Even for outgoing, highly-skilled executives, making presentations can be anxiety-producing. After all, numerous studies have shown that public speaking ranks among Americans’ top fears—including illness, flying and even death. However, this anxiety does recede with experience, and most importantly, with preparation.
Having done countless presentations in my career (with the scariest being to my daughter’s preschool class and an audience of 4 year olds!), I’ve realized that being prepared starts with having confidence in the effectiveness of your presentation. To help myself, I structured a variety of simple steps that may also help you structure your presentations to be compelling and powerful.
By following my few simple rules, you’ll be more likely to win your audience over, without even breaking a sweat:
1. Build rapport with your audience.
It’s an old but true adage—people do business with people they like. That’s why so many presenters start off their narrative with a joke or humorous story. This is essential because you want people to see you as a real person and not just a face next to a PowerPoint slide. Of course, it’s also important to know your audience to ensure that your anecdote is relatable, appropriate and above all—not offensive. Part of that rapport should include engaging the audience along the way with show of hands, Q&A, or reference audience members that you may know.
2. Establish your credibility up front.
Without being long-winded, make sure that your audience understands your expertise/experience as it relates to their own core issues.
3. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
A brief overview will suffice in this area. You will want to simply set expectations by describing what is going to be discussed (and your purpose) up front. I like to share with the audience what I am hoping that they will get out of the presentation upfront. It sets the stage to allow me to refer to it throughout.
4. Address their unique problem(s) and then move into the solution.
We’ve all seen presentations where the primary focus is on the presenter’s unique offerings and there is little detail tailored to the audience. This is the easiest way to lose your listeners. You will need to set the stage with some background information, but most of your presentation should zero-in on your audience’s specific issues and then how your solution can address them. It’s about them, not you!
5. Keep it simple.
This applies to both your presentation slides and your talking points. Simple is memorable. But it can be surprisingly difficult to communicate this way, especially if you are discussing complicated offerings such as technology. Many of us are tempted to show the audience how complex (and therefore amazing) our solutions are. But the truth is, your audience is filled with people who are looking for simple advantages—ease of use, flexibility— things that help their company succeed while making their job easier. Just a few talking points per slide should be more than enough to tell your story and address key benefits.
6. Tell them what you’ve told them.
Statistics show that retention levels from presentations are about 10%. A brief review goes a long way in helping to make sure that your key takeaways are taken away.
7. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want.
Most types of presentations—especially sales presentations—come with an “ask.” You may be asking for business, for information, or for the audience to take a specific action. This can be difficult for all but the most extroverted people, but it’s a key element of an effective presentation. It’s perfectly appropriate to be clear about you want as long as you support your request with information about the advantages of this approach. In fact, being direct will help you build trust because people will feel that you are being honest and up-front.
With practice and thoughtful planning around these issues, you can make your next presentation both persuasive and memorable by using these 7 simple steps.
Here's to new beginnings and making improvements in 2017!
Founder | Start-up Entrepreneur | Company Culture Creator | Executive Leader
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