November 2015 FEW Meeting Recap: Presentation Skills for Life – Secrets to Selling Yourself, Your Ideas and Your Business

November 2015 FEW Meeting Recap: Presentations Skills for Life – Secrets to Selling Yourself, Your Ideas and Your Business, Thursday November 12

Recap by Katharina von Tschurtschenthaler, FEW Program Director

Helen Iwata is a true pro when it comes to selling herself – or a product. She proved her sales skills at the young age of 17, working as an “Avon Lady“ in the UK, selling cosmetics at people’s doorsteps. At the November FEW Monthly Meeting Helen – who has run her own business, “Sasuga! Communications,” since 2013, shared some insights on how to improve your presentation skills: speak up, get your message across, listen and question and share your passion.

Speaking up in front of an audience can be quite daunting– especially if you are not used to it. Your heart starts pounding faster as a sign that your body is getting ready to fight, you are short of breath, and you need more oxygen. “I still get nervous before giving a presentation,” admits Helen. “I pause, take a deep breath and acknowledge that I am nervous. I embrace the moment. Being nervous shows me that I am learning something new and my comfort zone grows.” If your mouth gets dry: sip water. Wear cool, loose clothes if you tend to start sweating. And the key if you have a blackout and cannot think straight anymore: prepare!

When it comes to preparation think about others:

  • What do I know about my audience and what do the people I am presenting to need to know?
  • Decide on your content and structure: introduction, body of presentation and call to action.

When presenting:

  • Use visuals to SUPPORT YOU – and not the other way round. Never forget to focus on the audience. If you cannot remember your own presentation no one else will.
  • Manage your time. Look for a clock if you worry about running out of time.

Ask questions:
“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” (Chinese Proverb.)

Keep asking open questions – this is the best way to get to know more about your audience. Instead of asking your audience “Do you have any questions“, try “What questions do you have?”

Try to think about what questions you would ask the person you are selling to. And most importantly: be curious!

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen Covey).

Maintain eye contact, nod, etc. Paraphrase and question: you cannot be a good listener without asking questions.

In this section Helen asked us to perform a listening and questioning activity. One person had a ask her counterpart questions about her life, work, etc., listen to the answers and continue asking – a mini workshop, which was truly eye opening for some of the participants: it is really hard to keep asking questions without referring to your own life and giving advice. Giving advice though means that you find out a lot less about the other person and instead of focusing on your counterpart you make yourself the protagonist.

After all you can only become a good seller of yourself or your idea/product, when you believe in what you are selling (keeps you authentic) and when you believe in yourself.


About Helen Iwata
Helen Iwata profileHelen Iwata is a Yorkshire lass who has worked in Japan for over twenty years. As manager of client communications at McKinsey & Company in Tokyo, she trained consultants and clients in communication skills, including presentations, meeting facilitation, leadership, and teamwork. In May 2013, she established Sasuga! Communications to focus on her passion of helping people to create communication habits for professional success and happiness.

Helen is a certified Dale Carnegie trainer and the go-to person for multiple multinationals to design and lead their in-house training programs and one-on-one coaching. Helen also delivers open courses at her office in Ginza. She has delivered presentations and workshops throughout Japan, as well as in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Poland, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

From 2009 to 2013, Helen served as president of the Japan Association of Translators and, in 2014, she was nominated for both Entrepreneur of the Year and New Market Entrant of the Year in the British Business Awards.

She studied German and Japanese at Aston University and holds a Master of Arts in Advanced Japanese Studies from Sheffield University in the UK.


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