bring the energy.
your audience feeds off of you. no matter how smart your content or how pretty your slides, if you don’t bring the energy your presentation is going to be a total snooze-fest.
get excited about your topic. then, make me feel as excited as you are.
image from wikipedia, used under creative commons license
“thank you for coming out here today; i appreciate you all being here at the lincoln memorial with me.
“first i want to talk to you about abraham lincoln and his emancipation proclamation just to give you a little back story on what we’ll be talking about today. next i want to introduce the concept of ‘the bank of justice’ before moving into the urgency of now â€” why we need to act now to make a change. finally, i want to discuss my dream for the future.
“so, with that, let’s get started…”
if martin luther king, jr. started off his ‘i have a dream’ speech with that kind of introduction, in what ways do you think the impact would be different? would his speech be as famous as it is today? would we teach it to our kids in middle school? in college communication classes?
i don’t need, nor do i want, a purpose or agenda slide from you in your presentations. if there’s a specific purpose, i’m sure that i probably already know what it is. i was either sent an invite to your meeting â€” which hopefully, for both our sakes, has already mapped out the reason â€” or i found your talk whilst reading through the program list of breakout sessions at a conference.Â what i want from you is a story. i want a reason to believe in what you’re talking about.
we’ve already taken care of the purpose long before you took the stage. right now â€” with you standing in front of me â€” it’s your time to shine. it’s your time to share your story.
i want to know: what’s your dream?
i’ve come to observe that good ideas have a very short lifespan to work out.
you might have someone stay behind to ask questions after you give a presentation, have someone approach you after reading a whitepaper, have someone respond to an online posting, etc.. in all cases, though, it seems as though there’s a very short amount of time to actually do something with that attention.
if you wait too long, don’t follow up, or spend your time asking for permission you’re going to lose that person and your idea isn’t going to spread. don’t ask permission: JUST GO (and apologize later)
i recently finished up a very busy three week stretch of travel which included two industry conferences i was invited to present my wares at. both of those conferences followed a working group format with a lot of quick presentations about a lot of different topics in a very short amount of time. from working group to working group, albuquerque to monterey, one thing stayed constant: i had no idea what people were talking about.
what was worse than being stranded in denver’s airport after a redeye flight cancellation fiasco was being stranded in presentation after presentation filled with slides of information and no real message.Â for some reason, it seemed to me that people forgot a very key aspect of any presentation: a clear, understandable purpose.
there’s no doubt in my mind that those people who presented their work at these conferences are smart, talented, ambitious people. i was honestly surrounded by some brilliant people â€” leaders in their field with more certifications and degrees of higher learning than they have the wall space for.Â but knowing what you’re talking about and being able to pass that information on to others is an entirely separate matter.
it’s imperative that you reach your audience. why are they there? what’s in it for them? you have to convey what you’re talking about, where is it going, and why they should spend the next 30 minutes listening to you speak. you have to connect.
each of my presentations started off with a reason for listening ['this is going to solve these specific problems that our clients are having'], and each ended with a call to action ['this is just one example, and it's only the start. let's build on this together']. i was shocked to see just how few followed the same approach and just how many presentations i felt lost in.
we’re better than this, and there’s no shortage of resources available to help us improve.
even if you don’t give presentations in your day-to-day work, read these books or any of the hundreds of articles online devoted to making presentations better. at some point in time, the lessons you learn are going to be valuable; i promise you that.
image by sarahkim, flickr artist
i wrote not too long ago about the keys to an effective presentation. Â it’s strange how sometimes you don’t listen to your own advice, though, john… seriously.
guilty as charged.
i found myself this week in a situation where i had three briefs to deliver to three different audiences all within the span of a few short hours. Â it’s hard to ‘get up’ for those kinds of meetings, have a short break in between, and then recapture that tough mental focus again. Â (oh, and then repeat that once more for the last brief of the day) Â i was feeling confident, however (i usually do), especially since i was closing it out with the same marketing brief i had given dozens upon dozens of times already. Â but i should have known better than to take things lightly.
image by misssluluu, flickr artist
i was recently in an internal marketing meeting with one of the higher ups in the firm (when you’re a lvl 2, pretty much everyone is “higher up” than you are..), and â€” not to brag at all, but â€” i nailed it.
while i had some high esteem leaving the conference room, i thought to myself on the elevator: “gee, i sure hope to god i did nail my presentation; i’ve been giving pretty much the same brief for a year now.” Â bringing a new capability to market takes a while, and i’ve probably sold my work to both internal and external stakeholders at least once a month since i started working at booz allen last february. Â that’s certainly no short amount of practice time.
so the other day when i was giving my brief about how we came up with the idea, and how all the different pieces all come together to create a singular picture, about all of the benefits that can come from using this tool, they were the same words that i’ve said a hundred times over. Â that’s where i think the lesson comes in at:
effective presentations start with preparation.
image by csitscenter, flickr collection
i was in a meeting recently with a senior associate in my firm, and spent the vast amount of the 4 hours we had together furiously taking notes. Â unfortunately i couldn’t write as fast as he was talking, so i ended up not capturing all of the information that was there for the taking. Â for the most part, the vast majority of the time was spent discussing our earned value management capabilities at booz allen. Â we did talk some about business in general and building capabilities that can grow and expand, and it was from this discussion that my largest, boldest, “even used a highlighter on it” note came from. Â he said something to me that made a lot of sense:
always plan on success.
it’s a great quote. Â you may mistakingly take it as an inspirational message, but that’s not at all what he intended. Â it was actually meant to scare us, and remind us that we need to be prepared to succeed. Â to be successful in business, it’s not enough to have a good idea. Â even having passion and being a hard worker isn’t enough. Â when you’re trying to stand up or start up something brand new, you have to have certain things in place to handle the change in environment. Â nothing can kill a good idea quite like being unprepared to succeed. Â if you aren’t ready to expand with the business, you’ll undoubtedly experience growing pains – much like wearing a shoe that’s two sizes too small.
image by HikingArtist.com, flickr artist
my first “5 reasons..” post seemed to be fairly popular, so â€” ever the entrepreneur â€” i figured i’d capitalize on that success with my second installment. this particular list takes a look at your presentations.
if you’re a consultant like me, you live in powerpoint. you may even begin speaking in bullets. you turn everything you touch into simple, easy to read, easy to understand outlines of information.. even when it’s probably better to choose some other form of communication.
hey! we all do it (don’t lie. just fess up already). the problem is that many of us were never given the proper training, or the education that we did get on giving presentations was a bad one. so i hope that you take a look at the reasons after the jump here and make the necessary adjustments for your next presentation.