As a transformational leader, you often have to stand and talk to strangers. Bill Rosenthal, CEO of our partner Communispond, has shared his insight on giving presentation to strangers. This will elevate your presentation skills whether you’re presenting to a group or even conversing one-on-one. Read Bill’s insight below and grow more as a presenter and leader!
By Bill Rosenthal, CEO of Communispond
The audience is wondering if you know what you’re talking about and whether you’ll be straight with them. You must pass both of these tests when you make a presentation to people who don’t know you. Unless you do, the audience might begin checking their smartphones before you even begin speaking. If the group likes you, though, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on both these points.
You can’t go wrong being likable in the business world. People prefer to buy from salespeople they like and favor them when they hire and promote. They even prefer working with a “lovable fool” rather than a “competent jerk,” according to a study conducted by two Harvard Business School professors.
How can you make yourself likable? The best way, whether you’re presenting to a group or even conversing one-on-one, is to make it clear that you like the other party. And the only way to express that feeling believably is to actually feel it. It’s something you can’t fake. There’s nothing more off-putting than a speaker who puts on a false face of camaraderie and good cheer.
Walk to the speaker’s spot with a warm smile and a friendly gesture to the person who introduced you. Before you speak, stand at your place for a few moments and take in the audience, showing by your expression and body language that you appreciate having been invited to make your presentation. Speak with the attitude that it’s your treat to be presenting and not theirs to be sitting there listening.
Show the audience you’re real, that you have vulnerabilities, just like they do. Express your doubts, amazement, disappointment, joy. Make it clear you share the audience’s values—not by mouthing platitudes but by talking about your experiences, about an incident that tested you in some way, for example. If you use humor, be sure the joke’s on you rather than someone else.
People tend to like people who are similar to themselves. Don’t try to be someone you’re not—but be sure the audience knows what you have in common with them. Be as formal or informal as the group is. Dress only a little bit better than they’re dressed.
Learn as much as you can about the audience before you prepare your presentation, so you’re sure you’ll be addressing their needs and not talking down to them or speaking over their heads. You’ll get points for that, because too few presenters do it. If you’re there to talk about a policy change or anything controversial, learn as much as possible about how the group’s members will be affected and their views about it. Express your feelings about the issue honestly and openly, without platitudes or Dilbert-speak.
Present your solution enthusiastically, because unless you’re excited about it the audience won’t be either. Inexperienced speakers, even those who believe strongly in what they’re saying, can come across as uncommitted if they fail to show passion. Express your passion with movement and gestures and changes in voice tone, volume, and timing that underscore your important points.
You can’t make an emotional connection with the group if you speak from a script. It will keep you from making eye contact with the audience or using movement to show your feelings. Keep practicing the presentation so you can present it confidently without a script. A confident speaker will be more natural, more connected with the audience, and more likable. If there’s a lectern on stage, get out from behind it, because it will only create a barrier between you and everyone else.
Get to the meeting room early, so you begin connecting with members of the group as they enter. Greet them warmly, and listen attentively to what they say. You might want to cite some of it as you speak.
Try to enjoy the presentation in the way you hope the audience will. That will help you keep smiling.
If you would like further information on Effective Presentation and Public Speaking, you may contact us. We’ll be happy to ELAvate you!