentation to distinguish the information in the minds of your listeners. Pique listener interest immediately before you make key points. This way they’re listening when you’re at your best.

Using personal connection, appropriate movement, and a variety of voice dynamics to earn listener interest and exert your influence won’t interfere with your credibility.

No one has ever lost credibility by being interesting.

You can hear Paul talk about these skills and more in his upcoming seminar, Presentation Skills for Fraud Examiners, July 15 in Nashville, Tennessee, or November 4 in Washington, D.C. View a full list of our upcoming events and products in the latest ACFE Resource Guide