When it comes to speaking and presenting, there is only one thing you need to know: Nothing will accelerate your career faster than developing your ability to communicate. Nothing.
It is an art form, a powerful tool, and a credential which has no peer, in business or in life.
Here are a few basic recommendations and presentation tips for everyone who would like to master the art of presenting … with impact and gusto!
- Pretend you are about to propose … to your audience.
Why is it that when we contemplate proposing marriage to someone, we immediately start making plans according to what the other person likes; how the other person thinks; from the other person’s POV? And we do so based on an intimate knowledge of that person.
When you are getting ready to present to an audience, knowing as much as you can about that audience should be your same starting point. How do they think? What are their expectations? How do they see themselves?Most importantly, knowing how what you are going to say on a topic will affect the predisposition or bias of those you will be addressing, is the real key. That’s how you are able to: 1. Anticipate resistance and 2. Preempt objections … right out of the gate if necessary.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you already know your audience without some due diligence — even if it means refreshing yourself on a group that you think is a familiar one. And don’t make assumptions about them — do that and you are playing with fire.
- Don’t be clear; be Crystal Clear about your objective.
Without a single extra word, be able to articulate your objective in one simple sentence. It sounds simple … until you sit down to do it and you discover that it is anything but, because it isn’t crystal clear in your own head.
It must be simple, single-minded, and everything you say or do must be in service of that objective, or you don’t include it. Think of the foundation for a house; the through line of a scene; the key chords to a piece of music; if the foundation for your presentation — your crystal clear objective — isn’t crystal clear, your presentation will be fatally flawed.
Avoid being the next victim of a tired old saw: “There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.” Spend the time to get it right before you start building your presentation.
- Build your argument to an inescapable conclusion – Checkmate.
Just like any brilliant Supreme Court oral argument, you want to build your case, point by point, in a logical flow that ends in checkmate — an inescapable end point that makes your POV the obvious one. My favorite methodology: use one index card per point to collect and organize your thoughts. Then organize them sequentially — left to right like an equation — slowly building to your end point.
A random collection of slides (too common a problem with presenters) has nowhere near the impact — or the power — to convince audiences, change minds, and close deals.
- Stay connected to what you are saying and to whom you are saying it.
Nothing persuades like the passion of conviction. And nothing works harder against you than any hint you are phoning it in. Understand the stakes of each presentation personally — know why the outcome is important to you, and let the audience know it too. Genuine contact, eye-to-eye, is the only way to make a meaningful connection with someone, and the only way to communicate real conviction in a visceral, human way.
- Read the faces in the room like tea leaves.
It’s called “active listening” in acting, and it’s what differentiates the great speakers: reading the faces and body language of the people in the room non-stop. Be on the lookout for expressions or body language that feel like someone is confused, uncomfortable, or lost. And don’t be afraid to press pause; to stop and ask someone if there’s a problem or a question that needs to be asked. It’s how you make it clear to an audience that you are paying attention to them.