Thursday, September 15, 2011

You -- A Successful Presenter!

Picture yourself in a business conference room. You sit calmly, ready to speak, eager to share what you know, and confident of achieving your purpose. Then you stand. Your strong and confident voice projects to the back of the room. All eyes look up from laptops and phone screens to focus on you and your compelling presentation material. Your narrative is a seamless weave of facts, examples and illustrations that keep your audience listening, questioning, and nodding. You deliver just the right number of details and words, summarize in the time allotted to you on the agenda, and sit down. You breathe deeply and smile. Sweet.

Yes, you can be an effective, polished presenter

During the coming weeks, I’ll be blogging with tips and strategies to help you become the kind of presenter pictured in that first paragraph. I define success as achieving the purpose of your presentation, with a delivery that demonstrates your confidence, expertise, and authority. 

Of course there are many types of presentations: formal speeches in front of an auditorium audience or at an international conference; informal talks given to your coworkers or customers or management team in small meeting room or via phone/video conferencing.

No matter what your venue or audience, however, the fundamentals of presenting for success remain constant: a clear purpose, knowledge of your audience, compelling narration and organizational structure, appropriate information and visuals, attention-grabbing introduction, and effective conclusion.

Why am I giving this talk?

The very first question you should ask yourself when thinking about a presentation is, “Why am I presenting?”

Wrong answers to that question include: “My manager told me to do it.” “I’m pinch-hitting* for a sick coworker.” “No one else wanted to present, so I guess it’ll have to do it.”   Those might be the reasons for why you’re standing nervously in front of a skeptical audience, but they are not your purpose.

Define your purpose by what you want to achieve. For example, your purpose may be to:
·        Inform/update
·        Instruct/train
·        Recommend action and ask for agreement/approval
·        Gain interest in and support for your strategy or methodology
·        Evaluate/Debrief

Certainly there are other reasons to give a speech, such as entertaining an audience with an after-dinner talk, or inspiring others through a church sermon.  The bulleted purposes above are business-oriented, and they are the ones you’ll most likely encounter at work.

Five business people demonstrate what success looks like

Drawing on presentations classes and coaching sessions I've conducted over many years, I’ve created composites of individuals who are charged with delivering a business presentation.  I invite you to follow their stories in the coming weeks, as they build and deliver successful presentations to achieve their purposes.  
·        Jose needs to inform his team of the data and feedback from the latest customer surveys. 
·        Sue must instruct her reports on the new safety procedures in the factory.
·        Abdul is eager to recommend to senior management a new inventory system and get approval to implement it.
·        Mei wants gain support from her manager and team to explore an exciting avenue for new research.
·        Tom has called a meeting to evaluate the successes and failures of the Grand Opening of the company’s newest store.

Next week, learn how the five employees get clarity for achieving their purposes, and practice getting clarity on your purpose for an upcoming presentation. Also, you’ll learn how to make sure your purpose is achievable and measurable.

* The idiom “pinch hit” comes from baseball, where one batter is substituted for another in order to have a chance of getting a hit. See my book, Touch All the Bases: The Culture and Idioms of America's Pastime - Baseball: Stories for Learning Useful Business Idioms (Volume 3) for many other baseball idioms used in business.

I welcome your comments and your questions on strategies for successful presentations in your business environment.  

Jolinda Osborne

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