3am and the ceiling hadn’t changed.
Herman lay there, looking up, unable to move.
Sleep-deprived. Silently panicking.
In less than 7 hours he would perform the final task in his promotion test… a presentation.
In front of a panel of executives.
Rumor had it that there were about 15 executives in the audience of each promotion test. A tough audience. With even tougher questions to ask the presenter. The price of working for a firm which avoided giving promotions and pay rises unless absolutely necessary.
It was now 3.15am and Herman had a problem.
His presentation topic was decided. He would talk about how cost-savings could be achieved in his department through increases in efficiency.
In the 2 weeks he had known about this presentation he had done zero preparation.
Herman’s job was busy. And there was always something to distract him from preparing a presentation that was days away.
Now he had nothing prepared and only hours to go.
He started to plan…
If he got out of bed by 4am, he would have time to throw some slides together. He guessed the slides would take around an hour.
At 5 o’clock he could get in some practice.
Then get ready for the office.
Piece of cake.
Seemed straightforward enough, so why was he still panicking?
Herman’s panic was because he knew he should have prepared earlier. He knew he should have been on top of things. Anything he did now would pale in comparison to a well-prepared presentation.
This was his career on the line!
What Herman doesn’t know is that he can do an excellent presentation even though he has done no preparation so far.
He needs to sit down for 30 – 60 minutes and then he’ll be good to go with an impressive delivery that will almost guarantee him that promotion.
Here are the three hacks both you and Herman can use for your next presentation…
1. Create a speech road map
The good news?… You don’t need to create a script.
And your planning and practice will be much easier without it.
Choose a destination
Before you do anything else, decide where you want to take the audience.
Maybe you want them to complete a management performance survey. Perhaps you want them to log in to a new system. You might even want them to arrange a meeting with you privately.
Whatever it is, decide where the audience will go.
If you are not sure, you can find out pretty quickly by asking yourself this question: Why am I doing this presentation?
If your answer is: Because I was asked to do it, then the question becomes: What is the goal of the person who asked you to deliver this presentation?
From this point forward you’ll use the destination as a guide for all the other planning you do.
Break your presentation into parts
Based on your knowledge of the topic it’s time to break it down.
Break it down into easy to remember chunks.
At this point you are not writing out your content, just thinking about the main talking points which will be in your presentation.
If your presentation is about improving department efficiency, like Herman’s, we might break the talking points down like this:
- The costly process we’re currently following
- How to improve and reduce the current processes
- Projected time and cost savings
Practice, practice, practice
Practice your presentation delivery.
Yes, that’s right!…
Even though you haven’t written out a script, it’s time to practice!
Practice delivering each of the talking points you listed out in the previous step.
When you are practicing, keep these points in mind:
- When you need time to think, pause and stay silent
- When you find yourself about to make a filler sound or say a filler word, pause and stay silent
- Keep your destination in mind and the words should flow in a succinct manner
- Practice until you are comfortable with the entire speech
2. Have your audience do the work for you
This is killer!
And this is how you can begin to relax more about the presentations you deliver.
Next time you have to deliver a presentation, think of it more like a discussion.
Of course, you are the main speaker and you need to deliver the goods…
You don’t have to be the only speaker.
As you move through your presentation content, start to turn it into a “discussion” by:
- Asking questions
- Eliciting audience experiences related to the topic
- Having the audience provide feedback on elements of your proposal
- Even facilitating small group discussions related to the topic
Organizing your delivery like this relieves a lot of the pressure that typically surrounds business presentations.
3. Begin with a lazy story
You’ve probably heard that you can engage and win over your audience if you tell them stories.
Trouble is, it’s hard to come up with easy-to-tell stories and, in business, who has the time?
I have awesome news for you…
You can come up with a story to introduce your presentation lickety-split!
- Take the current situation related to your presentation topic
- Take your destination (already decided above)
- Tell your audience a real story that shows why we need to move from the current situation to the destination
Seems like a lot of work? Not really.
Stories are effective when the audience can relate easily. Most likely you are all from the same business, right? At least in the same field?
Tell the audience about a challenge you had which illustrates why we need to move from point 1 to point 2 (above).
Let’s use Herman as an example again. We will open Herman’s presentation with a story:
“Last week I got a call from accounts. Janice requested that I get in contact with our travelling salesrep, Jack Kennedy. She asked me to confirm the totals on his last three months’ sales reports. This is something I could do myself in a couple of minutes, but we have a ‘process.’ Following this process, I filled out a contact request form and interrupted Mary, who sits next to me. I ask her to process the request. Mary stops what she is doing, prioritizes the request and returns to her more urgent tasks. Over the next few days I fight with Janice from accounting about why I haven’t given her a response yet. Shortly thereafter Mary emails me Jack’s confirmed reports. I then call Janice back, apologize for my shortness with her earlier, and give her the figures. Three people’s time wasted over a period of days which could be solved if I was able to simply pick up the phone and call Jack. Today I’d like to go over my process improvements and how it will help us save time and money.”
The great things about this story?
It engages the audience, it’s make a promise which will likely keep them engaged throughout, and it build you up as a presenter… It humanizes you and establishes your credibility to talk about the subject matter as an expert.
What do you think? What’s your experience? Let’s chat in the comments below…