Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Presenting the case for Business

Bernard Salt’s recent article in Property Oz  is worth a read.  It’s  intelligent and amusing.  I agree with everything he says, except for one word. ‘Easy’.  Salt speaks from a peak position – he has  talent, profile,  and ten years experience.  Much much more than most people.  If you are pitching or reporting or presenting to a CEO, do everything he suggests, but  don’t expect it to be easy.

Have a look – I’ve linked his advice on what to do to  my advice on how to do it.

“I am pretty much on the speaking circuit these days and have been for more than a decade. I know how it’s done. Do not listen to an old fart in the office who tells you to start with a joke and to have as your first slide the ‘presentation agenda’. Do not do this. Please do not do this.

The reason why you should not do this is because it is boring. Do you understand what I am saying? I am an expert, you are not; it is boring.

Here’s what you do. You walk into the middle of the stage or the room and take a physically commanding position. If you are good enough to be addressing this group then you should stand your ground and you physically ‘own the space’.

Look at the audience, put your hands out and palms up and say “my name is such-and-such and my proposition is this”.

Then go on to say in less than 30 seconds what your proposition is. If you cannot summarise your proposition in 30 seconds then it’s true: you really are boring.

How many presentations do you think I have sat through in my 30-year business career? I cannot imagine. I do not want to imagine. And within one minute I can tell, and the audience can tell, if this is a presentation that must be endured or a presentation that is actually quite engaging and informative.

Do not read slides. Do not turn your back on the audience. Speak clearly and plainly, without jargon. Tell the CEO front and centre what you think. No bullshit. No obfuscation. No padding. Just tell him or her what you think, or the work you completed to come to your conclusion and to make your recommendation.

That reminds me. If you are presenting to an executive team on work you have completed, do not spend 20 minutes of a 60-minute slot saying what you did before you say what your conclusions are. Say up front, this is what we did, this is my conclusion, and this is what I recommend. Then backfill with the detail.

Let me acquaint you with a brutal business fact. CEOs are like sharks; they are predators. Or at least a CEO that is any good is like this. If you do not feed this shark with fact, logic and a snappy conclusion and recommendation, he/she will switch off. They might even look at their iPhone while you are presenting because you did not connect within the first minute.

The slides you use should be simple. There should be a headline to each slide which encapsulates your point. If you cannot encapsulate your point in a headline, then what is that slide doing in your presentation?

Be pleasant, smile, be confident and project warmth and knowledge. Done. Easy. ….

Much of the effectiveness of a presentation is achieved before a word is spoken. The layout of the room needs to be closed and tight. The presenter should look properly attired and groomed: middle-aged men please do up your jacket to hide your pot belly. No, I’m sorry, someone has to tell you. Hide your gut otherwise the entire audience will be captivated by the way your shirt buttons strain to hold in your stomach. Turn your shoulders to slightly off square to the room: this gives you ‘flow’ and ‘articulation’. It’s a more interesting and engaging stance than standing square to an audience.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Next time some old fart in the office tries to tell you how to present, get out this column and tell them, thank you, but you have developed your own style based around being interesting and engaging.”


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