THE COM­MU­NI­CA­TOR Cre­ate talks where peo­ple say ‘you had to be there’

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

IT SHOULD be the dif­fer­ence be­tween at­tend­ing a live pre­sen­ta­tion and sim­ply be­ing handed a doc­u­ment to read. But, un­for­tu­nately, for just about ev­ery busi­ness pre­sen­ta­tion, there is no dif­fer­ence. And that’s a prob­lem. Re­cently, I trav­elled to Rome to work with three se­nior vice-pres­i­dents of a large multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion.

To tens of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees all over the world, these smart and suc­cess­ful men are re­spon­si­ble for ex­plain­ing the com­pany’s busi­ness de­vel­op­ment strate­gies to drive sales and in­crease profits.

I asked them why they thought they were flown across Europe, to Asia, to Africa to Amer­ica to per­son­ally present in­for­ma­tion that could more eas­ily and more af­ford­ably be de­liv­ered by push­ing the ‘send’ but­ton. They ad­mit­ted they had never thought of it like that be­fore.

We ex­am­ined their slide-decks. Filled with words, charts, and graphs, the slides were not aug­ment­ing the men’s pre­sen­ta­tions, they were the pre­sen­ta­tions.

Sim­i­larly, I met last week with an­other trio. This group was com­prised Amer­i­can busi­ness in­vestors.

Be­fore our meet­ing, they had emailed me a pre­sen­ta­tion they cre­ated. When I joined them in their board room, I be­gan by say­ing, “Gen­tle­men, I’ve re­viewed the deck you sent me. All 153 slides of it.”

Know­ingly, yet sheep­ishly, one of the men looked across the ta­ble at me and replied, “You think that’s too much?” “Not if you’re go­ing for quan­tity over qual­ity,” I replied.

Let’s face it. Most of you out there are work­ing too hard mak­ing your pre­sen­ta­tions. You’re for­get­ting the two ba­sic tenets of all com­mu­ni­ca­tions: Keep it hu­man. Keep it sim­ple.

it hu­man. I had lunch the other day with a client who’s a se­nior di­rec­tor of a large com­pany. He told me about a time when he and an­other di­rec­tor were at a party. They were each asked to say a few words.

The other ex­ec­u­tive stood up and pulled out a sheet of pa­per from in­side his jacket. He then pro­ceeded to look down at the pa­per — with­out look­ing up once ap­par­ently — and read off the name of ev­ery em­ployee he wanted to thank. Af­ter he fin­ished, he put the pa­per back in his pocket and sat down.

Then it was my client’s turn to speak. He started off by ad­mit­ting to ev­ery­one that he hadn’t pre­pared a list and that he might for­get to name someone. In­stead, he told a cou­ple of per­sonal sto­ries about what it meant to him to work with such a great team.

Af­ter­wards, some as­so­ciates came up to my client and told him how much more they were touched by what he had said than by what the other di­rec­tor had said.

My client was sur­prised by this. But I haz­arded a guess as to why by of­fer­ing up that old say­ing: “Peo­ple don’t re­mem­ber what you say as much as they re­mem­ber how you make them feel.”

I’m not sug­gest­ing here that you shouldn’t pre­pare. But if you pre­pare and leave try­ing to gen­uinely con­nect on a per­sonal level out of your pre­sen­ta­tion, you can ex­pect to leave your au­di­ence as cold as you were.

Bet­ter to sac­ri­fice a point then sac­ri­fice a heart­felt, per­sonal story. Re­mem­ber, peo­ple make de­ci­sions based on emo­tions first and back them up with data. Emo­tion al­ways wins.

it sim­ple. An­other client I worked with this week was pre­par­ing slides to present as part of an in­ter­view for a big pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­nity. He was only be­ing al­lowed 15 min­utes to speak — but from look­ing at all his slide ma­te­rial — I es­ti­mated he had writ­ten about 57 hours’ worth of talk­ing points. I helped him re­tool his slides so there weren’t para­graphs of in­for­ma­tion on them. Cut the ver­biage. He needs the in­ter­view team to lis­ten to him and to en­gage with him. Not be read­ing over his shoul­der.

Are you like my trio of trav­el­ing ex­ec­u­tives? My team of in­vestors? My pro­mo­tion-seek­ing client? Stop try­ing to pack every­thing into your pre­sen­ta­tion.

When is the last con­fer­ence you went to when a speaker did NOT run over time? I’ll bet it felt good, didn’t it? Try it for your­self. If the or­gan­iser says you have 20 min­utes, plan for 10 and then give your­self some time to re­act in the mo­ment or en­joy the telling of a story and not feel rushed. If you are plan­ning to present six rea­sons, try giv­ing just three and add an in­ter­est­ing anec­dote or il­lus­tra­tion to bol­ster them. Leave your au­di­ence want­ing more. Peo­ple, whether em­ploy­ees, col­leagues, clients or prospects, who are sit­ting in an au­di­ence at a pre­sen­ta­tion are al­ways hope­ful at first. Maybe this time there will be some­thing en­gag­ing. Some­thing funny. Some­thing I can re­late to.

Sim­plify your slides. Take the stage and mo­ti­vate your au­di­ence by your pres­ence, not the words be­hind you. Your slides can be con­cep­tual. They don’t even have to be lit­eral. Try im­ages to il­lus­trate points. Find a GIF that’s un­ex­pected. Search Youtube for a short video. Ex­plore.

By tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to give your au­di­ence that some­thing ex­tra, your pre­sen­ta­tion will be­come more mem­o­rable, more ef­fec­tive. That is the dif­fer­ence that in­spires peo­ple.

And that’s when an at­tendee will tell someone else who wasn’t at the pre­sen­ta­tion, “Oh! You had to be there.”

It can hap­pen for you too. When you are the movie. Not the book. Are you pre­par­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion? Would you like me to re­view your slides? I can! Let The Com­mu­ni­ca­tor help. Write to Gina in care of Sun­day­busi­ness@in­de­pen­dent.ie

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