Presenting Your Way To the Top:
How To Talk So People Will
By Karen Friedman
ever spoken to a group of people only to get a blank stare? Remember
the time someone fell asleep? Is it your subject? Or is it you?
Whether presenting one-on-one or to a group, many speakers drone on,
unaware that people are tuning them out. In today’s presentation
savvy world, it takes far more than organization to keep audience’s
attention. Business executives, who have long gotten by on expertise
alone, are realizing that knowledge is no longer enough. In order to
succeed, then need to hone their speaking skills.
delivering presentations, most executives say it’s essential for
them to be able to “hit it out of the ballpark” if they hope to take
their careers to the next level. They say a person’s ability to
present key information clearly and concisely is critical to their
credibility, and the respect they earn both internally and
even top tier managers will privately admit they are not sure how to
deliver more effective data packed presentations that contain fewer
slides and more personality. They acknowledge that their PowerPoint
driven presentations are too long, lack organization, substance,
style and sometimes fail to provide perspective, context or
direction. Sheepishly and slightly embarrassed, they divulge that
this is the way it’s always been done and they’re afraid to leave
out important information or personalize their presentations for
fear of not being taken seriously.
most communications coaches, including this one, will teach you to
craft strong opens and closes, organize material, develop powerful
messages, improve delivery and body language, you will be hard
pressed to connect with higher ups if you do not learn how to impact
them emotionally. Based on hundreds of coaching sessions and
conversations with scores of executives, we have compiled key
tactics and presentation strategies in an effort to help you advance
Out Of Your Own Way: You know your business which is why you are
delivering information. So, stop trying to jam ten pounds of
information into a two pound bag just to prove that you know your
stuff. Figure out how to appeal to their emotions. If you’re talking
technology, how will the technology save them time and money? Step
out of your shoes and into theirs to talk from their perspective and
address their concerns.
Drowning In Data: People remember impressions, not facts. They
remember how you made them feel. When we see stories about the
December’s tsunamis, we don’t remember all
of the facts. But, we’ll never forget the stories, the images and
how we felt when we saw almost indescribable pictures of death and
devastation. People will not warm to your words if you don’t appeal
to their hearts. You must support facts and information with
examples, anecdotes and visual images that leave a lasting
The Chump: It is almost inevitable that management will
interrupt your presentation to ask a question. As distressing as
this can be, they are not trying to stump you. Think of the question
as an opportunity to address their concerns and use it as a stepping
stone to reinforce key points or deliver additional information.
It’s helpful to anticipate questions and prepare answers in advance.
If you are presenting to investors to obtain financing, just giving
the numbers is not enough. You must be clear, concise and credible.
Quickly articulate what your business will provide, how the company
will make money, what you are doing to address problems, and how
your strategy will drive future profits.
Brief, But Not Boring: Senior executives are a bit like
television reporters: They want you to get to the point—and quickly.
When they ask a question, they want the facts, not long winded
answers. If they interrupt you in the middle of a slide to ask a
question, they want you to answer the question and then move on
instead of answering the question and repeating all of the
information on the slide. Often, presenters over-answer questions
from management to buy time, or because they think a brief response
may appear too simplistic. The philosophy of “less is more” still
holds true. Long answers frequently dilute messages, lack examples,
and open the door for unwanted questions.
should reinforce what you say, not serve as your script. The fewer
slides you use, the more impact you’ll have because you will be free
to look at people and engage them.
Dull It Down: Consider this scenario: A pharmaceutical company
has an opportunity to tell a New York Times reporter about a
promising medication. Instead of offering compelling case histories
and sharing impressive results, the presenter bores the reporter
with endless diagrams and medical flow charts. The story never gets
written. It is important to step away from your expertise to put the
information in perspective. Instead of tackling tactics and
strategies first, start by presenting the significance of the
problem so that the audience understands why the solution is so
Vision With Volume: When you speak, you’re on! Even if it’s a
small meeting, you want to project so your voice is strong and
authoritative. Many people who are soft spoken, and others who start
out strong, but trail off at the end of a sentence. Presenters
should visualize a person in the back of the room straining to hear
you. Speak directly to that person, in an effort to better project.
And, whenever possible, stand up to maximize the richness of your
couple of memorable business presentations where you’ve been a
member of the audience. What do you remember? What did they have in
common? Chances are these presenters were personable and energetic.
They were able to quickly cut to the chase and clearly address
audience concerns. And, while they probably rehearsed their remarks
over and over again, they probably made you feel as if they were
simply speaking off the cuff for no one else’s benefit but your own.
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