Training in public speaking will pay dividends for advisers by improving how they interact with their clients, a former adviser has urged.
Jason Butler, who spent 25 years as an adviser before selling his stake in Bloomsbury Wealth Management, said: “If people underwent formal public speaking, developed their emotional intelligence and reviewed the way they came across, they would improve their presentation skills.”
Mr Butler said he found that advisers who recorded and reviewed their body language during client meetings greatly improved their communication skills.
He said much of the shift towards the development of soft skills and emotional intelligence in recent years has been driven by the advisory industry itself.
Also, as the market has become more complex, advisers have to work “smarter” to help customers understand the issues better.
He said a shortening of people's attention spans and the onset of digital devices and social media has placed a premium on expert communication skills. “Soft skills is the new technical ability. Financial planning is not about pushing through a prescribed solution, but is more about understanding the client.”
Mr Butler’s views have been echoed in a new report from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking.
Paul Carroll, who is a public speaking mentor with Toastmasters, said there were five key areas individuals should focus on when doing presentations.
These include: knowing when to be brief and when to expand on a point, having a clear message, using active language, leaving out jargon, using metaphors effectively and understanding the audience.
Mr Carroll said: “When addressing new people, for example potential clients, do your research. Learn what they want. Learn about their capacity: what can they realistically afford to buy from you? What regulatory constraints have they? Find out which of your competitors they already do business with.
“You must understand what you want to get across so you can remove unnecessary details. How much detail is necessary for people to get your point?”
Mr Carroll recalled the example of when Apple introduced the original iPod, and the late Steve Jobs summarised the offer in seven words: “It’s a thousand songs in your pocket.”
Mr Carroll added: “When time is limited you need to decide what’s essential for your clients or colleagues to know.
“Too much information may confuse them about what’s most important.”
Mr Carroll’s advice may sound obvious, but according to Mr Butler, good communication skills do not come easily to everyone, including advisers.
Mr Butler added: “Some people have natural communication skills but most of us have to work at it because we are all different.”
Even he admits that as an adviser he sometimes struggled to communicate one-on-one with clients.
This was partly why, he said, he decided to sell his business in 2015 and take up a career in public speaking; travelling across the country speaking to company employees about how to develop a healthier relationship with money.