Success Tweet 115: Presenting to Win

I’m in the home stretch of a series of blog posts that further explain the career advice in Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less, my latest career success coach book.  I’m going to be sorry when this series is finished.  I hope you’re enjoying reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it. 
 
Success Tweets is about to go into its third printing.  That really pleases me.  It has become a greater success than I thought it would be.  You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or at Amazon.com.  Better yet, you can download it for free at www.SuccessTweets.com

Today’s career advice comes from Success Tweet 115…

Become an excellent presenter.  Careers have been made on the strength of one or two good presentations.

Darren Hardy is the Publisher of SUCCESS Magazine.  I love SUCCESS.  It is full of very useful and usable information every month.  If you aren’t already a subscriber, go to www.success.com as soon as you finish reading this post and do so.  A subscription to SUCCESS will put you on the road to the life and career success you want and deserve.

Darren also sends very informative emails to subscribers.  A while back he posted a great piece covering his best tips for delivering dynamite presentations.  He was gracious enough to allow me to repost it here…

Darren Hardy’s 10 Tips for More Compelling Presentations

1. Prepare. Nothing beats great preparation. I usually write out a presentation word for word, then I reduce it to a skeleton outline, then bullet points, then just key words on paper in case I need to quickly glance down at trigger words to guide me along, but I will rarely use the notes. Just going through the process is my process for learning the presentation.

2. Know your audience. Find out the demographic mix of the audience. Find out who the key players are so you can use their names during the presentation. Understand core aspects about their company, cause, products, ideals, etc. Understand the trends, competition and key issues that the audience faces. If they know you know who they are in the first few minutes, they will be your ally for the rest of the presentation.

3. Sell it. Not necessarily you or what you are promoting, sell your presentation. Open up with an attention getter. Imagine the format of an infomercial. Explain the grand benefits they are going to get by listening raptly to the information you are about to share.

4. Package it. Tell them what you are going to tell them (through benefits, outcomes, the difference this information will make in their lives), tell them (deliver the goods), then tell them what you told them (post-sell the benefits so they know you have just given them great value).

5. Be entertaining. Yes, you need to be informative and enlightening, but you are talking to humans—they are bored easily. If people are entertained, they are engaged and are more apt to actually listen to what you are saying.

6. Be visual. I think in pictures, so I talk in pictures. I use visual aids and talk in word pictures and metaphors. People seldom recall words, but they do remember pictures.

7. Tell stories. I am not a natural storyteller. I have to force myself to break off and tell a story, but the best speakers, lecturers and influencers the world has known were all great storytellers. Collect them and get good at telling them. BUT, make sure they are relevant to the point you are making. I dislike gratuitous storytelling for stories’ sake in a keynote. I can read a book or go to a movie for that. Make sure the story is on point.

8. Overdress. My grandmother taught me this. People look at you before they listen to you. How you show up communicates 80 percent of whether someone should (or will) listen to you or not. During the first 5 minutes people will assess you up and down and draw all sorts of conclusions. Make sure the conclusions they draw are: professional, polished, credible and sensible (at least).  Whatever you think the dress code will be dress at least one or two steps above it. There is nothing worse than being underdressed—it’s disrespectful. You are going to be onstage; people expect that you respect that position and dress UP for it.

9. Be Yourself. Don’t try to be Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins. Me? I don’t like beating on my chest and yelling, having the crowd jump up and down on their chairs, run around the stage or drop to my knee for dramatic effects. You will never see me do that; it’s not me.  My best advice for you is to be you. Be onstage as you are offstage. Be real, authentic and communicate through your true feelings and conviction—it is from that place you can be persuasive, rousing and influencing.

10. See the ‘O.’ I always spend a few minutes before each keynote visualizing the presentation and the audience response: the rapt attention, the awe-inspired looks on their faces, their laughing and having a good time, then the rousing standing ovation at the end. It helps me get into the ‘zone’ and raise my emotional energy before getting started.

Knowing your audience is Darren’s second presentation tip.  It is an important step in creating a memorable presentation that will get you noticed by the right people.  I saw a Dilbert cartoon a couple of years ago that reinforces the importance of audience analysis for creating and delivering great presentations.  Pay attention, the lesson to be learned here is some great career advice.

In the first panel, the boss says, “Dilbert is our next presenter.”  Standing in front of a screen with a PowerPoint slide projected on it Dilbert says, “Thanks for coming to my presentation.  I put in a lot of time creating it.  I hope you’ll like it and find it informative.  First, I’m going to run a little slide show and do a humorous rap to accompany it.  Then you’ll all get a chance to participate.  I’ll give you funny hats and you’ll put together some skits.  And then we’ll have fireworks in the atrium of our building.”

The last panel shows the members of the audience.  One of them says, “Can you cut it short, we allowed only three minutes for your talk.”

I know this sounds absurd, but one of my career success coach clients experienced an eerily similar situation.  His bosses’ boss asked him to prepare a presentation on what his department does.  This talk was going to be for the Executive Committee of his company – the 12 most senior people in the entire company – and this was a big company, over $20 billion in sales, so these were very important people.

He saw this as a huge opportunity – for himself and his department.  The presentation was a month in the future.  He spent most of that month working on the talk, developing about 70 nice looking slides with animation and a brief video.  There were no funny hats and fireworks, but the presentation had a lot of very cool graphics.  He practiced again and again making sure that he had it down pat.  The talk lasted about 90 minutes.

The day before he was supposed to do the talk, his bosses’ boss asked him to come to his office to do a run through of the talk to make sure that things would go smoothly the next day.  He, his boss and the big boss went into a conference room.  He hooked up his computer to the projector and began previewing his carefully thought out talk.  After about seven minutes, the big boss said, “How many more slides do you have?”

My client said, “I’m just getting started, I have about 70 slides total.”

The big boss said, “That’s way too many.  They only want a 10 minute overview of what your department does.  You need to revise your talk and cut down the number of slides.”

My client spent the rest of the day and most of the evening revising his talk, cutting out the graphics and animation.

When he and I next got together for a career success coach discussion, he was really frustrated.  He explained the situation to me and complained about the big boss.  “He never told me that all they wanted was a 10 minute overview of what we do.  I wasted a lot of time putting together this presentation.”

I said, “Did you ever ask him how long the talk should be?”

He said, “No.  I just assumed that the Executive Committee would want a very thorough understanding of what our department does.”

And that is the crux of the problem.  My client missed a really important step in developing a powerful presentation.  He did no audience analysis.  He assumed his audience would be as interested in his topic as he is. 

In this case, he failed to realize that the senior people in the company wanted a quick look at his department – not an in depth review of everything they do and how they do it.  If he had taken the time to ask the big boss a few simple questions, he wouldn’t have wasted his time developing an in depth presentation.  He didn’t really want to hear it, but this was the best career advice I could give him.

Analyzing your audience is an important first step in developing any presentation.  Here are a few simple questions you should ask and answer before you begin developing any presentation…

  • Who is my audience for this presentation?
  • Why are they there?
  • What do they want or need to get from my talk?
  • How much do they know about my topic?
  • Are they familiar with any jargon I might use?
  • What is there general attitude towards me and the information I’ll be communicating?

These questions will help you develop and deliver the kind of presentation that will meet your audience’s needs, help you shine as a presenter and get you on the road to the life and career success you want and deserve.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people are competent communicators.  Presentation skills — along with conversation and writing skills — is one of the communication skills you have to master if you want to become a life and career success.  Follow the career advice in Tweet 115 in Success Tweets.  “Become an excellent presenter.  Careers have been made on the strength of one or two good presentations.”  Audience analysis is the first step in developing a compelling presentation.  You have to understand your audience’s wants and needs before you can develop a great talk.  Take a few minutes to think about your audience before you begin developing any presentation.  If you do, you’ll be more likely to deliver a great talk that will get you noticed in a positive way and put you on the road to the career success you want and deserve.

That’s my take on the career advice in Success Tweet 115 and audience analysis for presentation success.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.

Bud

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