I was asked to summarize a talk I gave in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. So here goes!
There’s lots of angst when it comes to giving presentations. I often compare it to going to the dentist. The thought of it is often worse than the actual visit! We tend to take small amounts of anxiety and blow them up into much more mental trauma than they deserve.
We tend to concentrate on our upcoming performance first, without thinking about what we’re going to say. Or worse still, we call up the art department and book them for visuals before we’ve thought through what we’re actually going to use.
Well, here’s my take:
If your message is right, you truly believe in it, and you’re passionate about it, then your performance will take care of itself.
In this article, I’m going to talk about three things. How to break through the clutter with your opening, the importance of emotion in connecting with your audience, and the role of PowerPoint … or Keynote, if you’re on the Mac.
FIRST – THE OPENING
That brings us to the opening – arguably, the most important part of your presentation. Because if you don’t connect with your audience then, there’s a good chance you never will.
Here’s the structure I recommend: Problem … Solution … Why.
It’s simple, it focuses your audience’s attention, and does a number of other things I’ll explain below. But, you have to take the time to really understand your audience and what their concerns are. It may mean uncovering any “elephants in the room” – the underlying problem that nobody’s talking about.
Here’s why you want to start your presentation with the problem:
- It puts you on the same page as your audience. Now, you both know you’re there for the same reason. Your audience now knows that you know what’s bothering them.
- It puts you on the same side as your audience. The problem becomes the third party in the room. You and your audience can now look at it objectively (you’re no longer selling something to them – you’re suddenly become a consultant, a member of the team).
- It tells them instantly what you’re going to talk about.
- It signals that their issue is really important to you by putting it right up front.
- It gives you instant credibility. You’ve “done your homework.”
- It makes sure the decision-maker (who sometimes leaves early for another meeting) hears the really important information … the problem AND the solution. They can pick up on the “whys” later, if they need to.
People in business are too busy for a long story – they don’t have time to wait for the punchline. It’s the same with email … presentations … conversations … the structure is always the same.
This is one of the most important presentation tips I can give you. If your structure is strong and persuasive, you’ll feel way more confident, and your performance will show it!
Point #2 coming in the next blog.