Boring to Bravo – Presentations That Sing!

Today I want to share a new book that came my way from my friend, Kristin Arnold. Kristin is the president of the National Speakers Association and an all around fabulous woman. I had the opportunity to spend time with her at the recent NSA convention and was wowed by her not-so-traditional thoughts on the art of speaking and her just-plain practical approach to business.

Whether you’re giving a presentation to your peers, or are thinking about becoming a professional speaker or are already on that path – Kristin’s new book, Boring to Bravo, is a must read. It’s an innovative guide to ditching the gravity wrapped around the way we’ve always done presentations – helping you to take your presentation from ho hum to high-velocity!

The whole concept of speaking is changing so dramatically these days. Think about it. Twenty years ago we were using flat slides and lecturing to folks in a didactic (and often boring) way. That was what we all expected.

Today’s audiences – from our peers to a platform audience – expect so much more than PowerPoint slides and a lecture. The advent of interactive media, conversational discussions on social media and a just plain less formal society have dramatically changed the way we engage audiences. And engage we must if we want to be effective!

Boring to Bravo is the guide we all need to make our presentations sing! The book isn’t the traditional ‘how-to’ book with a step by step (and repetitive) approach. It’s a thinkers guide – stuffed with tips that can be mixed and matched so you can apply just the right ideas to make your presentation come alive.

Kristin offers 90+ practical, proven tips to improve your speaking in a format that lets you look for just the tips that are best for you and your needs. From chapters including “You are your number one visual” to “Let your natural humor shine through,” Boring to Bravo offers practical ideas that will help any speaker get out of that traditional box and take their presentation -and their audiences – to the next level. Kristin also includes inputs and advice from a wide range of professional speakers and coaches, adding even more value for her readers.

She also includes a chapter on how to “Use PowerPoint with Purpose” -which shares great ideas on how to re-energize those PowerPoint slides that have grown a bit stale. If you read nothing else in the book – this chapter will change the way you build presentations, helping you to create interactive slides and visuals that power your message and engage your audience!

This book is now my one-stop-guide for improving my own platform skills and thinking. if you’re planning on speaking – to your PTA, your peers or to a paying audience – this book should be your guide as well!

As a high stakes meeting facilitator, trainer and keynote speaker, Kristin has worked with thousands of senior executives, project managers and team leaders in Canada and the USA, challenging their traditional notions about teamwork. She is known for her concrete approach to teamwork and a treasure trove of practical concepts, tools and techniques her clients can apply immediately to see positive, substantive results.

Tips on Preparing a Successful Presentation

I still remember the first time I was asked to prepare a commercial presentation for a potential client. On the one hand I was grateful for this amazing opportunity, on the other… I was terrified! That time I had no idea where to start from, how should I prepare myself and the presentation in order to make a great impression and consequently win the contract for the company. Hundreds of successful presentations later I believe that the greatest advice on how to prepare a powerful presentation I got from Abraham Lincoln, who said “If you had eight hours to chop down a tree, spend six hours sharpening your ax”!

A successful presentation is not a coincidence. It is an art, a performance created for a unique audience. The key to success is the careful mix of your personality and the workshop tools available: words, gestures, and interpersonal skills. The presenter has to adopt the clients’ perspective and be attentive to their needs, while simultaneously striving to achieve his or her own objectives.

Start from asking yourself four basics questions that will help you to set the objectives for your presentation:

1. Who am I as a presenter?
The primary challenge for the presenter is… self-awareness. Awareness of your own strengths and abilities, as well as the shortcomings. This will allow you to adopt the method of delivery to your own, unique style. You need to feel relaxed in order to create a personal connection with your audience. Unnatural behavior greatly reduces the credibility of the message and thus, has a negative impact on the perception of the presenter and the effectiveness of the presentation.

2. Who is my audience and what arguments should I use?
Another milestone on the road to create a powerful presentation is profound knowledge of your audience. Initially, acting solely as listeners, by the final scene it’s them who take over the initiative and make the ultimate decisions. Hence it is vital to know and understand the strategic needs and expectations of your clients, to be able to address them adequately.

3. What is my goal?
For you it may be obvious, but definitely not for many of the presenters I had the pleasure to shadow during their performance! So let me just emphasize it one more time- make it very clear to yourself and to your audience what the key point and objectives of the presentation are. You don’t want to leave the meeting with a bitter feeling of unfulfilled expectations.

4. How should I build my presentation?
Simplicity and consistency of the message is always appreciated. A small number of slides, intriguing and evocative words, surprising and applicable metaphors, many examples and creative and aesthetic visuals – this is the recipe for an interesting and engaging presentation which will remain in memory of even the most demanding audience.

Presenting, although described as an art, is NOT a so-called ” art for art’s sake “. It has an explicit purpose and an individualized audience, and therefore cannot be prepared in advance and used for any occasion. Every presentation should be created as a unique masterpiece of the presenter which triggers and inspires the public!

How to Present a Business Proposal to a Client: Try Thinking Like a Theater Producer

The good news is that your business proposal has been short listed. Even better, at a client presentation, you could win the whole thing outright. Every bidder wants the opportunity to present to the client, even if it’s scary. You must demonstrate, in your own words, assisted perhaps by video, website and props, why the client should choose you over the competition. Look at it as theater. Your cast of characters has to convince the audience that, thanks to rave reviews, you deserve the job.

Like a producer, you have to figure out the best way to present to the client. Is it how you intend to execute the project, and the role you expect client staff to play? Or, if the client’s convinced you can do the job, is it about the relationship between your people and their people? Will it work? Can you be counted on to complete the project on time, or go the extra mile? If you can show how other clients have valued working with you, the project could be yours.

Many presentations I’ve been involved with, like sales meetings and product introductions, contain theatrical elements. How will this new vehicle be revealed? How will you acknowledge a great sales team and encourage even greater success next year? The client must be confident that you can deliver. After all, they’re paying for it. Before you rehearse, you identify the role each team member must play. Your job is to describe the overall picture, the flow of the presentation, and draw together the final threads. In between, your team, such as your stage director, speech writer, video producer and web designer, discuss their roles and answer any questions.

How long do you have for this presentation, and where will it be presented? Can the client provide any needed equipment, or should you bring your own? Where anything is likely to cause a problem, keep it simple. Don’t complicate things, and test that everything is working before you begin. You do not want embarrassing moments where the video fails to cut in at a critical moment. And stick to that time limit!

This is your presentation, not the client’s, so you direct it. You tell the client, at the start, what will happen and who does what; they may be shown a sales video, a website, even a live performance. But keep this in mind. This is not a read through. The client expects you to bring your business proposal alive. I’ve watched read-through presentations and they are deadly dull. It’s tough to watch client faces glaze over.

If you’ve been asked to present your proposal, try thinking of it as a theater production. Team members must know their roles and be well rehearsed. And finally you, the lead actor, must from the beginning, hook your audience and command the stage.