Presentation Skills For Business Leaders

I enjoy collecting antique books on public speaking and selling. I found the following quotation to be very powerful.

“Probably the most remarkable product of nature, in its centuries of evolution, is the human mind; and the second wonder of the universe is the communication of the thoughts and feelings of one mind to others by means of the voice in speech and by means of the body in gesticulation. Each man is limited in the position he may assume in the world by the development of his mind.”

The above quotation is from “Effective Public Speaking” by Frederick Robinson, Ph.D., published in 1914 by LaSalle Extension University, Chicago.

The basic idea is equally important today as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sure, we now have the Internet and PowerPoint to help, but they are just tools. How effectively you and I convey our thoughts and feelings will largely determine our success.

The Pause:

The simple pause is your friend, especially when you are communicating in the workplace. Most professional speakers will agree that the pause is a powerful tool for making a presentation memorable.

Three of the several benefits the pause delivers: first, it gives you time to think and “take the temperature” of the people to whom you are speaking. Second, the pause gives your listeners time to absorb important points that you make. And third, the pause helps even a monotone speaker to sound better by breaking things up a bit.

An important point in using the pause, vary the length and do not abuse it. Like many excellent tools of presentation, overuse any tool and it will blow up in your face.

Be Real:

It was 1988, the year I attended my first convention of the National Speakers Association. I was privileged to attend a session on platform skills given by Captain Gerald Coffee, who spent much of the Vietnam War at the “Hanoi Hilton” as a prisoner of war.

In his session he suggested:

1. Make your experience the experience of the audience.

2. Embrace your audience.

3. You must feel the experience you share so deeply, as a sense of responsibility.

4. Share your experience from the window of how it applies to the everyday life of your audience members.

5. Believe you can make a difference.

Make it Funny:

At the 1989 Convention of the National Speakers Association, held in Dallas, I attended a session conducted by the late Robert Henry, a fabulous humorist. Among the many points he made, three resonated strongly with me:

1. “Speak for the one person in the audience for whom I can make a difference.” [While you might be thinking that it is better to present to a crowd, by focusing your message in a single person, your power and passion will be more evident.]

2. “Keep in your mind throughout your presentation that what you want the audience members to be thinking is, ‘I like me better when I’m with you.’” [This powerful mind shift helps you, the speaker, to focus on your audience rather than yourself, there by making your presentation more user-friendly and easier for the audience members to digest.]

3. “If you get knocked down you only lose if you choose to stay down.” [As a presenter, stuff happens; microphones stop working, video cueing goes haywire, noise in adjacent rooms becomes overly distracting, and a plethora of other things can become pitfalls to your presentation, making if less influential to your audience. The secret is to have "B" plans for all of the above and to be in the moment, which will allow you to adjust to whatever situation is thrown your way.]

Get Them Involved:

At the 1990 Convention of the National Speakers Association, held in Atlanta, I attended a session conducted by Robert Pike, Owner of Creative Training Techniques. He shared what he referred to as his 9 dynamite springboard motivators for getting attendees involved in your presentation:

1. Outline an incident; and use “you” rather than “me”

2. Ask for a show of hands

3. Ask a question

4. Make a promise

5. Get them laughing

6. Piggyback on an introduction-comment on a point or use humor

7. Make a provocative statement

8. Use an unusual statistic

9. Use a prop or some other interesting visual aid

Sure, you have heard about most of these ideas before, however, try using a new one the next time you present to a group and keep a watchful eye on the results.

Speaking in public, professionally or on a volunteer basis can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience, enjoy your journey.

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