Golf is a sport I have always found expensive, unphysical, a waste of time, and something you can never perfect. If I was not going to make money at it, win at it, or perfect it, why bother? Ernie Els may not agree with my evaluation of the sport, but then, he does make money at it.
Then it occurred to me, being a professional speaker, that presenting has some similar elements to golf. You don’t need to be perfect to win. The more you do it, the better you get, and you often play against yourself, striving to improve with each game or in this case, with each presentation. The difference is a person can learn to present persuasively and make a living on the rewards of their successful presentations a lot faster than most can master the game of golf.
As a marketing professional, presenting persuasively can differentiate you, your offering and your company from the myriad of colleagues, products, services and competitors that are waiting in the wings silently hoping you’ll add a stroke.
So what can possibly interfere in the process of mastery? One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is fear itself. Fear is really just False Evidence Appearing Real. The key to dealing with fear is to embrace it, along with preparation and practice.
But with anything worth striving to achieve there are obstacles, the rough or sand traps, to overcome. During presentations there can be equipment problems, late arrivals, interruptions, noise or audience distractions…All of these barriers can be overcome with good planning and persuasive presentation delivery.
When preparing a presentation the more you know about the audience, and your equipment, the less likely these barriers will become crippling obstacles.
I am sure you have heard the mantra echoed by many experts in regards to delivering presentations – ‘It is not what you say, but how you say it.’ Although I agree with the general sentiment, I think what you say is just as important as how you say it. I believe audiences show up for the ‘what’ you say, they share it for ‘how’ you say it, which is ultimately the goal when conducting a business presentation. You want people to talk about your presentation, as discussion can leads to positive action.
What do you need to do to differentiate yourself?
- Present with intention – this includes focusing all your information and your energy on the audience.
Your intention will gain the audience’s attention.
How you will do it?
- Ignite your edgeness ™ –This is pushing your edge of your comfort zone enough that you are more engaging presenter.
How do we find our edgeness ™ in business presentations? My program, Persuasive Presentation skills that Move Minds speaks of ten planning components to a persuasive presentation, and although you can ignite your edgeness ™ in most of the components, I will focus on a few techniques that make a big impact.
- Get personal, by being personal- Start your presentation with a personal story. It needs to be relevant to the overall objective of the presentation. This is a great way to relax you and connect with your audience on an emotional level.
- Saying it is so doesn’t make it true – Use evidence in your presentation to support the claims you make, ‘we are the best’ is your opinion not a conclusion. To ignite your edgeness ™, firstly, you need to make sure you are actually providing the information that is relevant to this particular audience, not just any audience.
Secondly, many people provide facts, charts and other data to try to convince their business audiences of their point of view. Try something more engaging, like stating a case study, an anecdote, or using a provocative visual as a prompt. Again, you will gain a more emotional connection with the audience.
- People build relationships, visual aids don’t- Aids are just that: they are an aid and should not dominate the presentation. So challenge yourself and don’t use them for the beginning and the end of you presentation. Because they help retention, in business presentations they should be used. However, once or twice during your presentation type the letter ‘B’ on your keypad, this will black out the screen and put all the attention you. Being front and centre creates the perception of confidence, credibility, and control.
- Be inclusive, not exclusive – Eye contact is the most effective way to demonstrate intention. The key is who to look at, when to look at them and for how long. Ignite your edgeness ™ by talking to one person at a time. One thought, one person. Easier said than done, but whenever you have a natural pause, switch to a new pair of eyes. And please, don’t forget to look at someone.
- Gestures illustrate, so you illuminate – Are you standing in front of your audience with no personality, some personality or too much personality? Your gestures can be the key to unlock or control the energy you exude. Ignite your edgeness ™ by thinking of what you are saying and add the appropriate gesture. Gestures can be the best form of visual aid, and again, they connect you to the audience.
- Vocal variety creates vitality – If you want your message to be heard and understood, how you project, modulate, and emphasize is key. Ignite your edgeness ™ by taking the time to consider your key messages, and what you want your audience to remember. Rehearse those messages so they resonate and garner a positive response.
- Moving with purpose – It takes a real master to utilize movement with grace and purpose. The knowing where to be and when to be there can have huge impact on the tone and energy in a room. The audience is often completely unaware of your motives, yet they feel the implications. Your subtle movement will take control of the room. You need to challenge your perceptions of what is right and wrong in movement and start moving with purpose to engage each corner of the room.
- Therefore practice may not make perfect, but it will make you persuasive – You want to rehearse out loud! We all sound fluid in our heads. Rehearse beyond where you sound like a ‘presenter; to the point where you are engaging in conversation with your audience. Practice is fundamental to ensuring that you are transferring your energy to the audience – in other words, demonstrating intention.
There are a number of ways of challenging yourself to perform better in each presentation. The key is to practice, demonstrate intention by ignite your edgeness ™, and evaluate your development. Like golf, if you don’t practice, challenge yourself and evaluate your stroke, you may get lucky with a good shot now and again, but you won’t know how to repeat it. With each presentation not only will your performance improve, but also your ability to persuade will be evident in the audience’s positive reaction. Now go ignite your edgeness ™!
Action: Pick one of these skills and start practicing it in every day communications. When you get up to the front of the room, it will be a lot more comfortable to use when you want to persuade people to a positive outcome.
Ignite Excellence Inc. is launching online, influential communications programs March 2012. The first program launched will be Persuasive Presentation Skills that Move Minds. If you are interested in receiving a early-bird rate for this programs click this link Influential Communication Program(s) Inquiry. Use the following code to receive the introductory rate WE050.
Visit our other Ignite Excellence Group of initiatives’ websites with corresponding blogs.
Suzanne F Stevens – Profiling women leaders who have pushed their edge to personal or professional potential from backpack to briefcase to boardroom
Ignite Excellence Foundation – Leadership, Advocacy, Education – following donations to scholarships for women in developing countries
Wisdom Exchange TV – A forum where women will be inspired from the achievements of African women in business, education, philanthropy and politics.
You Me & We – a husbands and wife’s journey through Africa in 2011/12
Ignite Excellence Inc. – Influence, Differentiate, Engage more people and more business – a training & development company