When the stakes for effective leaders are high, smart leaders know that they need to elevate their standards for effective communication. They are operating in an environment where media channels are full of confusing and conflicting information, and lots of counterproductive noise. Already stressed by the need to adapt to the covid pandemic and the future possibilities of hybrid/virtual office options, people’s attention spans are stretched to the limits. Since the goal of a presentation is to influence the audience to take key actions well, leaders need to pay greater attention to their presentation’s level of excellence. (It’s the main reason that we resumed face-to-face coaching at Presentation Excellence.)
Alain Hunkins, in Cracking the Leadership Code, identifies communication as one of the critical areas effective leaders must master. He identifies 6 key strategies you should adopt – and we’d like to elaborate on them to help you make more effective presentations.
- Communicate with the end in mind. Presentations are NOT data-dumps that have to look good. Relying on analysts to develop the presentation or graphics department with little experience actually working with your audience, risks producing an ineffective presentation. Very few people make a final decision immediately after hearing the presentation; instead they have to present a filtered view of it to their partners, bosses, investors, etc. to get their buy-in. So the goal is to deliver a compelling message they can relay to their partners with almost the same enthusiasm as you had!
- Have a central message. What’s the point? If the goal is to have the person invest in your company, sharing generic industry facts will fail. They need to know your Competitive Advantage – why choose you over the other options that exist,and why now? You need to know the territory and why your option is unique; that makes you the ideal presenter because you are the expert and authentic.
- Create checks for understanding. A great presentation is a dialogue, even if you’re the only one public speaking. You can ask questions to make sure they understand complex issues; if not, you can watch your audience’s body language and “feel” how they are processing the information. Do they shake their heads in approval and smile, or does the brow of their heads show that they don’t?
- Own and fix the communication breakdowns. When the audience isn’t jumping to take the action you want, face the reality that you are not delivering a powerful message that’s landing correctly. Ask questions to eliminate confusion; use analogies and tell stories that increase comprehension. Extreme ownership leads to powerful persuasion.
- Make the “implicit” explicit. Our technical side uses acronyms and short-cut phrases to communicate with others. Too often we forget that the audience we’re now addressing (e.g., an investor from a different industry) may not understand something we take for granted. If the presentation includes concepts that you assume people understand, practice it with someone who lacks the background. Then, you can make changes so the “implicit” is “explicitly” understood.
- Master the medium. The use of Zoom, Teams and other virtual delivery systems, has heightened our awareness of the need to adapt the way we deliver messages powerfully to our audiences. But this was always the case. Once a client pitched a $100M deal to investors standing at a bar table for 10-15 minutes max per investor! Today, presenters use modular presentations that can be used with a variety of live and virtual media, with different time, audience and interest level interests.
How are you adjusting to the greater challenges of designing and delivering effective presentations, especially when you’re selling mission-critical ideas, services and products? If you’re not having the impact you wanted, it may be time to get feedback on how you’re handling these strategies and improve your skills. Contact us for one-on-one coaching and group training.