Today we will be discussing the ins and outs of the professional, well-executed presentation. And perhaps most importantly: an engaging presentation. The facts have been in for a while, and the results are more than a bit grim. Shufflrr, a presentation software company, conducted a wide-spread survey of over 1,500 professionals and their behavior during presentations. Between 25% falling into a dead sleep, and 1 in 12 admitting to browsing dating apps during company presentations, the picture is quite clear.
This isn’t simply an issue of engaging personalities and motivation, however. Poorly executed presentations are incredibly wasteful; costing companies money, time, and perhaps most importantly: missed opportunities. Never has this been truer, than in an age of flourishing start ups and innovative entrepreneurship. In this framework, a boring presentation could well cost an individual the momentum and funding they require to get off the ground.
So the question stands: how can an organization, small or large, ensure that presentations are connective, powerful, and engaging? The remainder of this article will be taking insight and business acumen from James Ontra, CEO of Shufflrr, to work toward a solid answer.
First of all, strategy is vital. This means seeing a presentation not simply as a stand-alone exercise, but as a part of a larger picture; that larger picture being the organization’s overall marketing efforts. Sometimes, this means thinking outside of the box and stepping away from a two dimensional perspective. For instance, instead of placing your concerns on the initial impact of your words and their reception, one should structure the presentation around what is desired to happen after the room has cleared. Consider:
- What is memorable?
- What is actionable?
- Have I gained the audience’s trust?
- Were clear goals established and shown to be attainable, in both the short and long term?
Ontra tells us: “If you lose them in your presentation, all your other marketing won’t make a difference. If you don’t gain trust, no matter what else [the audience] read or saw on TV, [they] would discount all of it.”
Secondly, and this may seem all too obvious but bear with us a moment: You have to know your material. “You’ve got to take a moment to know the content,” Ontra said. “If you can’t speak confidently and conversationally, people will know you’re not the expert they’re looking for.”
Just as important as having the hard facts down, is you yourself taking (and expressing) an actual interest in the material. No matter the topic, no matter how humdrum, if you can find one aspect that genuinely sparks a hint of interest in you, it will show. And you will engage.
This is not a matter of rote and memorization. This is a matter of understanding what you are trying to communicate and why. Of the ins and outs of the information you want to cover, where one keynote ends and how it flows into and supports the next. Also take some time to mentally review and prepare and questions you might expect an educated and engaged audience to ask; and don’t be afraid to roll with the ones you can’t predict—those very thoughts may be the foundation of your next material!
“If you were one-on-one in the elevator without a slide,” Ontra said, “how would you explain that slide to a person?”
To close, a few final notes of summary:
Public speaking has been ranked as among the most challenging (and outright terrifying) endeavors a great many people can face. In the business world, this is an issue that we all have to face. While it may not be as grim as a sink or swim scenario, make no mistake that careers have been made and broken against this particular rock. There are three primary aspects to public speaking, principles that are foundational and apply to us all, and are absolutely required to be effective:
These three key points are crucial. Confidence comes into play heavily, because your audience has to believe that not only is what you are saying relevant, but that you know what you’re talking about. Connection is vital as it could not matter a whit less how confident you are in your presentation if you’re speaking to a crowd of real estate investors about tidal flow and its effect on Caribbean coral reefs—you have to connect directly to your audience’s interest. Storytelling is as much an art as it is a skill, and it is among the oldest of either in mankind’s history. To weave a powerful story is to change hearts and minds.
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