No matter what you’re doing, it’s hard to think you’ll avoid doing a presentation at one point or another. So how do you deliver thrill rather than dud?
If the thought of delivering a presentation to your team, key stakeholders or even the C-suite leaves you in a cold sweat, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Presenting might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you will be able to avoid forever, particularly as your procurement career progresses. At some point you’ll be required to communicate the profession’s value-add or pitch ideas to decision-makers in your organisation. And that means it’s worth getting your skills up-to-speed so you are ready to step up to the plate in style when the time comes.
Fortunately, whether you are delivering a keynote to an audience of thousands or to two members of the senior leadership team, there’s a proven formula to getting it right every time.
One person who I always look to as a mentor in this space is Colin James, an expert speaker and facilitator who has spent the past 25 years working with senior executives around the world, helping them to master their presentation and storytelling skills.
In a recent conversation with Colin for Inside Influence podcast, we discussed the key steps to getting it right when you’re given that all-important hour to present to the CEO or CFO.
Step 1: Walk the (right) walk
The very first thing that you do on stage or in a meeting is vital – it sets the tone for the rest of the time you have. When you enter a room for your next meeting, ask yourself what the way you walked in says about you, your attitude and your intentions for that meeting.
When someone arrives with energy and urgency, sits upright in their seat and makes eye contact with others it signals something very different to a person who slops in and collapses in a chair. The latter says “I don’t care, I’m exhausted, what am I doing here?” Incredibly, this is all being communicated without a single word being uttered.
What your physiology says about you in the first 30 seconds really counts. Colin’s main simple but effective tip (especially for people seeking to build their professional brand) is this: simply walk faster. Walk faster into the room; walk faster into that meeting or onto the stage – walk faster everywhere you go! The increase in pace will increase your energy – it will also increase the perceived urgency of your objectives.
Step 2: Start strong and finish strong
Any good presentation needs a clear concept (a title) that makes it immediately clear to the audience what your presentation is about – and what you’re trying to achieve. A misleading, ambiguous or dry title could lose your audience just as easily as a muddled or confused structure.
You can’t impress people that aren’t in the room – so first rule of thumb – get a title that’s going to peak the interest of your target market.
It’s also important to bookend your presentation with strong opening and closing statements. The reality is that information communicated at the beginning or the end of an educational episode is far more likely to be retained by your audience than the content in the middle.
The age-old advice on public speaking is useful here – “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them again. Then tell them what you’ve told them.”
Step 3: Divide (into chunks) and conquer
Colin recommended embedding three or four major themes – chunks – into the body of the presentation. These are the ideas, or principles, you want to get across to your audience.
Each chunk should have a principle, and each principle will support your overall concept. The connected detail, i.e. the stories you tell within each principle, should validate that principle and ultimately connect to your concept and title.
So as an example – what three things would your audience need to think, believe or do differently in order to take advantage of what you’re offering in this presentation?
Step 4: Tell a story
Once you have the principles in place – now it’s time to bring them to life through storytelling. Colin recommends that within each principle you need at least one story that illuminates the application of that principle in the world.
This can be a story from the past, an imagined scenario, or a potential event; so long as it is something that allows your audience to see your ideas applied in the real world. Telling a good story requires the following structure:
1. The event: The where, when, who, how and what.
2. The point: Your story needs to come to a clear point. If you’re pitching to decision-makers, this means you want someone to say yes to your idea. People are naturally influenced by social proof. If other people have done it or supported the idea or concept you are pitching – tell them! We don’t search for online reviews and testimonials for no reason – positive social proof makes us far more likely to take action.
3. The link: Your stories should be linked to the outcome you seek. In other words provide an actionable path to a desired outcome for our target audience.
Step 5: Take out 50 per cent
According to Colin, the most common mistake presenters make is to overpack their presentations with content. His advice? Design and plan your presentation for whatever time you have – then take out 50 per cent of the content.
It’s exactly the same concept as packing for a holiday. Most people going on an overseas trip over pack and then spend two weeks dragging around an enormous amount of excess stuff they neither use or wear. The same goes for presenting. Less is more.
So why is all of this important? Most presentations don’t fail because of a lack of good, valuable or important information. Or due to a lack of skill, intent or commitment from the person delivering. Most instead fail because the structure of that information isn’t compelling enough to hold our attention.
Like any exchange of energy – there is a formula we can replicate to get the right results. Once we break that formula down to its most simplistic components – and start consistently applying those rules to our own presentations – the impact takes care of itself.
Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or Julie’s website.