A friend, who was invited to speak at a local Vistage International chapter meeting, asked me for advice knowing that I am a Vistage member. He asked, “What does it take to deliver a great presentation?”
He knows I have been a spectator at nearly one hundred presentations in the last nine or ten years, at Vistage meetings and various trade shows.
I provided the following comments about presenting to an audience.
- Start with a compelling message. A presenter should never waste his/her time or the time of the audience. Know your subject matter thoroughly. You must bring a topic that will educate or enlighten the audience. If you can’t do that then why bother?
- Be an outstanding presenter. Use a tone of voice that is audible. Always be respectful. Communicate in language that everyone understands. That may sound like odd advice because one would believe that audiences today are both well-educated and smart. While that’s true, a common mistake is for a presenter to use industry-specific words or acronyms with which the audience is not familiar. Never wander from the podium or front of the room. The audience should never have to twist around to see the speaker. Speak from a “center of power.” A good presenter stands tall and uses gestures that display confidence, but is never overbearing.
- Involve the audience. Audience participation can not only drive home a point, but keeps the audience from drifting off your subject and key points.
- Provide important takeaways. There should always be nuggets of information that the audience takes with them that provides a better understanding and therefore makes the speech and message memorable.
- Educate, don’t make a sales pitch. It’s a speech, not an infomercial. Unless a speaker is invited specifically to speak about a product, and even then, the speaker’s purpose should be to educate, not to sell. Audiences have little patience for a presenter who is using the opportunity to try to sell products or services.
- Ask for feedback and follow up where appropriate. At the end of a presentation it is always a good idea to give the audience the opportunity to critique the presentation on a feedback form and to learn more. In the case of a product or service that the presenter provides, follow up may be appropriate, but only if such follow up is requested.
Skip Weisman, a workplace communication expert, offers advice to help businesses improve their communication. He says there are four fundamental characteristics of a great presenter.
- A good presenter is focused. It all starts with focus. A good presenter is focused on providing value to the audience and addressing the audience from their perspective, Weisman says. You shouldn't just highlight your expertise or knowledge; offer examples or anecdotes to connect with the audience.
- A good presenter has delivery skills.
- Delivery skills are crucial in any form of communication, especially when talking to a large group. It's important to use powerful body language, like maintaining eye contact and using open gestures, to engage with the audience and reinforce your points, Weisman says.
- A good presenter is a storyteller.
- Your audience doesn't want to be lectured. It's imperative that you speak to your audience, not at them. In this regard, a good presenter "is a great storyteller that takes the stories and connects them to learning points important to the audience based on the presentation content," Weisman says.
- 4. A good presenter is patient.
- As a speaker, it's critical to give your audience a moment to reflect on key statements, Weisman says. It can be brief, but a skilled presenter "takes a few breaths and slows down after making a key point." The speaker can also ask a reflective question to make the discussion more applicable and relatable for the audience.
When it comes to selling
- Know your product thoroughly. Customers can always see through an unprepared salesperson. Start your presentation by learning about your customer’s wants and needs to be able to drive a compelling message. Selling is not about you, your company or your product, it’s about meeting your customer’s needs. A salesperson should never waste his/her time or the time of the customer. You must educate or enlighten the customer. If you can’t do that, then why bother? You likely won’t make the sale anyway. Always ask for the sale. Know when to stop talking.
- An outstanding salesperson is an outstanding presenter. Use a tone of voice that is audible. Always be respectful. Communicate in language that the customer can understand. That may sound like odd advice because one would believe that customers today are both well-educated and smart. Don’t lose your customer in product details. A common mistake is for a salesperson to use industry specific words or acronyms with which the customer is not familiar. However, you should assume the customer knows what you know. Remember, the customer likely knows more about you and your company than you know about them. Don’t attempt to display superior knowledge on the product, because customers today research everything in advance of engaging a salesperson. Never wander from the subject or selling process. However, if you must, do so only for a few seconds and then get back to your presentation. Make eye contact when speaking with the customer. A good salesperson displays confidence, but is never overbearing.
- Involve the customer in a dialog. Customer participation can lead you into a discussion about what the customer truly wants or needs, and may uncover an area of concern.
- Provide important takeaways. There should always be company and product information left with the customer that can be referenced afterward to reinforce what was discussed. Memories are short, literature with your contact information and website address promotes a better understanding of your company, it’s products and services.
- Be a company ambassador. Informative, friendly and professional always wins over presumptive, aloof and casual. Witty remarks and jokes should be left for your buddies at the bar when your workday has ended. Always deliver a professional, informative sales presentation that gives the customer the confidence to do business with you and your company.
Whether you are presenting to an audience or a customer remember to “Do it right the first time.” An old adage fits well here, that is, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”