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Maxims from Mike - 3 Steps to Becoming an Effective Presenter.

Hello Leaders,

Welcome to Today. This week's Leadership and Personal Development tip embraces Presentation Skills.

Maxim: Presenting effectively is a learned skill. Master it and soar!

It's one thing to have a great vision or idea. It's another to be able to communicate it effectively and powerfully. Many great ideas are laid waste because people are often unable to present their ideas in a way for it to be heard and received by the right people. Today, I will share just a few tips on how to give an effective presentation. This will work with large audiences as well as in one on one environments. It's all about effective communication. Let's get right to it.

1. Know your material and internalize it. You must own the topic you will speak on. If you are in sales and are giving an account update, you must know everything there is to know about your customer. Know their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Act as though you are a board member. How would you advise them. Know your competition. Know your customer's competition. Know your numbers! Are sales trending up, down, or staying flat? Why? Know who the true decision makers and influencers are. Often they are not the buyers. Know your industry and the trends.

If you have an idea about improving a product or service, know the strengths and weaknesses about the current offering. Why would the new one be better, faster, or less expensive to manufacture? How long will it take to develop? Is there a demand for the new product? Is the industry expanding or contracting? Will customers pay more for it? Does it align with the strategic direction of the company? Who will benefit because of it? Who are the various stakeholders? Why is this necessary? Will it give the company a strategic advantage?

The more questions you can ask and answer effectively, the more effective your presentation will be. Senior leaders want to know that you have thoroughly thought this through. Lee Iacocca was told by a senior leader if his ideas were great, he should be able to put it in writing. In essence, he knew Iacocca was a master salesman. But putting it in writing meant he would have to have all the facts, know the risks, and present the benefits of his proposal. He could not wing it if it were in writing. Likewise, you cannot wing your presentation if you want your hearers to embrace it and make a positive decision. Don't just know about the information, KNOW IT!

This is very key. Postpone the meeting if you still have data to collect. It is better to be a tad late and prepared than to be a bit early and ill-prepared. There is a caveat. There are times when a decision needs to be made immediately. In this case, you gather the most important facts, prioritize them, and present your case based on the information you have. This is where information and intuition make a powerful combination. When pressed with questions in which you do not have an answer, it is okay to say, "I don't know. Let's find out."

You have great ideas inside of you just waiting to come out. Just learn everything you can about your chosen topic. Own it! Embrace the challenge. You will begin to see things you hadn't noticed before. Ideas will begin to stream through your consciousness. Ask questions of others who know more or have more experience than you in this area. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help. Know your material and internalize it.

2. Know your audience. It is embarrassing to present material to an audience who could not care less about what they are hearing. It is insulting to present over the heads of audiences as well as presenting significantly below their level of experience. For example, a person should not teach about accounting principles to a group of entrepreneurs who came to hear about increasing sales. It's a good message. But it's the wrong audience.

All of your messages need to be tailored to the hearers of it. Do your homework! Often, the purpose of your presentation is to convince others to take a specific action. In sales, you may want your customer to purchase products or services. Your offer should be geared towards the benefits your customer will receive. Present it in a way that fits their style. Consider these four styles.

  1. If your customer wants to hear the facts and nothing but the facts, do not bore her with flowery language making extravagant claims.

  2. If she is a bottom line person (will it solve my needs?), get to the point earlier. Do not string her along.

  3. If she is a visionary, paint a picture of how your solution fits into her picture of the future. Show how it solves the problem she is facing today.

  4. If she is more of the amiable type, show her how your solutions will make her look good in front of her colleagues and leaders. Show how the company will be pleased with the decision.

It's the same solution but presented differently depending on the audience. In the scenarios above, if you are presenting your solution to a group of people, you may have all four of the aforementioned elements in your presentation. However, focus on the element that aligns most closely to the decision maker in the group. There are several ways to determine who the decision maker is. This may be covered in a future tip or contact me directly to learn how. Bottom line... know your audience!

3. Know yourself. Be authentically you. Use your style. Sure you can spice it up a bit. But do not try to pretend to be someone else. No one can be you better than you. Use your full self to deliver your message. Your audience is as interested in you as there are in the message. Yes. The messenger matters. I have heard the same idea shared by two different people. One with limited communication skills made the comment. No one grasped it. The great communicator said the same thing and it came across as genius. All engaged! The difference was the messenger.

You too can be an effective communicator. Use the gifts the Creator has given you. We all have room for improvement. Will you put in the work to get better. Whether you are an entrepreneur, pastor, judge, superintendent, business person, etc. endeavor to become the best in your chosen field. Doing this helps you to speak with authority.

I have personally witnessed a director asking senior leadership for funding for a chosen project. The director was told to do more research and bring back additional data. This happened about three times before the funding was rejected. Another director gets his requests funded most of the time without a request for additional data. The second director has a reputation for getting things done. He presents his requests in a manner conducive to the style of the senior leader. His reputation helped to create a receptive atmosphere for his request/presentation.

As you work to be the best in your field you can develop a reputation of a person who others need to listen to when you speak. YOU are the presentation! The material is there to support you. Your preparedness shows the audience you care and respect them and their time. Rehearse your presentation. Practice in front of a mirror or friends. Record yourself visually or at least verbally. Notice any distracting behaviors such as jingling coins or keys in your pocket. Discipline yourself to become an effective presenter by working on yourself continually. Know yourself... then work to continuously improve.

A few parting comments... Simon Wooton & Terry Horne in their book Strategic Thinking would tell you this as it relates to communication:

  • People have an attention span of about 20 minutes.

  • They have the capacity to remember only 3 things.

  • Most have to be told the same things in as many ways as possible.

  • The presenter needs to use images, stories, emotions, & personal examples.

  • The presenter should prioritize the important things over the urgent things.

  • And he must answer, "what's in it for the audience?" "So what?"

As you prepare for your next presentation or communication with your leader, know your material, know your audience, and know yourself. Presentations are not difficult when we embrace these three "know" statements. Send me a note and let me know how it goes. I believe you will do just fine.

Are you ready for more success? It's yours. Go ahead and be you. Present with confidence! Follow the 3 steps to becoming an effective presenter. If you need help in this area, please contact me. Let me help bring out the best in you and/or your organization.

That's it for now. Until the next tip....

Mike Nwankwo

Founder & CEO

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