Presentations and Communication

8 Ways to Inspire Your Audience

We all know that the goal of a presentation isn’t to do a “data-dump” and just present the facts. Our goal is to convert information into inspiration so the audience will take action. Is it time to inspire your audience?

Chris Anderson, in his book on Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, offers 8 ways presenters can have that impact, by committing to presentation excellence for the content, organization, engagement style and delivery.  Here are the impacts you want your audience to achieve:

  • Connection: I trust this person
  • Engagement: Everything appears so exciting
  • Curiosity: I hear and see passion in the presentation and delivery
  • Understanding: the presentation, your voice, energy and physical gestures communicate it well
  • Empathy: I can tell you care
  • Conviction: I feel your determination in body language
  • Action: I want to be on your team. Sign me up!

As Chris says in the aggregate, “this is inspiration”.  We all know it when we experience it.

Are you having such impact in your presentations? How would your audience rate your presentation skills? If it’s time for some coaching, let us know!

Habits of Excellent Presenters

Reading Brendon Burchard’s most recent book, High Performance Habits, made me think about the habits developed by excellent presenters. For over two decades, we’ve served over 5000 clients who’ve presented on investment, fund-raising, marketing, sales, management and other issues. More recently, we focus on senior executives whose presentations are focused on closing large and important deals for companies involved with M&A, VC, Private Equity, etc.

Based on this experience, we see that excellent presenters develop the following five habits:

  • Competence: They immerse themselves in the material so they can build a Compelling Message. They know that “data dumps” and “long-winded wordiness” are distractions; short phrases, not full sentences, are presented; graphs, not tables full of numbers. They recognize that persuasive arguments are based on the right balance of logic and emotions.
  • Proactively Responsive: Meet the audience’s needs. When it comes to building a case, they do the necessary homework to understand the audience’s perspective: what’s their past experience on this topic? What are their current concerns (e.g., more logic or emotion)? Who else helps them make the decision? How will the setting affect their ability to process the information? Is the information succinct enough to get attention (from people whose attention spans often are limited) and have the desired impact?
  • Being Authentic: They immerse themselves in the material so they are presenting from a position of aligned values and self-confidence of the material. Demonstrate your sense of curiosity in learning the material and formatting the presentation for presentation excellence. Facilitate the audience’s development of trust in you.
  • Sharing: The goal isn’t to present “to” an audience, but to be part of a “community” in which they use their competence to share a story with the audience. The “field” includes presenter, audience, setting, context, message and possibility of a future relationship. They welcome questions, because it demonstrates that a relationship has been forged between the parties and enable the presenter to further demonstrate her/his expertise.
  • Practice: They recognize that everyone is nervous about presenting, with the only real question being how to channel it? By practicing the art of persuasive communication they harness nervous energy to make the presentation exciting, as opposed to allowing it to become a barrier between them and the audience. Handling pace, tone, body language, etc. are key to the transfer of enthusiasm – which is the ultimate goal of a presentation.

Are you an excellent presenter? Have you had the pleasure of listening to one or more? What additional habits would you include?  Please share!

Focus on Prospects’ Need-to-Know

All too often, presenters fall in love with the “genius” idea behind their business idea – and ignore what the prospect needs-to-know. As our ADAP formula instructs, the only way to succeed is to share What’s Important Now (WIN) from the audience’s perspective (Audience-Driven, Authentic- Presentations). Over and over again, we need to help presenters get the message, because the people who are designing the presentation are focused on their “unique” idea or making sure the presentation meets the format requirements of their institution. What a shame.

This week, I met with a former client with a distinguished career in raising money for a wide-variety of companies – from start-ups to public companies focusing on M&A. His team recently developed a unique, cost-effective, risk-minimizing financial structure for creating a fund for a new business accelerator. He brought in the draft presentation, and we spent time reviewing the concept he developed. It’s impressive for its scalability capabilities for investors and investment opportunities.

When he asked for help in developing the presentation itself and its delivery, I had to disappoint him by telling him he needed to do more homework. Nowhere in the presentation were answers to the key questions that investors have, especially those focused on early stage ventures to give them confidence that the money will be invested in companies with the right market opportunity, the right customer value proposition, and right management team to execute the plan successfully.  Of course, it was too early to list specific companies; so the investor needs to have confidence that the Fund management team has current (not just past) expertise to attract a large universe of likely candidates and the ability to select a few winners based on a unique screening process. We discussed two other similar companies who had successfully accomplished what they wanted to do: both demonstrated multi-step screening processes that allowed them to sift through 1000 candidates to pick two winners. One actually raised a $100M opportunity fund, using such an ADAP presentation.

The lesson is one we see often at Presentation Excellence where clients come to us with high-stakes deals: it’s okay to fall love with your idea, so you can authentically sell it. But if you’re not audience-driven, it will not persuade the prospect. What’s your experience? Share it!

To Win: Focus on Results, not Activities.

 We have a saying in our office:  “Don’t Confuse Activities with Results”. We find it applies to so many different aspects of our work, because many of us fall back to old habits thinking that larger size papers, more hours put into a project, higher costs for a project, etc.  necessarily make it better.   It doesn’t.

As a teacher, I have countless students who graduate college and start jobs for large consulting firms, investment banks, etc.,, where interns and junior associates are encouraged to work sometimes between 12-18 hours (or even longer), because the “culture” reinforces spending time of the project rather than measuring the quality of workmanship/productivity throughout the process. These young people later confess that they feel they make more mistakes and spend more time trying to check for and correct errors, because they’re sleep-deprived and not able to think things clearly.

Recently, one such person, after several months of “killing himself” and getting little positive feedback voluntarily choose to reduce his workload slightly, in order to focus on quality of results, not just throughput. Within two weeks, he received kudos from team members for offering new perspectives and insights making the work more valuable for the client and team; these results could not have been accomplished under the old regime.

Morten Hansen arrives at the same insight in his new book Great At Work: How Top Performers Do less, work Better and Achieve More. While working at a large consulting firm for several years, he often worked as many as 80-90 hours per week. One day,  he noticed that a colleague’s presentation “contained crisper insight, more compelling ideas” and wondered why. Talent might seem like an answer, but both had similar education and experience and had been selected for skills through the same rigorous screening process. One key difference is that she worked from 8 Am to 6 PM, no nights no weekends.  Was she doing better because she worked less?

This led to lots of research including a five-year survey of 5000 managers and employees in a wide-range of industries. What differentiated highest-rank performers? Top performers mastered selectivity. Whenever they could, they carefully selected which tasks, customers, meetings, ideas to undertake and which not. They applied “intensive, targeted effort on those few priorities in order to excel….Rather than simply pile on more hours, tasks, etc., they cut back.”

The researchers discovered that “just a few key work practices related to such selectivity, accounted for two-thirds of the variation in performance about the subjects. Talent, effort and luck undoubtedly mattered as well, but not nearly as much.”

The results make two points: (1) individually, we can change our work habits to perform at a higher level and (2) the organizationally, we should change our cultures to not focus/reward those who engage the most hours in the most activities, but enable those who, within accepted standards of performance, produce the most excellence results.

What’s your experience in this area?  Have you ever tried to change such a culture? What tips do you recommend companies adopt to cha shift cultures focused on maximizing people’s activity time to ones  focused on excellence in results.

Presenting Personalized Purpose Increases Success

As Simon Sinek tells us, to motivate people you need to go beyond telling them WHAT they should do to giving them a WHY. And the WHY needs to be more than logical facts; it needs to have an emotional content for the audience.

Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, demonstrated this fact in a controlled study involving fundraisers. All of the university fundraiser were given call lists and were armed with reasons that people should donate: they’re raising funds for scholarships to help students who need them.  Some callers were able to share with the recipients a five minute story by a scholarship beneficiary. These recipients spent more than double the amount of time on the phone – but generated triple the donations as compared to the recipients who had no contact with the beneficiary’s story.

In other words, these callers had a double-emotional tool to help them with the calls: the callers were charged as they “felt” why their jobs existed and the recipients could identify with the beneficiary. In all probability, the success is synergistic 1+1=3, because they caller feels more involved in delivering the story.

This double-impact phenomenon is key to the success of many presenters. When a presenter designs a presentation to include personalized appeal – stories, graphic images, pictures and videos – two things happen: the audience connects better with the content and the presenter becomes feels more engaged with it as well. Again, a 1+1=3 synergy takes place because by taking the time to find just the right content to connect with the audience, the presenter’s authentic passion is heightened.

So don’t cut corners when delivering messages. As we discuss in our training/coaching programs, take the time to find compelling stories, pictures and quotes; your involvement in finding the right material increases your energy and power when presenting, and produces more winning results! What’s your experience in personalizing a presentation to make it more powerful?  Share with us.

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