This is part one of a two part series on presenting for leaders.
You just got a message from your manager that next week you and your team will need to make a presentation to the Leadership Team on your project’s status and panic has set in. You’ve done a good job to date avoiding giving these type of presentations, but there’s no way you can get out of this one. Just relax. I’m here to help you.
If you’re a presentation avoider, you’re missing a great opportunity for exposure to show off your team leadership skills and highlight the work of your team. You’re also in the majority with most of the population!
It’s widely known that one of the greatest fears for human beings is, you guessed it, public speaking.
What causes the fear of public speaking? There are many reasons, but the most common are:
- fear of the unknown
- fear of failure
- fear of success
- fear of rejection
I’ll never forget my first presentation many years ago. I was terrified. It was to a small group of about ten people. I truly don’t remember the topic, but I have never forgotten how it felt. (I was holding a handout and one quarter of it disintegrated into thin air because my hands were sweating so much. Oy!) Since that time, I’ve given hundreds of presentations — my largest audience was about 300 people — and I actually love to give them.
Public speaking is all a matter of “knowing your stuff.” You can accomplish that by using what I call the “Three P’s of Presentations.” If you look at your presentation like a mini project, it has three phases.
Phase one is the planning phase, phase two is the preparation phase and phase three is the presentation phase — the three P’s. Let’s take a look at them one at a time.
The Planning Phase
The first step in creating a powerful presentation is good planning. So, why plan? Just like any project, planning helps you be prepared and organized. Being prepared and organized when giving a presentation will boost your self confidence.
Okay, now what needs to be planned? First, pick your topic. The topic should be one which will meet the needs of your audience. Second, establish your presentation objective. Decide what you want your audience to walk away with. (Are you communicating information? Trying to transfer a skill? Sharing data or reports? Asking for a decision to be made?) Third, decide on the presentation structure. Your presentation needs a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to remember is to use the “Tell Em Rule.”
Tell ‘em what you are going to tell them. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you told them.
Don’t wait until the last minute and throw something together. It will show. Mark Twain said it well,”It usually takes about three weeks to create a good impromptu speech.” Make sure you set aside enough time to prepare.
Begin your planning with the end in mind. Define the outcome first. Write down the last statement you want to say as the participants leave the room. From there, create an outline that identifies your key points. As you define your presentation, keep the WIIFM strategy in mind — What’s In It For Me? — where me is the audience.
The Preparation Phase
Preparing your presentation will be fairly straight forward once you’ve done your planning. You’ll need to prepare the media, materials, logistics, and audience participation. And most importantly, YOU!
First, there’s media. The media you choose will depend on:
- your skill
- your presentation subject
- your audience
- the facilities
Use a mixture of media if possible — presentation software like PowerPoint, handouts, other audio. People are visual, so use opportunities to “show and tell” whenever possible. And remember Murphy’s Law… If something can go wrong, it will. Always have a back up plan.
At this point in preparing your presentation, you should have a good feel for what materials you will need. Make yourself a checklist so you don’t forget anything on the critical day. It’s a good idea to start your checklist when you begin planning your presentation. Add materials as you create your presentation. And, double check your materials list when you’re done.
The environment where you will be presenting is important in your preparation because it can drive what you will or will not be able to do. If at all possible, visit the presentation site prior to your presentation so you have a feel for what the room is like. At the very least, question the presentation coordinator to determine logistic specifics.
All audiences are different. Pay special attention here. The audience can make or break your presentation. Find out total number of people, background, special interests. Make sure you ask about the seating arrangement. Will there be chairs and tables? Only chairs? How will they be arranged? Plan to involve the audience by using open ended questions — What, How, Who, When. A key question to ask your manager or presentation coordinator is: What would I have to do to not be asked back?
The Presentation Phase
Your presentation’s ready, it’s time to focus on you! Rehearse your presentation. Walk through it exactly as you have it set up. Have someone video tape you if possible. Or try audio taping. At the very least, present in front of a mirror so you know what you look like.
Watch for and eliminate filler words like Um, Uh, etc. Don’t memorize your presentation. Memorize key points; you’ll be much more natural. And take time to give yourself some positive self talk. “I will do well.” “The audience loves me.” Visualize success. Dress appropriately in something that is comfortable. Channel your fear into positive energy. Be natural. When introduced, smile, walk tall and full of energy.
I know you can do it.
Do you have a presentation nightmare you can share? How about a key point that’s made you successful?