presentation

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!

Presentation Quality Beats Quantity

Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking that by adding more mediocre work, we can achieve better results.  Quantity does not compensate for quality. Unnecessary information is distractive and reduces the impact. Limits are often set for presentations (e.g., pages in a RFP or length of time for an investor pitch), both for the audience (less to read/listen), and to focus the presenter on understanding what’s necessary for a WINning presentation- one that’s focused on What’s (Really) Important Now). For me this issue comes up in training all the time.

3M did a study with Wharton many years ago showing that presentations with visuals increase recall as much as 5-fold. They also found that presenters were consistently rated as more interesting, professional, better prepared, etc. I explain to students that the real reason for the second finding probably has to do with the quality of workmanship that goes into finding just the right images to make a point. I know I spent lots of time sifting through different images to get just the right ones – and during this process, my mind is working on the nuances that I want to make and the implications that audiences can draw.

One result is that I focus clients on using only a limited number of slides when making Board presentation. In most cases, Boards have already seen the original presentation before the meeting; so rather than wasting everyone’s time and good will by repeating it, they highlight the key points in one or two slides and then focus the meeting on a discussion over one or two slides, and not a full presentation. Therefore, last week, to help a CEO get what he really wanted from the Board – buy-in for new strategic directions, we agreed that he would highlight the point he had already made, gain approval, and then discuss the real issue – strategic direction – with no more than three new “discussion-focused” slides.

Interestingly, Morten Hansen, tells a similar story about a presentation to a CEO in  Great At Work: How Top Performers Do less, work Better and Achieve More. He was asked to present to an executive committee on an issue, and the CEO told him to present the proposal in one slide.  He struggled to reduce the number to 15, then four, and with painstaking attention to one “color-coded, hourly calendar of the program”. As a result, the CEO and Hansen spent 45 minutes discussing the program in depth (instead of making a long winded presentation about it), and at the end the CEO “ remarked on how  productive the meeting had been!”

In sum, focus presentations on delivering quality discussions that facilitate the decisions you want made. Eliminate clutter; present what’s important for the decision’ less IS more…. And you’ll deliver a winning presentation!

What’s your experience? Share it with us.

 

Jerry Cahn, PhD,JD. is a NYC Vistage Chair & Chairman of the Presentation Excellence Group. He can be reached at 646-290-7664, jerry.cahn@presentationexcellencegroup.com & jerry.cahn@vistagechair.com.

Four Elements of a Successful Leader Development Program

At the end of last year, I reflected on how to improve the leader development services that I  provide to CEOs through Vistage Worldwide’s multi-service ecosystem (e.g., Peer Advisory Boards and Vistage Inside for executive teams, which provides), a statement in a McKinsey article (“What’s Missing in Leadership Development?” by Feser, Nielsen and Renni); August 2017) caught my attention. “There is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences… a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 Billion – are delivering disappointing results….just 10 percent said their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact.”

The authors concluded that four sets of intervention appear to matter most:

  • Contextualizing the program based on the organization’s position and strategy
  • Ensuring reach across the organization
  • Designing the program for the transfer of learning
  • Using systems reinforcement to lock in change.

Each year, I review the results of last year’s program with clients as we forge next year’s strategic goals. Are sales and profits increasing – and why or why not? Are human and capital resources being maximized, and if not what’s necessary? How is the market – changes in customers’ needs and competition – impacting on the company? Do we have a clear and executable strategy for the next year, with KPIs measuring the effectiveness of execution? What else needs to change? Are we becoming a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO)?

Apparently, our leader development programs are working. As a result of regular monthly meetings to review progress, improve through executive coaching, fresh perspectives and adoption of new tools shared by Vistage experts and CEO peers, 24/7 access to a Chair/coach and our focus on becoming a CILO, is enabling our leaders and their organizations to achieve new heights: one member’s company has quadrupled in sales and profits during the five years we’ve been working together.

Whatever leader development system you use, heed the advice of these authors, as we are.

For more information about Vistage’s potential help you and your team have a super year in 2018, feel free to contact me!  Remember, Vistage’s 21,000 leaders are in 20 countries, served by over 600 Chair/facilitators; so I can refer you to another local Chair if you’re not in NYC!

Yes, ADAP Works!

Thank you for your success stories and questions. For years, we’ve been teaching presenters how to use the ADAP formula – Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations, to produce winning presentations. Usually the focus is on the first part – how to be audience-driven. This month, people asked about Authenticity and I thought we’d discuss it.

Audience-Driven means that a presentation has to understand the audience’s full-set of needs/wants and deliver the information in a way which:

  • Acknowledges the limitations in the presentation setting (e.g., how much time will the prospect give full-attention) and conform to that reality
  • Resonates with the audience’s value system and uses power words to create enthusiasm
  • Recognizes personal and external resistances that the prospect (and her/his colleagues) may have to adopt a new framework and provide the hard data and social support to overcome them, develop trust, and facilitate acceptance
  • Advocates action which is easy to understand and doable by the prospect.

This week a major presentation was made by a client to a C-level executive at a top financial firm. The original presentation had the facts, but there was no “energy” in the presentation to motivate the prospect to take the risk or see the presenter as a “trusted advisor” with the necessary expertise to execute.  In the new presentation, the presenter adopted a framework that made it clear that their solution could align all external and internal forces to give prospect the “firepower” necessary to succeed with the complex project. Deal sealed.

We’re not always witness to an inauthentic presentation, but the nation saw an example, that’s not often so public. When the President first addressed the issues involved with what happened at the Charlottesville rally, you could tell he was speaking from his heart. When criticized for not blaming the groups advocating bigotry, he gave a speech the following day designed to address the criticism. People who watched/listened to it noted its lack of enthusiasm with a low-level cadence that accompanies reading copy written by someone else. That apparent lack of authenticity was confirmed when he volunteered to speak on the issue the next day, reinforcing the initial position and reversing the prior day’s comments. The lesson for all of us: make sure the message you deliver is one that’s authentic to you – so you present it persuasively.

Keep sharing your ADAP-related experiences. If you want to master it, attend one of our workshops (see presentationexcellence.com) or request one-on-one coaching/consulting.

What Does “Powerful” Mean?

What do we mean when we say that a presentation is powerful? It’s got great content? It was graphically engaging? The delivery was captivating to convert people to “buy” into the proposition? All of the above are true, but the most important part is whether it had IMPACT – produce the desired deal. Since the average viewer generally is not the final decision-maker, impact is determined by what happens after the presentation.

When the presentation is over, the viewer needs to be committed to taking action (based on the features mentioned), remember the key points and be able to communicate it almost as effectively as the original presenter did.

For many presenters, this is where the breakdown takes place. For instance, all necessary content is considered when preparing the presentation; but usually it’s more than the audience needs to hear and more than they can remember. WINNING means producing a presentation with What’s Important Now (WIN) only! Delete the clutter – it distracts from the core message and the ability to remember it clearly! Powerful means grabbing attention and keeping it by being succinct for quick grasping of key points in a memorable manner (e.g., “3 points”) which the listener can remember and communicate to others. Slides with too many facts and/or presenter with too many words, makes it difficult to remember the key point and easily repeat it to the final decision-makers. Further, words need to be simple and powerful for one person to communicate with others. “They had a breakthrough year, tripling sales and profits” is a memorable conclusion, you are likely to share; a whole paragraph discussing it, is not.

Similarly, charts with too many details and boring headlines (e.g., Sales History 2013-2018) that don’t telegraph the important point (“Sales are Doubling Annually, for 5 years”), don’t make it easy to tell the final decision-makers. For instance, yesterday I sat in a presentation in which a slide showed three charts side by side, with boring titles on each, so much detail that it was hard to discern the real trends, and did not use the same color line for each company when charting (e.g., IBM was blue, red and green) in the three charts. The audience spent time trying to make sense of what chart was saying, and had no ability to grasp quickly the important point to remember and communicate easily to others.

Suggestion: rehearse your presentation with someone not familiar with the information before delivering it. When finished ask them to share with you the three key takeaways. If the person gets them all, immediately, you have a Powerful Presentation. Similarly, if you do not win a deal, give take the test and see what happens. If the person can’t remember and communicate, then it’s time to master the basics of Presentation Excellence.

What’s your experience with powerful presentations? Share with us.

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