Effective Presentation Skills Can Open Doors…
Last month, I was invited to contribute “Best Practice” insight to participants in the SAP Ambassador Briefing Program as part of the SAP Executive Briefing Center (EBC) in Palo Alto (Silicon Valley), California.
This special program offers SAP colleagues the opportunity to work closely with EBC staff and with visiting customer account teams to create world-class experiences for customers and others we host at our Silicon Valley campus.
As part of this training experience, our topic was: “Presentation Best Practices.” Some of the tips I shared are encapsulated in these slides:
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Presentations
It’s been a long time since I consciously examined the steps I take to prepare for a speaking event, so to ensure that I captured a vast and robust perspective, I sought feedback from my leadership team (Chip Rodgers, Dan Maloney, Marco ten Vaanholt) about their presentation approaches.
I also listened-in to comments and tips by some of the really great presenters at SAP: Peter Graf, Jonathan Becher, Kaj van de Loo, and Denis Browne.
Below is the compilation of our presentation best practices that I hope you will find informative and helpful.
Before the Presentation:
Research the company or organization(via Google, Yahoo Finance, etc.), Contacts (through LinkedIn or Twitter), so you can demonstrate knowledge and interest in them (as individuals, and in their companies)
- Determine scope of topic, angle you will take to tell the story that might resonate with and benefit them
- Understand audience – external vs internal, tailor messages (use something from their website, news/industry), their business issues and challenges…
- Create a storyline –
- Within your own remarks, prepare to personalize, customize and thread in insight about the big overall picture, and specific actions or follow-on recommendations relevant to your narrow area
- It needs to flow logically from top down, from outside in, in a linear timeline, or using some other technique
- 3 key elements:
- Grounding the audience => make sure everyone is on the same page – set the right expecations of scope, topic, goals, approach, flow
- Capture top 3-5 topics only: focus on what matters and forget the rest or provide it in written form afterwards
- Drive discussion – especially if it’s a smaller group, get the audience involved
- Always leave with a Call to Action – the “So what?” or “What now?”
- Understand structure and storyline (focus on top points)
- PRACTICE-PRACTICE- PRACTICE
- Special focus on beginning delivery (capture audience attention) and ending (leave a favorable last impression)
- Remember: they want you to be successful, interesting and deliver value – so relax and have fun
- Attend pre-event networking/social time – get introduced to a few people so you can relax and engage more actively
- Have a couple of people to look to for face-to-face banter
- Get familiar with individuals – gauge who the leaders are, learn their pain points/challenges, what they heard from previous presenters, what they hope to hear from you, gauge the appropriate style (formal v. informal)
Lights, Camera, Action…
During the Presentation:
- Look professional – dress for the role: expert, peer, authority, etc.
- Be optimistic, upbeat and honest (but positive) – your energy matters; if you’re interested, they will be, too
- Be crisp and high energy – humor is an icebreaker and infuses good energy if you can do it well and appropriately
- Be as conversational as possible, make it interactive — ask questions to engage audience
Have a strong opinion and point-of-view… not “maybe”, “sorta” or “kinda” – even controversial is good. It’s OK to be memorable, to disagree (respectfully)
- Talk about a problem or opportunity –> approach/options –> outcome/benefits
- Use lots of anecdotes or stories – from your personal experience when possible
- Tell a story, paint a picture, show a vision
- Watch audience for queues – do they get it, should you go slower/faster, do their eyes show confusion, what do you need to reiterate or re-state?
- Engage audience in discussion/questions –invite participation and feedback
- Will you use slides, or flipcharts, or whiteboards, or other visuals?
- Note where Acct Exec/Contact is located in the audience for time/stage queues
- Move around, pick focal point(s) in each quadrant in audience layout to ensure you’re not just speaking to the front row
- In powerpoint, use graphics to tell the story — not text — wherever possible
- Be conscious and deliberate with you body language (be open in gestures)
- Recap key points / give reasoning – repeat, summarize, and recap
- Include your contact information at end of presentation for follow-up
- End preso with “what if…” types of thoughts – plant a seed
- Show your personality! Be yourself, be authentic, you’re interesting!
Leave a Lasting Positive Impression
After the Presentation:
- Post-event networking – remain available for questions, comments, more offline conversations, business card exchange — you may be approached in the back of the room or in the hallway afterwards
- Follow-up with the Account Executive/Contact/Host for comments/feedback
- Send slide deck to event organizer/contact to share with attendees – or post it on SCN or Slideshare and send a link
- Follow-up on all commitments made in offline discussions — agreements to send information, or make an introduction, or have a follow-up meeting
- Update your contact list from business cards you receive
- Gather feedback (especially from an external audience)
- Review surveys and feedback from team and audience
- If it was taped, watch the video of yourself to critique — it might be painful but is valuable to continuous improvement
- Adapt “lessons-learned” into next presentation
- Find something to follow-up on, to extend the connection with key people in the audience
- Send “thank-you” notes and invite follow-up
Everyone Has a Unique Approach and Style
While each of our presentation processes have similarities, our own diverse personalities are very much reflected during the entire process… as they should be. Even as you inject your own personality and style into your presentation, I hope some of the tips here will be helpful.
Most Important: Have Fun!
Whether you’re presenting to 10, 100 or 500 people – remember to have fun!