I recently worked with the executive director of a non-profit on a high stakes presentation. In the past she winged it, showing up ill prepared and off the cuff. This time she wanted to elevate her leadership effectiveness and presence. Together we worked to create a 5 to 7 minute presentation that would at once inspire and motivate her audience to take action.
After she presented the speech, she texted me:
“I f’ng nailed it!”
Want to feel the same way? Here are a few of the steps she took to ensure a positive outcome.
Do the Work. Winging it is not an option if you want to move your audience into action. You must take the time – on your own, with the help of a coach or colleagues, or a group like Toastmasters – to prepare and practice. Gwen spent time with me to prepare and practice and she spent time on her own. That commitment is what made her presentation a success. Ask yourself: Am I willing to do the work?
Have a clear purpose. Speaking for the sake of speaking is boring not to mention arrogant. Your audience doesn’t care about you. Before you get in front them, think about the purpose behind your presentation. Gwen wanted to elevate her leadership presence and get her audience to see themselves as ambassadors for the brand. That knowledge allowed her to create a talk that achieved both. Ask yourself: Why am I giving this presentation? What do I want for me? What do I want for my audience?
Consider your audience. Don’t just know them, take their thoughts, beliefs, and values into consideration. Gwen wanted her audience to see themselves as promoters and ambassadors for the brand. However, she was talking to a group of people who typically shy away from sales, marketing and promotion. This information allowed her to craft sentences and choose words that would resonate not repulse. Ask yourself: Who is my audience? What do they believe, value and fear? How can I alleviate some of that fear?
Challenge the status quo. This could be as simple as leaving the PowerPoint behind or as risky as playing music and encouraging your audience to dance. Remember to consider the environment, the audience, and your level of comfort to determine how much of a risk you’re willing to take. If you don’t trust yourself, you’re audience won’t trust you. Gwen challenged her status quo by sharing her story, making a very clear call to action, and including activities to get her audience thinking differently about their role. Ask yourself: How can I shake things up and challenge the status quo during my next business presentation? Do I have the courage to pull it off?
Be Engaging. There are a lot of ways to engage audiences: Ask questions, tell stories, small group interaction, get them doing something. I was lucky enough to see Gwen in action. I noticed how she adapted her speech to the audience. She asked questions, mentioned some of them by name, and ad-libbed humor based on what was happening around her. I watched the audience nod in agreement, laugh, and give Gwen their full attention. Ask yourself: How can I engage my audiences and build trust?
Presentations are complex. They require thoughtful consideration of your content and your audience. They require deliberate practice to ensure success. If you are committed to the work, then you, too, can nail your next speech or presentation.
What do you think? What are your tricks and tips for nailing a speech or presentation? What hasn’t worked?