When it comes to getting messages out, commercial real estate professionals are prone to the same mistakes that people in other high-profile fields make. As part of NAIOP’s Chapter Leadership & Legislative Retreat, held this week in Washington, D.C., Sheri Singer of Singer Communications led a session on best practices for communicating, both to the public and to other businesses.
To start off, Singer asked attendees if any of them had an “elevator speech,” which is defined as a short, powerful description of a person or company. For those who do, she said it’s important to start the speech with the “why” of yourself, your company or your association. Highlighting the passions behind your business will increase your credibility. Singer also said it’s vital to make all messages — elevator speeches or not — genuine and personalized to reflect either the personality of the developer, or the culture of the company or association. Also important: Get to the point right away.
“Is your message relevant? Is it positive? Is it authentic? And, is the main point delivered first?” she asked attendees.
Singer said strong messaging, which should always be tailored to a specific audience, establishes the value proposition of your organization, builds its reputation, defines its image, creates positive perceptions and clarifies its mission. Additionally, it can help give your organization a competitive edge.
To do that, she said it’s important to always stress “FUBO” in your communications. That means emphasizing what makes your business or association “first, unique, best or only” in your community.
Singer also laid out some things to avoid in messages: Don’t make them complex; they should be able to be understood by most of the public. They should also avoid commercial real estate jargon. Additionally, she said negativity is a big no-no, as is information that is unsubstantiated.
“Be accurate,” she said. “You are the experts.”
Dealing with the Media
Mass media is probably the most powerful way for getting a message out to the general public. To that end, Singer suggested looking into radio. Local all-news stations can be good venues for sharing information about a new project or an association’s chapter events.
“It’s really under-utilized,” she said.
When talking to the media, Singer emphasized that it’s important to dress the part of a businessperson. Always wear a suit or nice dress, even if you’re told that it’s just a casual interview. Additionally, she said that when you’re “mic’d up” for a media appearance, always assume that everything you say is being recorded or filmed, so be careful.
Perhaps the biggest piece of advice Singer gave was this: Stay on message at all costs.
“Do not deviate from that,” she said. ”If you’re on a call and people keep asking the same question that you don’t want to answer, end the call.”
If you’re asked a direct question that you’re comfortable answering and is on message, answer it, Singer said. When confronted with other questions that could get you off-message, you could use bridging and redirection.
Bridging is where you refocus the person interviewing you on your key message. Redirecting involves acknowledging the question you’ve been asked, but changing the direction of the answer toward the message you want to convey.
Singer suggested that attendees make a habit of watching politicians closely when they speak. Most of them are very skilled at deflecting questions they don’t want to answer.
Prepare for Presentations
Next, Singer gave advice on presentations for business-to-business communication. She stressed the importance of preparation.
“In real estate, it’s location, location, location,” she said. “In presentations, it’s practice, practice, practice.”
When doing a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you have backups (printouts, copies of the deck on a thumb drive, etc.).
“It’s a good practice in case something goes wrong, and it has the added benefit of making you a little calmer when you speak,” Singer said.
Presentation slides should have no more than five lines of text. Each bulleted item should be one line long and include a verb and a noun. And the more images, the better, she said.
“Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words,” she said.
Singer said you should never just read the text that appears on the slides in your presentation. Try to provide additional useful information.
When speaking during a presentation, you have to be careful about body language. Singer cited research from UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, who found that the actual words a speaker uses only account for 7 percent of his or her likeability with an audience. Meanwhile, tone of voice makes up 38 percent, and body language accounts for 55 percent.
If you’ve got the jitters before a public speaking engagement, Singer said you should try to “push” that nervous energy into your presentation. She suggested watching a TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy about “power poses,” which Forbes calls “Wonder Woman-like expansive body postures” that project an air of confidence and credibility.
Finally, Singer suggested that NAIOP chapters put together speakers’ guides that incorporate best practices for presentations.
Trey Barrineau is the Managing Editor, Publications for NAIOP. In this role, he supervises day-to-day operations of Development magazine.