If giving presentation makes you feel like jumping off cliff, remember that there are experts who can teach you not only how to do it, but how to enjoy standing in front of an audience and letting it rip.
Doug Malouf, of DTS International Sydney, fled the room when his notes blew away at his first presentation 15 years ago. Now he is keynote presenter all over the world, with eight books on the art of dynamic speaking to his name. He has developed high-energy, interactive style aided by judicious use of technology.
“Energy, drive and enthusiasm” and “practice, practice, practice” are his instructions to the aspiring presenter. Public speaking is one of the five key competencies for today’s managers, he says. You can’t motivate the troops through email.
“I don’t appear from the clouds,” he says. He always meets and greets at the door, so that he is familiar to the audience, and he never allows them to sit waiting in an empty, quiet room where the temptation is to watch the clock. The worst thing is to be oversold before you start, so write your own introduction of no more than 30 words. The first 90 seconds are crucial. The biggest mistake is to say “My name is e”. It is boring and turns the audience off immediately.
You are selling or answering the audience’s unspoken question, “What am I doing here?”
Malouf speaks for only three minutes and then uses “structured icebreakers” in the form of humorous character surveys to loosen up his audience and get them interacting. There are no boring subjects, only boring speakers; and stories, not words, are what people want. So write your speech yourself (you cannot speak someone else’s words without being boring – think of politicians) and then tear it up, or it will sound stilted. Keep it short, no more than 20 minutes, and simple, finding the five most important things to tell.
Unspectacular practice is the key to success. Learn to speak to spot on the wall and then you can speak to anyone in the world. You never lose the fear and the tension, but you learn to control it. And trust no one. Send checklist to the venue beforehand, walk through the room to ensure that everyone can see and hear and have someone at the back of room to give you critique afterwards.
With 20 years’ experience in corporate presentations, Alex Chan, of Advantage Training, believes that control is essential to successful presentation. With several multimillion dollar deals tied up in the process, he should know.
A neutral location, such as the best room in good hotel like Auckland’s Carlton, is his preferred location for gaining control of the situation. Preparation is essential. He meets the clients the day before and hands over parking vouchers so that on the day they breeze through to stunning room with beautiful views. “You have got them then,” Chan says. He believes strongly in high impact, something to make people sit up in their seats. He gives custom-made video, 3.5in disk and copy of the proposal in document form to take away.
His second choice for location would be his own boardroom, but the client’s boardroom is bottom of the list because of the possibility of interruptions and the problems implicit in strange set-up.
Chan uses PowerPoint because it en-ables him to retain control and because it leads to competitive advantage. Initially, much of the data has to be assumed, or is fairly general. Once the clients understand what you are trying to prove with use of data, such as their assumed present and resulting profit, they will offer correction. Thus they have shared confidential data, indicating trust and willingness to work with you. PowerPoint graphs lend themselves to use of these tactics, due to the ability to change data in front of clients. PowerPoint also allows speakers to lose their notes and when selling an idea, the X factor comes when you are not tied to notes. The only forms of prompt are the bullet points on the screen and the appearance of spontaneity helps connection with the audience. The key is not to use technology as crutch. It is support mechanism and cannot replace poor presenter.
It is important to remember that content has only very small impact on the audience. Visual and aural aspects form 93 percent of the impact made.
High level selling, both internal and external, he breaks down to three points: prove there is problem, show what you are going to do about it and find solution. And do not make the classic mistake of extolling the wonders of your company – it is the last thing customers want to hear.
1. It is important to show the clients that there is an important reason for them to be there. Initially, only talk about the client.
2. Once you have established need, you can talk about your product or service for the first time. Take questions, but don’t get too technical.
3. Cost benefit analysis. You have to determine how companies get results.
Chan has two techniques for tying up the presentation and getting deal. One is to list objectives at the start, and at the end go back and tick them off in agreement with clients. Another is the walk-out technique, when he leaves the room to let them talk it over. It is judgement call, he says. You have to assess the mood is right.
Fake it till you make it
Maggie Eyre, senior manager training, Encore Communications, sister company of Consultus, has received accolades from variety of high-profile clients, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, who says, “Maggie is lively performer, who can liven up your performance. Heed her advice.” It has worked for her and many others.
A qualified teacher and professional actor, Eyre has combined her skills to train people to improve their presentation skills. Her methodology is theatre based. When she works with chief executive or politician, she simply thinks of that person as an actor and helps them to make their performance little larger than life. She employs voice tutor, make-up artist and hairdresser to help maximise the positive, but believes that the greatest impact comes from body language.
Her training is practical, experiential learning and the most important tools are the camera and video monitor that enable her clients to see their strengths and weaknesses.
“When you are presenting, you are simply story teller,” she says. You have to build trustworthy relationship with your audience and theatre techniques help, because they allow you to be more spontaneous. You need passion, enthusiasm, good diction and the courage to share yourself with an audience.
Actors prepare for five weeks, so for two-minute speech you need to prepare for two hours and for one-hour presentation for six weeks. Don’t read your speech, but write it and then get down to bullet points. As with actors, the real work starts once the book is down. Rehearse in front of colleague or friend and have technical rehearsal in the room you are going to use. If you are fully prepared, your presentation becomes fun – even for you.
“I teach how to look good, even if you are dying inside – I always say that even if you hate it, you can fake it till you make it, babe,” Eyre laughs.
According to Gerald Tapper, managing director of Rogen NZ, the current trend here and in Australia sees lot of effort going into intranet, email and other electronic communication at the expense of face-to-face contact.
Europe and North America on the other hand, are showing backlash he says. “People are seeing them as being overused and are mixing operational messages with leadership messages and it’s getting lost.” They are returning to the first and most powerful form of communication – the spoken word.
As they help business leaders with face-to-face communication, Rogen consultants know that employees want to be kept in the picture, know the context, culture and vision of the company they work for.
“The most effective way of creating this context i