How to Improve Your Presentation Skills at Work

I spoke to Tim Sanders, who has been public speaking for years to crowds of thousands. Sanders is the maverick CEO of Los Angeles tech start-up Net Minds and founder of research firm Deeper Media Incorporated. Prior to these positions, he was the Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo, as well as its Leadership Coach. He is the author of four books, including the global best seller Love Is The Killer App: How to Win Business & Influence Friends. His second book, The Likeability Factor was featured in major media from USA Today to the New York Times. His latest book, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence, is an Inc. Magazine business bestseller. In the following brief interview, Sanders talks about why people fear public speaking, how employees can become better speakers, the elements of a good speech, and more.

Dan Schawbel: Why do most people fear public speaking and what can they do about it?

Tim Sanders: Many fear public speaking because they don’t want to be the center of a group’s attention. They don’t believe they have anything special to say, and so the exposure from speaking can only lead to embarrassment. These beliefs can only be overcome by preparation. If you write a speech that you are proud of, and rehearse it a lot, you won’t experience the same fear of public speaking. That said, it’s OK to be a little nervous before giving a speech. That just means you understand the importance of the talk.

Resource: http://facebook.com/nervebreakers (Conquering Life’s Stage Fright)

Schawbel: What are some ways that employees can become better presenters at work?

Sanders: Volunteer to do it as often as possible. Lead project updates or present on behalf of your department. If you have a success story to share, contribute it at a divisional or national meeting. Don’t write your speeches in Powerpoint. Create an outline instead. After you’ve outlined your speech and filled it in with stories, facts and suggestions, create a minimal number of slides to visually support it. Ask trusted colleagues for suggestions for improvement. Over time, you’ll get a lot better.

Resource: Give Your Speech, Change the World by Nick Morgan

Schawbel: What are the elements of a compelling and successful speech?

Sanders: A great speech shares a story: Love, Hero’s Journey, Stranger In A Strange Land, Revenge/Overcoming or Coming Of Age. It’s dotted with sharp contrasts between the way things are now and the way things can be. The story engages the listener and is often peppered with the speaker’s personal experiences and unique findings. Ultimately, a great speech moves an audience to action. As you write it, ask yourself, “What can I not forget to say?”

Resource: Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Schawbel:  As an employee, how do you get the opportunity to present to other people at your company?

Sanders: Volunteer to do it, even if the audience is two. Research and rehearse, so you can deliver a moving talk. Never give a talk without a suggestion that the audience can take away.  Bring enthusiasm to your performance. Your reputation will spread quickly, and you’ll be invited to give a lot of other talks.

Schawbel: Based on your experience, what do crowds you present to react most positively to?

Sanders: Two pieces of content:

  • Surprising pieces of advice that help them overcome irritating problems. They need to be tactical, plausible and persuasively delivered. You can offer up resources, such as good books to read. You can give stop-doing-this advice, which requires proof and courage on your part. For example, I often say, “Managers should stop sending their reports emails on weekends as it invades family time and creates stress. Wait until Monday.” It’s simple, and usually provocative. You can also give keep-doing-this advice as well. I often say, “Keep mentoring others, even if you can’t measure your personal return. It’s your mentorship tendency that makes you smarter.” This validates good behavior, which is usually well received. Finally, you can give start-doing-this advice, which helps them solve the problem you’ve outlined or contribute to the initiative you’ve laid out. Make sure that any speech you give has at least one clear piece of advice. No one wants to attend an information dump.
  • Personal stories that reveal my perspective on life and or business. Our perspective is how we think the world works. When your stories vividly illustrate your point of view, you find kindred spirits in the crowd. Your personal stories need to demonstrate your decision made in the face of a problem or unique situation. It’s not the point of the story for you to be the hero or the buffoon. You are a regular person, just like your audience. Never confuse case studies with personal stories. Case studies demonstrate but personal stories involve.

Example of Tim Speaking: http://electronicdemo.com/timsanders















Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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