Most of us would rather walk on hot coals than give a presentation. According to one survey, many prefer dying to getting up and speaking to a group of people. Yet with presentations, as almost all skills, the more we practice, the better we become.
Delivering effective, clear, concise communication is a necessary skill set that should be in every executive tool bag. What I taught MBA students at The Wharton School is that it won’t matter if you are the smartest person in the room if you can’t communicate your ideas.
Imagine surfing through countless cable channels and suddenly you see yourself giving a presentation to your corporate leadership team. Be honest: would you watch or curl up in the fetal position? No need to roll into a ball, because there is something you can do about it. First, ask yourself if the content of your presentation passes the water cooler test; does it add anything to the conversation? Will folks be talking about your presentation after it’s over? Is your presentation:
Give your presentation what many public speaking coaches refer to as “CPR” to avoid being a snore or a bore.
What else can you do to give your audience a reason to sit up and take notice? Be visual. Be a storyteller.
Like a good movie, presentations should unfold visually, then finish painting that picture with meaningful words and phrases. Look at the first sentence of this article: Most of us would rather walk on hot coals than give a presentation. Not exactly Ernest Hemingway, but you get the point. Reach out and grab your audience with something they can see.
Storytelling is my favorite presentation tool. And how you open–and close–is critical to presentation success. Consider opening with a personal story to capture the attention of your audience. You can–and should–connect in a honest, open and transparent exchange with your audience. Telling stories allows you to do just that.
Presentations are a little like going on stage. My advice is to perform like a preacher. Good preachers are dynamic (your husband won’t fall asleep) and engaging. Good preachers choose words carefully, they use pauses and intonation to add emphasis, and they solicit an occasional amen. Many say great presentations are akin to great acting. Yet there is a little more to it: prepare and practice being demonstrative. You are the expert, remember? Show your passion, interact with your audience and above all–no kidding–have fun.