Setting a Festive Table – Tips for a Striking Presentation

You’ll be slaving over a hot stove for hours, preparing a feast fit for kings this Christmas. From the turkey to the desserts, you put love into every recipe, and your family digs in with gusto. Why not add some festive touches to the table as well, and make the presentation as breathtaking as the dishes you’ll be serving? It doesn’t take much time or money to transform your table from humbug to very merry.

Choosing a Theme

The easiest way to coordinate your decor is to choose a theme. Your theme can be as specific as a single Christmas carol, or as broad as a certain style or colors. For example, you could choose “Jingle Bells” as your theme, making the centerpiece a miniature one-horse open sleigh, and attaching bells to everything that doesn’t voluntarily move. Or, choose a “Country Christmas” theme and add lots of country touches to your table, like felt cut-outs and cross-stitched napkins.

If you’re planning on selecting colors for your table, stick with one main color and a maximum of two accent colors. Holiday colors of green, red, and white look very festive, or accent with silver or gold for a more elegant touch. Blue and white work nicely together for a winter theme.

Table Coverings

You may have your great-great-grandmother’s handmade lace tablecloth stowed away, ready to use for your Christmas dinner. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but if spillage and possible staining are a major worry for you, save the lace for accenting your decorative holiday displays instead and pick up some inexpensive cotton or other fabric to cover your table with, or use clean sheets in various colors. You can even use two contrasting colors of fabric, and use the second, smaller piece to hang at an angle over the larger one. Christmas prints are cute and charming, but try to steer clear of anything too busy or bright, as the fabric will overshadow any other accents you add.

For a children’s table, cover the surface with butcher paper or inverted wrapping paper and provide crayons at each setting. Christmas crackers are also great fun for kids, and look cute sitting on each dinner plate.

Centerpieces

Centerpieces can be as simple as a small grouping of different sized candles. You needn’t go overboard and spend hundreds of dollars on fresh flowers and a beautiful decorator’s vase to hold them in. Potted Poinsettias make a pretty centerpiece, as do small baskets filled with pine sprigs and pinecones, or clear glass bowls full of bright Christmas tree balls.

Keeping your chosen theme in mind, choose a centerpiece that will stand out among your dishes of food, and become a conversation piece for guests. If you plan to use lit candles, never leave them unattended, and choose unscented candles wherever possible.

Napkins

You don’t have to limit yourself to simple linen napkins, although these work perfectly well. Use facecloths, small hand towels, or handkerchiefs instead if you prefer. Roll your napkins and fold the roll in half, securing with a pretty bow, or fold them origami style into an interesting shape.

Napkin rings can be made from pipe cleaners, mini wreaths, licorice strings, ribbons, artificial flower stems, or anything else you can think of that will look festive and do the job. Tie bells, small ornaments, pinecones, silk flowers, or even small toys onto each napkin ring for added decoration.

Serving Dishes and Platters

Your serving dishes don’t need to match each other to look pretty. A mixture of different styles and colors add whimsy and a country feel to your presentation. If you don’t have enough trivets for all of your dishes, cover pre-cut pieces of thick cardboard with aluminum foil and use these as shiny mats that will protect your table and still look nice.

Place Cards

If you want to use place cards to prearrange the seating at your table, use your theme to come up with imaginative ways to create or display them. Gift tags are an easy idea, and they can be attached to each napkin or wine glass with ribbon or pipe cleaners. Miniature artificial poinsettia pots are available at many dollar stores, and they make gorgeous place card holders. Simply fashion your cards and attach them to straws or toothpicks, then secure them into the pots.

Pinecones can hold name cards as well, if you maneuver the cards so that the ‘teeth’ of the cones hold them in place. Create shapes out of clay or dough, thread the cards through candy cane sticks, or simply place your cards on the top of each dinner plate. The possibilities here are endless.

Extras and Finishing Touches

Adding candles of varying heights and colors will add warmth to your table setting. Scatter tea lights, votives, pillars, and tapers around the center of the table, making sure that they are secure and not interfering with anything that could be flammable.

You can also decorate the stems on wine glasses with purchased wine charms or pipe cleaners, or tie small bells to each one with ribbon. Tie cutlery together in a similar fashion if you wish, or tuck utensils securely inside rolled napkins.

For an added touch, decorate each chair with bows, bits of garland, or pretty fabric. Anything goes as long as it doesn’t scratch or otherwise interfere with your guests’ enjoyment of your wonderful meal.

With a bit of extra effort, you can take a plain and boring table and create a stunning masterpiece that will impress your guests even before the first course is served.

Secrets to Better Sales Presentations

Quote of the Day, “Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.” – William Penn

Presentation skills are one of the most imperative items for sales professionals. There are numerous opportunities in a day for sales people to present information articulately or sound incompetent. Because of the lack of sales training, selling professionals are calling prospective clients unprepared, avoiding useful questions and sounding naïve. The lack of proper presentation skills can possibly be what is affecting your performance, not the recession!

Vocabulary “Judge a book by its cover” is the cliché many sales people need to avoid. From the moment a sales professional arrives for an appointment prospective clients are judging. Speak and it gets even worse. Many selling professionals lack proper vocabulary to have an articulate conversation with sales leaders. They use too many words. Further, “street talk” might not always be appropriate.

I remember when I first entered the speaking business; many individuals stated they had a “gig” as if they were a nightclub act. Speaking is a professional business where there is a “presentation”, “workshop” or “keynote” based on client need. Refrain from street talk when speaking to clients and speak with language that exemplifies your professionalism I recall when I first moved to the state of Missouri, I met individuals that used the phrase, “Allasudden” as a melody. It took me months to determine what was said. Wouldn’t the word “suddenly” be a better substitute? Selling professionals are judged by how they articulate. Drop the numerous words, William Penn was correct. Use a thesaurus to find and express yourself intelligently good language never hurt anyone.

Preparation Arrive unprepared and the best decision would have been remaining in bed. On a recent radio interview with friend and colleague Patricia Fripp, she mentioned a sales manager replying to a proposal and spending inordinate amounts of money on a million dollar sale. When she asked the sales manager about rehearsing the presentation, the manager stated the team would lucky to practice in the car prior to the appointment.

I recall a very good book I use for acting entitled “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff that can assist selling professionals with presentation and preparation. Shurtleff talks of guideposts such as “The Moment Before” which helps selling professionals prepare to anticipate the selling scene. Selling professionals that are unprepared are always playing defense and losing sales.

Dress Code Anther vital element of the unprepared sales representative is dress code. In the late 1990′s Wall Street and subsequently Main Street adopted the ludicrous rule of casual days. Business suits, dresses, wingtips and pumps were castaways to polo shirts and khakis. What would your reaction be if your physician showed up for surgery in a running suit and sneakers or your attorney meeting you with blue jeans and T-shirt? Sales professionals must represent the organization and themselves. Sounding professional is one half of the equation, look the part the other. Clients judge from the outside. Look the part by dressing the part.

Selling is a profession and is not impromptu. Proper planning is a major portion of the sales process. Rather then spend time attempting to make more calls, or being negative about consumer buying patterns perhaps it is best to look in the mirror. Self-reflection and assessment is always a useful. After all, you cannot close business if there is no one to present to.

There are 7 techniques you can use daily to assist you preparation efforts. Get the 7 Secrets to Sales Preparation by emailing me today. Ask about our Free 30 Minutes “Sales Acceleration Coaching Clinic” to help you gain immediate sales result!

©2009. Drew J. Stevens Ph. D. All rights reserved.

War Gaming Your Sales Negotiations

Are you constantly looking for ways to predict your buyer’s next move and calibrate your own strategy to maximize your negotiation outcome. By War Gaming your upcoming negotiation you can do just that.

A Negotiation War Game has 3 main steps:

  • Intelligence
  • Simulation
  • Debriefing

Intelligence

1. Organize your team into two teams- One “Home Team”, and one “Away Team”.

2. Collect some basic information on the actual people you will be meeting. Google your counterpart’s two most important people, have a look at their Facebook page etc. Look for information that tells you “who” they are. Please note: a War Game is an analytical way of using less data and more inferences.

The collected info. is the Away Team’s briefing material. Don’t bother collecting info. on the Home Team as this is your own people – they already know who they are.

3. Decide how many simulations you feel like doing and how long they should be. Rule of thumb – in a Sales-negotiation I would do several short simulations in rapid succession (each simulation interrupted by a strategy break). Strategy breaks are used to evaluate the progress (Teams are kept apart).

4. Get the physical lay-out right. Once the teams are set, the briefing material is done and the simulations are structured, it is important to structure your War Game.

To do a proper War Game you need access to 3 separate rooms:

Room no. 1: Have one large room in which a pre-simulation briefing will be held (briefing material will be handed out). This room will also be used for the negotiation simulation. Last but not least, this room will be used to debrief the participants.

Room no. 2: Have a smaller room in which the Home Team can prepare and evaluate proceedings in peace.

Room no. 3: Have another small room in which the Away Team can prepare and evaluate proceedings in peace.

Simulation

5. Run the simulations

As the simulations get going the Home Team will get a sense of how well their strategy is working against this specific counterpart. In the strategy breaks, the Home Team will re-group, calibrate their strategy and come back to the negotiation table.

Think about adding a feedback system if needed.

Debriefing

6. Gather your team and collect Lessons Learned, when the simulation, or rather the series of simulations are done.

At this point, you and your team will know what your actual counterpart will most likely do when confronted by your original and subsequent (increasingly calibrated) strategies – and better yet, you will have developed a tailor-made negotiation strategy.

Please note that the above mentioned method does not, in advance, prescribe to any particular strategy or tactic. A Negotiation War Game is simply an incredibly accurate, risk-free environment, in which any strategy or tactic can be tested.

So if you are doing anything before your next big Sales negotiation – it better be war gaming!