Become Ace Presenter 008
Eight tips to present like an ace by Vikas Krishnamachari & P Raghuraman
Friday 7 PM. As the night was spreading its blanket across the horizon, Naresh Kumar, Zonal Sales Manager (South 1) with a leading FMCG company, was getting ready to wrap up his day. He was looking forward to the weekend and mentally running through things that he can plan with his family. Just at this moment, a mail popped on his phone. It was from his boss.
Anxiously he clicked it open. It was the agenda and plan for a national review meeting in Delhi, the following Wednesday. Scrolling through it he saw his name. 11.30 AM to 12 noon. Presentation by Naresh Kumar. As his mouth was starting to dry up and his stomach started to feel strange, his phone rang. It was his manager. “Hey Naresh? What’s up, man! Did you see the mail I just sent?. Good, good! Make sure to share the draft by Sunday evening. I want to finalize the deck for all the zones by Monday. We have to make a real impression and get what we want! All the big bosses are going to be present! We shouldn’t mess it up. OK. Bye. Have a nice weekend”.
Within minutes the TGIF “feeling of excitement” evaporated. All that remained was that funny feeling in his stomach. The mere thought of the review made him anxious and stressed. While Naresh’s zone was amongst the best- performing ones, even Naresh knows that the cause of his stress was not his performance but the presentation!!
Sounds familiar. Did you know that even Steve Jobs, one of the greatest presenters of our time, used to be up all night with butterflies in his stomach, excited and nervous about presenting in front of people. A lot of us in sales, spend sleepless nights preparing for a presentation and experience butterflies in our stomachs on the day of the meeting, as we go through our presentations. Some of us do a great job. Some of us sleepwalk through it. Some of us mess it up badly.
Let’s face it. Presenting it is an important part of any sales job today. Be it presenting internally or externally, presenting face to face or virtually, It has become necessary to master this skill. Be it monthly, quarterly, annual review, or making a case for your product or service proposal in front of a client, mastering presentation skills can take you places.
To make a start in your journey to become a good presenter, here are eight key tips to become an effective presenter.
Most of us spend a great deal of time preparing the deck with so much dazzling content, without giving much thought to the story that needs to be told. Ask yourself, what is the audience looking for? Are they only looking for all the text and data in your slides? If that is the case, you could simply mail it to them, and they can read it at their convenience.
The audience is there to listen to you. They want your interpretation of the text and data in those slides. THEY WANT YOUR STORY. Whether you are presenting your performance and growth plan, to Senior management or your proposal to your customers, or your sales plan to channel partners, the key is YOU. You are the hero and you need to tell your story to communicate your points.
A study was done at a conference where there were multiple presenters to know the retentivity of the audience on the presentation. It was found that the majority of the participants had a maximum recall for the presenter who had a story to tell.
Before you begin making the content, spend time formulating the story you want to communicate. Once it is ready in your head, put that in the deck. The story could be about your struggles, your experiences, your learning, your suggestions for improvement, and finally the outcomes you are promising.
Be it the quarterly performance of your zone or a new product launch or an idea that you are presenting to the top management or an investor or the benefits that you want your customer to realize in case they go with your proposal, weave a story line that would keep your audience glued to your presentation.
Ensure that you have a good beginning, an engaging middle, and a strong ending. Give examples and anecdotes where possible. This makes it easier for an audience to connect to what you are saying.
When presenting to any audience, understand the audience and have a clear structure and flow.
In an ideal situation, You can use the 2-3-1 principle similar to the one in writing. 2-3-1 principle means that you end your presentation with the most important part of your presentation (no 1). You start your presentation with the 2nd most important and the middle of your presentation has the rest of the supporting information.
In case you have minimal time and the decision- maker in the audience is not going to be available beyond few minutes, you can use the 1-2-3 principle. Start with the most important part, followed by the 2nd most important part, and in case the audience have more time, talk to them about the rest.
Add an agenda slide with the topics that you will cover. For the audience, that will provide a sneak peek into what is to be expected. Be flexible enough to jump to any part of the agenda depending on your audience and time available at your disposal.
A lot of us believe that in order to present, one needs to fill the slide with too much text or graphs. We can’t resist beating our drums right! Who doesn’t? On the contrary, when it comes to populating a slide, less is always more. Keep the following in perspective when making your slides:
1. The slide should have more white space: Remember, a slide is just an enabler to tell your story. If you fill the slide with the story, then the audience would be left reading it and not listening to you!
2. Have visuals instead of too much text: A picture can tell a thousand words. A presentation with visuals and less text always stands out in the minds of the audience. The Human mind has more recall for visuals than text. So, use more visuals and less text.
3. Have clean graphs and charts: When you are putting up graphs and charts, make sure that they are properly formatted. Don’t just copy the graph from excel and paste it. Make sure it is to proper scale and corroborates the story.
4. Neat and clean language: Make sure there are no grammatical and spelling mistakes. Check for typographical errors.
We all used to love three hour movies, with suspense story before the titles. We would reach theatre early to watch the news reels, trailers and the advertisements. Well, those days are gone. In the NetFlix era, people skip the intro and move straight to the main content. People want everything in concise and crisp manner. This is the key.
If you can’t tell your story in 10 slides, then your story is a convoluted one. If you look at some of the best presenters, be it Steve Jobs or Simon Sinek, they dazzle the audience with minimal slides.
In fact some experts even talk of a 5+1 slide technique.
Slide 1 – Objective of the presentation
Slide 2 - Outcome expected from the audience
Slide 3,4 and 5 – All the supporting data and information
Slide 6 (plus 1 slide) – Summary, conclusion and next steps required
All other information can be kept in back-up slides and referred to in case any of the audience is interested in it and have the time for it.
In some cases, you may have to follow the standard format given by the company. Even within that you can make it crisp and present your story in fewer slides.
Remember, the more the slides, the more disengaged the audience gets.
Practice makes a person perfect. All great orators practice their speeches before they have actually delivered it. They may improvise and add few things, depending up the audience. But most of the content would have been practiced earlier.
When you practice, you do it in privacy or amongst people you know very well. This allows you to present without pressure and in a non-crisis situation. This is a great habit to ace your presentations. It helps you perform well during the actual event.
Let’s take an example. If you throw a man who can’t swim into water, the crisis may give him the power to swim to safety. As he needs to survive, he learns few things on his own and somehow manages to swim to safety. But will he become a champion swimmer? Unlikely. Because the crude strokes that he used to save himself become fixed in his mind and will hamper his learning the ways to swim like a professional.
Hence, practicing without pressure is the best way to improve your presentation skills.
How do you wow the audience with your story?
It is the way you articulate. You don’t need to speak fluently like Shashi Tharoor. All you need to do is, speak clearly and make sense. Irrespective of the language you speak in, be sure to use the right grammar and simple words as much as possible.
Never read verbatim from the slides, unless you are making a specific point or it is part of an activity. Reading verbatim is a real put- off. It makes the audience think that you have come unprepared. The audience will disengage from you quickly.
Be humble and yet assertive on the key points you want to make. Your body language is key. Maintaining eye contact with audience, regularly scanning and covering all the people in the audience, moving gracefully in the physical space you have available and pausing for key points to sync in.
Remember, you are the Hero and not the slide deck.
We are in the midst of a pandemic where lots of presentations are happening virtually over Zoom, Teams, Google Meet etc. How do we ensure we effectively present virtually?
To become an effective virtual presenter there are three areas you need to take care:
Understanding how to use popular videoconferencing apps effectively:
Know how to share a presentation in Zoom, MS-Teams, Google Meet or CISCO Web-Ex
Know how to share the computer sound so that the participants can hear the audio clearly from the embedded videos on your slides.
Know how to use the annotation feature in case you want to dive deeper in a slide
Know how to use two screens (one shared screen and the 2nd one showing the presenter’s slide and also giving the participants view along with chat window for you to interact)
Set a background for your video that won’t be distracting people. Use your company logo or simply blur the background.
Gearing up with right tech infrastructure for your remote work desk:
A stable Internet connection, preferably a wired broadband for buffer free presenting.
A good power backup for your Wi-Fi router so that your call doesn’t disconnect.
Laptop with a good quality HD camera, digital microphone and sound capability (both the proven 3.5mm audio jack and Bluetooth option).
A good quality wired or wireless headset with mic.
You might wonder why body language is important when presenting online as only our upper body is visible to the audience. Well, your upper body can give a lot of cues. With the right techniques, you can send the right message and create a good impression. Having worked hard to prepare the presentation, you don’t want it to lose during an online presentation. So, here are few tips that can be handy
Be on video as much as possible. People will give more attention to you, when they see you rather than only hear you.
Look into the camera. Looking into the camera is a clear symbol of confidence and you will come across as someone who knows his stuff.
Smile. Smile moves your facial muscle and gets you to express your views with right emotions. It also makes the viewer become “at ease” with you.
In addition to the above, we would like to share with you some brilliant tips from Kasis Wezowski from his article “6 ways to look more confident during a presentation” published in Harvard Business Review on April 6, 2017. They are really good tips.
Use the “box” – This is a brilliant technique to keep your body language in control and send the right message. Imagine a box in front of your chest and belly. You restrict your hand movements within that box. This is also called the “Clinton box” after Bill Clinton. He used this technique effectively to convince people watching him on a screen. From a body language angle, being “in the box” provides the impression of being trustworthy and truthful.
Holding the ball – Gesturing as if you are holding a basketball between your hands is an indicator of confidence and control as if you have all the facts on your fingertips. Steve Jobs, one of the greatest presenters of our times, uses this very often.
Pyramid hands – When we are nervous, our hands often fidget, making small impatient movements. When we are confident, they are still. One way to make it still is to clasp both hands together in a pyramid. This shows that you are relaxed and not nervous.
Finally, we would like to leave you with thoughts expressed by Dale Carnegie, the greatest ever public communicator and the king of “self-help books” genre. He said “There are always three presentations for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave”.
Always strive for the one that you wish you gave and you will become an ace presenter.
Happy presenting and happy selling!