6 Steps to Confident Presenting for Leaders

Today’s guest author is Beverly Flaxington, a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), and career and business adviser. She’s the author of five business and financial books, including the award-winning, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, and her latest, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go.

By the time you get at or near the top of the food chain at your company, you’ve made hundreds of formal and informal presentations to employees, investors, managers, clients, and others. Chances are, however, that the last time you worked on your presentation skills was back in B-school.  

How effective are you, really? Do your presentations consistently motivate others to action? Are they inspiring? 

If it’s been a while since someone gave you kudos for a remarkable and moving presentation, perhaps it’s time for a mini refresher in presentation pointers for leaders. It never hurts to revisit some fundamentals. Here are six of them: 

1. Know the “why” of the presentation.

Not all presentations are appropriate for the timing or for the material presented. Often we are asked to present to someone, yet we’re not completely sure why or what the desired outcome should be. Why now? What’s the significance of this timing? Why this audience? What does the listener hope to know, and why? Why are you presenting this information at this time? Identify and outline what you hope to accomplish before you even begin. 

2. Know your audience.

In order to connect with an audience, you have to know who they are. What matters to them? What do they want out of this? What do they know and not know? It’s a common mistake for presenters to work hard on their core message without modifying that message for the particular audience. When presenting one-on-one, ask the listener to answer some questions first, such as, “What’s most important to you?” You may also say something like, “Before we start, there are six key items I’ve been asked to focus on in this presentation. Has anything changed, or do you have anything to add?” 

3. Chunk the information.

Many of us are guilty of trying to pack a lot of information and data into one continuous flow of information. Instead, look at your information and ask yourself, “What are the themes?” Organize the information into a handful of topics so you have manageable sections. Then categorize the information under each heading. When you present, your audience will be better able to take in all the information once you give them an overview of the segments you’ll cover, as in, “I have three key points.” Open and close each section so the listener knows which information they’re hearing. 

4. Provide context and make it matter.

Bring your information around to address the needs of this audience at this time. Why does this matter to them? Don’t leave it up to chance that they will understand why this information is going to benefit them. Keep asking yourself the “So what?” question. So why does this concern your audience, why does it help them, why might they need to know it? Make it clear. If you can’t give context and clarify the meaning of what you’re presenting, then that information shouldn’t be there. 

5. Know their preferred style.

Particularly in one-on-one meetings, but also in small groups, the presenter needs to listen and watch for the other person’s preferred style before he or she engages. Style is our tone of voice, our pace, the words we use, and our body language. What’s the communication style of your audience? How can you shift your approach to make the person or audience feel most comfortable? Excellent presenters use different tones, styles, and communication in response to different audiences.  

6. Bring closure.

Circle your audience back around to what you started out with as the objective. What did you want to happen—sharing of information, need for a decision on some data, the “close” of a sales process? This is where you ensure that your audience received what they need. Before you leave, reconfirm the desired outcome: “As a result of this presentation, I wanted you to understand three things”— then list the three things. “Next step, I’ve asked each member of this audience to…” Vote? Give me a business card? Buy my product? Be sure when you end the interaction, whether one-on-one or in a group, that you’ve confirmed what you hope will happen next.  

Using these six keys to presenting will enable you to stand out and be more confident and effective. A little refresher course never hurts!



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