Presenting with Impact

As a CEO or Senior Executive, there will be many moments in your career where your success will be determined, at least in part, by your presentation skills.  Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, trying to close a big deal, speaking at a conference or inspiring your team, your vocal, verbal and non-verbal skill could make all the difference.

 

Recently, many of our members participated in a Presenting with Impact workshop with the President of Corporate Speech Consultants, Melanie Novis.  Melanie took our members through several exercises to pinpoint individual areas of improvement as well as tips that covered several areas of a presentation.  For those who couldn’t make it, here are some of Melanie’s presentation dos and don’ts:

 

First Impressions Are Everything

  • Walk in with energy
  • Before you speak, make eye contact (that’s your non-verbal hello). If you have a large audience, do a z-sweep across the room with your eyes.
  • When you say your name, pause between your first and last. A good exercise to practice this is to punch the air once at your first name, then at your last.

 

Content

  • When you start planning your presentation, ask yourself three questions:
    1. What is my purpose (To inform, persuade, or entertain?)
    2. What is my key message? (What do I want my audience to see, think & feel when I leave the room?)
    3. Who is the audience? (Tailor your content to who is in the room.)
  • Divide your talk into three sections – if you cannot do this then your presentation is too long.
  • Outline these three areas at the beginning of your presentation. That way, people know what’s ahead, what you’re going to cover and which section you’re in.
  • A strong way to kick off your presentation is by starting with a question.
  • Incorporating stories and painting a picture are both very powerful.
  • Never start or end your point with a negative – that is what people will walk away with.
  • If you have to do impromptu speaking, follow the PREW structure:
    • Point of View
    • Reason
    • Example
    • Wrap-Up
  • When you’re speaking, use connective phrases between thoughts. Alternatively, take a pause (silence is punctuation for the ears).  These are great ways to avoid “ums” and to gather your thoughts.  Remember to breathe in & out in these moments.

 

Presentation Slides

  • Don’t put all your content on the slides
  • If your bullet point exceed three lines, it is too long
  • Use font size ranging from 28-32 for the body of your content and 44-50 for headlines
  • If you’re using graphs or pie charts:
    • Don’t use three-dimensional – they’re too busy.
    • Explain to your audience what they’re looking at so they’re following with you. Otherwise, everyone will be looking at a different section
    • Don’t put red & green beside each other as many people have a red/green colour blindness. Avoid purple and blue side by side as well. 
  • Royal blue background with white font is the easiest to read.
  • San serif fonts are easier to read than serif fonts.

 

Non-Verbal Skills

  • Before you present, go to the washroom, look in the mirror and smile. Adjust anything necessary so you avoid fidgeting on stage. 
  • Make eye contact with your audience. Find a few friendly faces that you keep using.
  • When you first walk onto stage, don’t put your hands on your hips as it comes off confrontational. At first, treat your arms like coat sleeves to keep them neutral.
  • Keep hand gestures above the waist.
  • Avoid elbow lock
  • If you’re on TV, don’t use big gestures
  • If you’re on a stage, walk to either side of the stage and stay there for a minute, make eye contact with those people, then walk to the other side

 

Q&A Session

  • In the beginning of your presentation, inform your audience that there will be a Q&A period at the end. This way you can maintain your flow without interruptions.
  • If you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t pretend that you do. Say you’ll get back to them on a later date.  To help with these scenarios, write a list of 20 questions you wouldn’t want to be asked and write the answers to those.
  • If you’re asked a question with multiple parts to it, ask them to split it up. Or you can repeat it back to them.
  • If you have a person dominating this session, say you’ll be happy to speak with them at the end of the Q&A, but you want to give opportunity to other people to ask questions. It’s important that you keep control in this session.
  • For the instances when no one asks a question, come prepared with a question you’re often asked to spark some conversation.
  • At the end of the session, summarize the 3 highlights in your presentation (one sentence per point). This way, if the Q&A session has been difficult, that’s not the last thing in people’s minds.
  • Remember to walk off as strongly as you walked in.

 

Finally, when you’re practicing, record your talk and listen back to it.  This will help identify areas of improvement. While these tips do not cover every detail in a presentation, we hope that they will bring you success when preparing for your next presentation. 

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