Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Win Buy-In and Make your Next Presentation a Smash Hit
by David Lim
As a domain expert, and professional speaker, I give about 65 paid presentations across the globe annually, that help shifts how people think, do and believe afterward. People who say they get stressed out about performance appraisals usually only worry about the two they will get a year. I get 65. As such, I want to share EIGHT sure-fire ways to make your next presentation a smash hit with your audience.
Typically, the CXO’s presentation is anticipated by a general corporate audience with about as much enthusiasm as a wet Monday commute to work. The usual reasons given are: “boring”, “numbers I don’t understand”, “ I couldn’t see the information on his slides” ya da ya da.
Here’s what you can do to succeed the next time you are up on the stage, giving a presentation:
1) You are the message
Sure, the slides, the contents and so on may be what is important, but people are connecting (or not) with you while you are speaking. So focus on how you are speaking. The tone and modulation of your voice can put to sleep or keep awake an audience. People don’t sit through a presentation hoping the presenter will do badly. So right away, if you have nerves, dispel these. The audience wants you to win.
2) Know the audience
It’s not about “we” or “me” but “you”. So use a lot of audience-centric languages. Is it an audience of financial experts with whom you can share in great detail various nuances of accounting processes, as well as accounting jargon? Or is it a more general audience? Work on making the numbers come alive (more on this later) and relevant to the audience. Why should they care?
3) Clarity of purpose
Why are you giving this presentation? If it is just for information sharing, you are better off giving them a handout with perhaps a 1-2 page executive summary sheet highlighting the key points. And here is possibly the biggest sin of financial experts giving presentations. They read off their slides, their backs to the audience, thereby breaking whatever little connection they had to begin with. The numbers are cut and pasted from a spreadsheet making most of those in the middle and back fo the room unable to read the numbers anyway. And worse, the audience can’t decide if they should look at you and the screen. So, be very clear about what you want to communicate, why, and why it should matter to them. Is there a call for action at the end of the presentation? So, just saying your presentation is sharing this quarter’s numbers is totally lame and a waste of man-hours. Also, consider if you should present one slide deck as a handout and a separate one altogether for the presentation. This way, you cover the details and can stay focus on presenting the key points from a mass of data and make sense out of it for the audience.
4) What and why
So, as a follow on from Point #2, you should have a clear idea of what you will be presenting and why. If you can’t find the response to a little voice in your head saying “so what?” your presentation will fail. Make it clear and relevant to the audience. Make them care.
5) Think of your aids
In most cases, some kind of presentation software like Powerpoint or Keynote might be used. Understand that these are just aids and are to help you win attention and illustrate difficult points more easily. They are NOT supposed to be a substitute for you being physically present and engaging the audience. Aids could also be a prop, something to use as an opening story. Stories are some of the best presentation aids. Stories can be compelling, suspenseful and mysterious, and the end can often be reserved until you have finished delivering the meat of the message; guaranteeing rapt attention right to the end. A prop could be a recent gadget on the market, a keepsake, or anything at all that can be woven into to your presentation’s narrative flow so as to improve it.
6) Anticipate questions
Imagine yourself as an audience member at a presentation where new wage structures are presented for the first time. You would have a lot of questions to ask, wouldn’t you? In a similar vein, look at the outcome you want to achieve, and anticipate the kind of questions that will be asked. By rehearsing a few key answers, you can deliver succinct answers and not “um” and “ah” your way through the session.
7) Maintain energy levels
In most full-day programmes, the attention quality of an audience will ebb and flow depending on the time of the day, and the quality of the speaker. I often get thrust into the “Death Slot” at conferences This is the 2 – 330pm slot where the audience has had a heavy day of presentation sessions, and perhaps a heavy lunch. And now you have to go up and deliver a presentation on “Cross-Border Tax Operations”. Imagine how you could improve their attention span by adjusting the programme content to fit certain talks at certain times of the day. My Lessons from Everest (and dozens of variations of it) is a hit in the “Death Slot” as it’s largely visual, razor-focused on what my buyer wants to achieve with the group, plenty of relevant humor, and has a strong call for action at the end. I have ‘saved’ countless meetings’ by keeping the attention and engagement flowing strongly – until the next speaker.
8) Check if you can say what you want to say
As the CXO, your words and comments can affect stock prices and analysts’ thinking. Check with compliance and legal if you can touch on certain market-sensitive topics before heading to the stage.
It’s unsaid in this article, but consider practicing your speech beforehand. Practice does not make perfect It just makes you better. So remember, you’re looking for success, not perfection.