The Art of Effective Business Presentations: Some Ingredients and a Proven Recipe!
In our professional or personal lives, we are always communicating, either knowingly or unknowingly. The way we walk or talk, the way we share a glance, our voice intonations; all communicate something and convey a message. But the impact of communication matters more than ever, when we are ‘presenting with a purpose’. Whether in the corporate, NGO or political world, a leadership presentation is considered effective if it is inspires action and remains in the memory of the target audience. When key ingredients of Presentation Skills come together in the right proportion, the recipe touches our soul and serves its purpose! Business presentations provide leaders a great opportunity to enrol the audience on a task, mission or decision. Presentation skills come naturally to some people, but continuous effort put in the right direction can help one learn presentation skills. This long article shares perspectives on the key ingredients of effective business presentations, and how these skills can be acquired.
The Why and Who of your presentation
Presentation differs from other forms of communication in terms of being a one-way street. This is the reason why, before we actually touch the core topic of ‘presentation skills’, it is important to halt for a moment and ponder over the purpose of the presentation and the consumers of the presentation. Is this the right mode of communication? What is the size of the audience? Are they known or unknown? How much interactivity do we want to build in? How much time should we allocate towards building credibility? Even though work related presentations are broadly classified as ‘business presentations’, they could have very different end objectives; from motivating team members to training a team on a complex framework in a simple manner. Information (or imagination) about the audience and clarity of purpose is something one must achieve in advance, so that the presentation itself is well designed. Just as a seasoned chef chooses his spice blends based on the ultimate flavour that he or she wants to leave his consumer with, a master presenter chooses a perfect blend of structure, methods and skills to ultimately lead her/his target audience towards the objective of the presentation. The objectives could be broadly classified as:
- To Inspire
- To Inform
- To Influence
Ingredients of a high impact business presentation
Whatever is the end objective, a high impact presentation is the one which achieves or exceeds the purpose it was designed for. Inspiration, if short lived, will cause no action; Information, if not packaged well, will be partially retained; Influencing, if done without the big picture or constructive purpose, could lead to harmful decisions. In the later part of this article, we will delineate the steps towards learning or building presentation skills. But first, let us consider three ’S’ factors which make a presentation impactful.
Key Messages –
The key messages to be delivered in a presentation must be clear in the mind of the presenter. Like the index page of a book, its always useful to make a list of key messages to be delivered, so that one can fall back on this list even when interrupted, or in case of a ‘memory malfunction’. The key messages must flow from the ‘known’ to the ‘unknown’ and must end with the call or appeal to action (even if the action is just about remembering this presentation). Effective key messages contain data points, facts, evidences, references to books/articles/news etc. These can be backed up by demonstrations that make the presentation dramatic.
Effective Start and End-
Just like a painting is always presented with a frame, the presentation too, must be encapsulated within an effective start and end. Quotes/ proverbs, news, poems, short stories are quite useful as starts, where-as re-articulation of key points, summaries, proverbs, oaths, calls to action, appeals could be useful ends.
Effective ‘Bridging’ –
Bridges are short connecting sentences that must be carefully designed so that one topic flows into another. Analogies and stories make excellent bridges.
Complexity touches the brain, simplicity touches the heart. Great presenters ensure simplicity – this can be ensured in the visuals or slides by following standard rules of text, font, colours etc., but if simplicity is accomplished with the most important visual viz. the PRESENTER, it shows confidence of a different level. Choice of words, brevity of sentences, use of the correct tense, speed of speech, volume and pitch makes it simple for the audience to ‘receive’ your presentation. Simplicity builds a bond, whereas complexity, though impressive, creates distance between the presenter and the audience.
One thing to remember, is that though simple, the presentation must be grounded in context and content. Crowded slides and embedded excel sheets, are good for documentation, but without this context, create confusion rather than clarity. Poorly researched facts and data can make simplicity be seen as shallowness.
The secret to lasting impact is letting the message take over the medium often during your presentation. For this to happen, apt amount of sentiment must be blended in, be it through stories, facts, or the appeal made at the end of the presentation. The emotions and feelings generated by the presentation, create a hook in the minds of the audience for the information in the presentation.
The way towards impactful business presentations
Is presentation a science or is it an art? Honestly, its a mix of both. This is the exact reason why it needs a good mix of knowledge, skills and attitude. Now that we have some understanding of what makes a lasting and impactful business presentation, let us take a closer look at how can one actually develop the skills to deliver such a presentation :
- Discard Self-Doubt: Why me? What if I fail? How will I look? What will people say? are often blockers in our own mind. It helps to regard this as starting trouble and imagine oneself enjoying the ‘cruise’ and the ‘destination’ of the presentation. Confidence building activities can be as simple as calling your mom or your closest friend, gazing at a picture, or chanting/deep breathing just before a presentation. The key is to know what works for you, and do it every time.
- Identify your strengths: Great presenters are authentic and draw on their unique strengths. Each of us have a gift, when it comes to presentation. It’s important to find one’s own style rather than being a mimic. Very effective facial expressions or body language could be someone’s strength whereas another presenter may be very effective at adapting by reading the audience’s expressions. A presenter may have fabulous visuals, whereas another might have deep research or knowledge as his/her strength.
- Take feedback: Colleagues and friends do provide feedback, but they often end up comparing you with other presenters. If making presentations is critical to your growth, working with a coach or a trainer or someone who is trained at observation and feedback, can help build on your unique strengths. When you are aware of the competency or strength that you want to build, you can ask your friends or colleagues for specific feedback on that aspect.
- Practice to perfect : Great presenters seem so comfortable on stage, but most of them have put in hours of relentless practice to fortify themselves in a manner such that they could deal with any exigency at the moment of truth. More effort put on the strength areas, will ensure a permanent place in the memory of the audience.
- Document your experiences: While building your presentation skills, each success and failure is important. Documenting these, will make you smile and rise to the next occasion. Documentation can be done through recording, pictures or writing. It helps one spot patterns and overcome the gaps in self.
Element78 offers a 2-day intense program called “Present Perfect” that comprises basics of presentation, strength-based coaching, video -based feedback and rigorous practice. It has been a rewarding experience to work with a variety of participants and hand-hold them to the next level. As we close the topic of “Present Perfect”, we would like to gently remind our budding presenters that, when it comes to presentations, it is more useful to be ‘Present’ than to be ‘Perfect’!
If you would like to register for Present Perfect program happening on 27th and 28th January 2020 in Pune or know more about it, Kindly fill the contact form:
We are also conducting “डोर” program that through a 100-day intervention, helps women take charge of their lives. Open to women who want to make a transformation in their personal or professional life. This program will be happening on 31st Jan, 1st and 2nd Feb in Pune (Max. Batch size 12). Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more.
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