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!

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.

A Negotiator’s Work Is Never Done!

Recently, I came across this nifty business quote: “Every job involves negotiating.”

To a seminar provider and keynote speaker specializing in best practices in negotiation and innovations in negotiation, this isn’t a revelation, but it is a good reminder of the significant role negotiation plays in our careers.

We negotiate all the time, mostly unconsciously.

Just this morning, for example, I was doing some goal setting for the day, against the backdrop of an azure Pacific Ocean.

“How many cold calls should I make?” I prompted myself, being in the midst of a business-building program.

“How many follow-ups should I make?” I wondered next.

Then I thought about what my family will be doing at the same time I’m selling away.

School is out and my brood is likely to want papa for chauffeuring or bankrolling a day of diversions.

“No avoiding that,” I mused.

All the while these thoughts and plans were percolating I was negotiating-with myself.

Any kind of prioritizing, goal setting, and time management activity is a form of bargaining. We make deals with ourselves, and with our jobs, and we do it constantly, re-calibrating what matters, what we’ll put into a given commitment to get out of it a certain amount of value, utility and pleasure.

Indeed, the entire work/life balance equation that most of us try to nuance is an ongoing negotiation, giving up a certain amount of this to get more of that.

And as we can falter in an official negotiation, for a job, a car, a house, or an education, we can also stumble when bargaining with ourselves.

(1) We can err when setting our aspiration levels. Aiming too high or too low can spell disaster in a negotiation, as can aiming not high or low enough, depending on whether we are buying or selling. Selling yourself or your products and services too low, cutting too deeply into profits, or setting them too high, scaring away buyers, can put you into the poorhouse. When negotiating your personal aspiration level, deciding “I can never make that kind of money,” even though this is a major goal, is defeatist, and you’ll probably despise yourself for settling for less out of life.

(2) I love that disclaimer to be found in most prospectuses from Wall Street. “Past performance is not a promise of future performance.” Things change, and so do we. Zen practitioners might say, “You never step into the same negotiation, twice.” Military strategists warn against “Planning for yesterday’s wars.” This means you have to press the reset button with each new day and negotiation partner. Speaking of the work/life balance, you may have decided long ago, before you entered a serious personal relationship, to put in 14-hour days or to travel 75% of the time. Will that work into the indefinite future? Something has to give.

(3) One of my elementary school teachers had a sign made to fit around the class clock: TIME PASSES: WILL YOU? I’m reminded of this by those that decide that they’re “Only going to give so much” to their employers while at work. These are the folks that avoid taking on more responsibilities while quipping, “That’s above my pay grade,” or “They don’t pay me for that.” Strictly speaking, this is correct, yet by cutting such restricted deals with their jobs some people are limiting their experiences as well as opportunities for training and promotions. They’re also diminishing their odds of being able to jump ship for a better deal. Lest you think this kind of “slow-walking” is relegated to the lowest paid ranks, study the behavior of certain multi-million dollar athletes during or after their negotiations. If they think their employers are stingy, many can’t resist seeking revenge, which typically ruins their careers. It’s almost impossible to play 20% under your potential. It’s a lot easier to give 100% all the time. By the way, if we withhold our efforts, we’ll get into the nasty habit of doing so, and then, when we want to excel, we will probably sputter because we’re out of practice.

(4) We negotiate on the job when we need to get cooperation from other people and departments. When we seek raises, recognition, and promotions, we’re obviously doing the same. Getting and keeping customers involves nonstop negotiations.

In fact, it is hard to find a time when we’re NOT negotiating, before, during, and even after work.

It might help to heighten awareness of and respect for this activity if we simply say a negotiator’s work is never done!