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CEO Best Practice: Presentation Skills

Executive Tools

  • Executive Summary
  • Self Assessment Checklist

Expert Practices Articles

  • The Art of Presenting
  • Delivery Skills: How to Present Like a Pro
  • Presenting in a Visual World
  • Persuasive Presentations
  • Creating Persuasive Presentations
  • Content: The Final Piece of the Puzzle
  • The ABCs of AVs
  • Improving Your Presentation Skills

Tools & Analysis

  • Mikki's Top Five Presentation Tips
  • Vistage 200 Club Presentation Tips

Book List: Presentation Skills

Request the Entire Best Practice Module: Presentation Skills

CEO Best Practice: Presentation Skills

Executive Summary

  • The Art of Presenting
  • Delivery Skills: How to Present Like a Pro
  • Presenting in a Visual World
  • Persuasive Presentations
  • Creating Persuasive Presentations
  • Content: The Final Piece of the Puzzle
  • The ABCs of AVs
  • Improving Your Presentation Skills

The Art of Presenting

The ability to communicate powerfully and effectively represents one of the most critical skills a business leader can have. The secret to becoming a world-class presenter, say Vistage speakers Jonathan Gordon, Jeff Krawitz and Tom Mucciolo, involves a two-step process. First, master the basics. Then incorporate the "intangibles" that separate the great speakers from the merely good ones.

According to Gordon, the basics include the following:

  1. Delivery involves the "how" of the presentation. It includes eye contact, voice, dress, body language and all the things you do to create perceptions in the listener's mind.
  2. Content addresses the "what" of the presentation; specifically, what you will talk about and what you will not talk about.
  3. Interaction consists of all the different ways to get your listeners involved in your presentation.

In addition to this trio of elements, Mucciolo adds a fourth one -- the visual dimension.

"We live in a visual world," he explains. "Accordingly, we need to deliver our presentations from a visual rather than a print perspective. That involves a whole array of skills including how we plan and organize the presentation, how we move about the stage, and how we design and present our visual support materials."

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Delivery Skills: How to Present Like a Pro

"As a communicator, it's essential to be believed and trusted," he states. "If the audience doesn't believe you, they won't believe what you're saying. Trust and credibility have far more to do with how you say it and a lot less to do with what you actually say."

When deciding whether to believe and/or trust you, an audience is affected by three factors:

  1. What you say -- 7%
  2. How you sound -- 38%
  3. What they see -- 55%

If you want people to believe in you and what you say, you have to look and sound confident. When it comes to connecting with the audience and creating an aura of confidence and competence, one skill stands head and shoulders above the rest -- eye contact.

Most people intuitively know how to make appropriate eye contact in one-to-one conversation. For many speakers, however, problems arise when addressing more than one person at a time. The secret to making effective eye contact in large groups, says Gordon, is to create a series of one-to-one contacts. Make eye contact with one person, hold it for three to six seconds and then move to another person. Do the same with the next person and then move on to someone else.

"The key is to move your one-to-one contacts randomly through the crowd, not up and down the rows of chairs," states Gordon. "Otherwise, you look like a robot. And don't buy into the myth that you can look over people's heads at the back wall and they will think you're looking at them. Make direct eye contact with one person at a time, hold it for at least the minimum threshold and then move on to the next person."

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Presenting in a Visual World

From a structural standpoint, the art of presenting can be broen down into three basic areas: message (what you need to say), media (visual support) and mechanics (delivery).

In business situations, most speakers do a reasonably good job with the message and mechanics. But, suggests Mucciolo, they often fall woefully short in their use of media, primarily because they think from a "print" mindset while their audience lives in a visual world.

"The metaphor of presenting has changed dramatically because we now live in a visual world," he explains. "People under the age of 40 tend to be visual creatures, which means they think in pictures and images. They prefer the big picture perspective over facts or details. To make effective presentations in a visual world, you must learn to think in a visual mode. And that starts with having a visual strategy."

According to Mucciolo, an effective visual strategy has three main components:

  1. Purpose involves your objective, the conceptual reason for giving the presentation.
  2. Movement deals with the way the audience's eyes move through the information on your visuals.
  3. Color affects mood, interest, motivation and perception. It enables you to reach inside and change something about the way your audience feels.

To make your presentations more visual, Mucciolo offers the following tips:

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Persuasive Presentations

In the business world, most presentations involve more than just the passive transfer of information; they also involve persuasion. According to Krawitz, the ability to persuade others begins with an understanding of three communication "domains":

  1. Persuasion versus information. Persuasion involves trying to get people to act on the information you communicate. It does not involve coercion, manipulation or convincing.
  2. Theatrical versus one-to-one. Successful presentations require making a one-to-one connection with each individual, regardless of the size of the audience.
  3. Formal versus casual. This domain refers to your dress, presentation style and delivery. The decision to go formal or casual depends on the audience and the unique circumstances of each presentation.

In addition, says Krawitz, every persuasive presentation contains three core elements:

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Creating Persuasive Presentations

Every presentation has three distinct sections -- the opening, the body of the talk and the closing. If you want to deliver a persuasive presentation, says Krawitz, begin with the end in mind. To develop a powerful closing, start by determining your key action items. Ask questions like:

  • What results do I want to accomplish by the end of this presentation/meeting?
  • When I finish talking, what do I want the audience to do?
  • How do I want them to think or act differently?
  • What specific action(s) do I want the audience to take?

Your answers to these questions constitute your closing. Once you have a powerful close, your next step involves tying it directly into your opening.

The main ingredient of the opening, says Krawitz, is the purpose statement, which focuses the meeting/presentation on what you want to talk about and leads to the desired action. In order to get people to take the action you want, the purpose statement needs to be audience-oriented and value-based. In other words, it must answer the question everyone in the audience is thinking -- what's in it for me?

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Content: The Final Piece of the Puzzle

The process of building your content starts with an effective communication strategy that contains three essential elements:

  1. Your position (right brain…feelings)
  2. The benefits to the audience (left brain…logic)
  3. The action/outcome you want to generate

According to Gordon, most speakers cover the benefits and the action/outcome well but give position the short shrift. What does a position sound like? Nothing more than a statement of your feelings or beliefs about the issue at hand. For example:

  • "It's absolutely essential that we move forward with these changes."
  • "We'll miss a critical opportunity if we don't implement this plan within the next 30 days."
  • "Our client is counting on us to complete this project on time and within budget."

"A position doesn't have to get any more complicated than that," explains Gordon. "However, all three elements are vital. To deliver an effective presentation, the audience must understand where you stand on the issue, what you want them to do and what's in it for them if they do it."

Before preparing your content, Gordon recommends creating a listener profile, which identifies five key points about your audience:

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The ABCs of AVs

Visual aids can add style, polish and meaning to your presentation. Or, they can make you look like an amateur. By following certain basic guidelines, say our experts, anyone can learn to use visual support materials like a pro.

  • Stay focused on the goal. Before using any visual, ask three questions: What is the purpose of my talk? What do I want to move my listeners to do? How does this visual support that goal? If a slide adds value to the listener, keep it in. Otherwise, get rid of it!
  • Keep it simple. If it takes longer than eight seconds for the audience to decipher the visual, make it simpler or get rid of it.
  • Never use your visual content for your notes. If the audience catches you reading your slides, it sends the message that you don't inherently know the material.
  • Don't surrender your territory to your visual aids. When possible, keep your projector and screen off to the side, so that you remain front and center. This allows you to stay in charge of the presentation and move about with greater ease.
  • Limit your talking while the audience is reading a slide. Give your listeners a few moments to digest the information and then start talking. Always talk to the audience and not the slide.

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Improving Your Presentation Skills

To take your presentation skills to another level, our experts recommend the following:

  • Plan ahead for the Q&A session. When possible, role play possible questions and your responses ahead of time.
  • Videotape yourself to get real-time feedback and identify specific skills/habits to work on.
  • Strive for slow, steady progress. Work on one or two habits/skills at a time. Don't try to fix everything at once
  • Always warm up before giving a talk. At least a half-hour before you go on stage warm up your voice and your body. Identify areas of stress in the body and stretch those areas.
  • Prior to speaking, avoid ice water, excess caffeine, overeating and tight clothing. These restrict the voice and sap your energy.
  • Smile. It breaks down the barriers between you and the audience and shows that you're approachable.

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