“They think they’re pretty good,” the executive vice president said of his team of 200 senior leaders at a Fortune 500 corporation. “They keep telling me that ‘their people’ need help in presenting dry information. But actually ALL of them need help. They get too far into the weeds. They do a data dump. They use too much jargon. They take too long to get to the point. Their charts are too busy. It’s often unclear what they’re asking us to do. Their summaries are either missing key information—or missing altogether.”
Although I listened as if hearing these indictments for the first time, the complaints are all too familiar. If I had only 5 minutes to coach presenters, here’s what I’d tell them:
1. Forget the warm-up drill as an opener. “Good morning. My name is …” does not set you apart in the line-up of presenters or the marketplace. Start with a high-impact opening that immediately engages listeners in your topic.
2. Make your information or facts tell a story. Don’t just dole out data. Turn your ideas into communication. Take a viewpoint, and shape your information persuasively to lead to a specific message. Connect with an audience to push them to action or a decision.
3. Punch key points—do not swallow them. Avoid rambling on with repetitious statements. Say it; then stop.
4. Strive for simplicity. The ability to make a complex subject understandable to the layperson is the mark of an effective communicator.
5. Never use a $100 story in a three-minute time slot to make a nickel point. Stories make your points and information memorable—but they must be shaped, edited, and delivered well. The longer the story, the better the point must be.
6. Add a touch of humor, but make it relevant to the topic and the situation. A humorous anecdote, illustration, or one-liner adds an element of class and distinction. Humor also reduces resistance and opens minds.
7. Make your presentation both a performance and a conversation. Your passion, energy, and topic make the presentation a performance. Your natural speaking style and relaxed but confident body language make it a conversation. Gestures, posture, movement, facial expression—these all either support or sabotage the impact of your content.
8. Master the monotone monster. Vary your volume, inflection, pacing, and intensity to engage listeners. Do not put people to sleep with the pitter-patter of a monotonous delivery.
9. Use silences to underscore your meaning. Pauses convey your meaning and give your audience breathing room between ideas. Without them, listeners find it difficult to distinguish between major and minor points.
10. End with a wallop, not a whimper. Never just fade away with a comment such as “That’s all I have. Any questions?” The rule of primacy and recency says that people remember best what they hear first and last. That means your opening and your closing are the points of highest impact. Craft them carefully to create the best return on your presentation.
What other tips would you add to the list?
Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books. Her work has been translated into 23 languages. Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition. National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, CNN International, NPR,Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication. Clients include 22 of the top Fortune 50 companies. www.booher.com 1-800-342-6621
- 5 Tips for Creating a Winning Presentation (inc.com)
- In Presentations, Learn to Say Less (hbr.org)
- Communication Tip of the Day: Use Humor to Raise Receptivity (booher.com)
- Presentation Skills: Do Your Webinar Slides Wow Them or Weary Them? (booher.com)
- Presentation Skills: 6 Steps to Telling a Great Story Hollywood Style (booher.com)