No matter what field or industry you work in, one thing that all leaders share in common is the necessity of having an extensive toolkit at their disposal. Of course, while there are various technical skills and aptitudes that are required for leadership positions in various industries, one thing that every leader needs to succeed in their role is to be an effective communicator.
Now in most cases, when it comes to communication, we tend to examine it in the context of our everyday interactions with our employees. However, what’s equally important is understanding how to be an effective communicator when it comes to giving presentations – whether it’s those large presentations like giving the annual company report to employees and/or shareholders, or something on a smaller scale like presenting a proposal to your team or department.
That’s why I reached out to communications expert Scott Schwertly to ask him to share his insights on how we can improve the way we communicate. In this guest piece below, Scott not only reveals the 3 key areas leaders need to address in order to give a great presentation, but also why our sense of self-awareness is so critical to our ability to effectively communicate the message we wish to impart to those we lead.
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After over a decade of analyzing and studying presenters, I have noticed one common error of judgment. What is it?
Most presenters think that yesterday’s presentation will save them today. Reality check: Great presenters have the mindset of a great Sales Manager. They understand that presentation success isn’t about how they were in front of a room last week or last month. Instead, it’s about being in the present. Just ask the Sales Manager. It’s not about what you did for him/her last year or last month. They want to know how you are closing deals right now.
So, write this down or put this to memory:
“Stop thinking yesterday’s presentation will save you today.”
It won’t save you today, tomorrow, or next week.
Here’s why: great presentations excel in three main areas – content, design, and delivery. If you struggle in any of these three umbrellas, you are guaranteed to fail somewhere during your presentation. For instance, just because your audience loved your design of your slides last week, doesn’t mean this next group will join them in their adoration.
In addition, you may have put together great content for that Human Resources talk, but tomorrow you are talking to the marketing team. Stop recycling, and stop thinking you have a presentation and style that fits every group. So, let’s breakdown these three main areas so they are never neglected or abused:
This umbrella includes everything surrounding the quality of your message. Do you have a narrative that is easy follow? Are you utilizing compelling stories? Have you tried to condense everything down to three main points? A presenter with great content can answer these types of questions with full confidence.
Presentation Tip: Never short cut the Content phase of your presentation since 60-70% of your presentation is done before you even step in front of a room. One place to start is focusing on what your three main takeaways will be and determining your call-to-action for the end of your talk.
Great presentation design is about less is more. It’s about keeping your concepts simple and visually captivating by eliminating bullets and replacing them with large photos and minimal text.
Presentation Tip: Big photos and beautiful typography rule today. In fact, the human brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text based information (a.k.a. bullet points). With that said, starting using photography and nice fonts rather than PowerPoint templates.
When you think about public speaking in the traditional sense, this bucket examines items like what you are doing with your hands, feet, eyes, and your body in general. Do you know how to properly open and close a presentation? Are you hiding or walking away from the lectern? It’s all about how you look on stage or in front of a room.
Presentation Tip: Rehearse – plain and simple. I recommend practicing a minimum of 7-8 times before every presentation. There is no magical pill that you can take today that will make you a great presenter by tomorrow morning. Simply, you can’t beat good old-fashioned hard work.
Now, here is the sad reality. If you look around, you will find that most presenters are not aware of how they are really perceived in these three main areas. They seem unaware, almost zombie-like as they attempt to motivate or educate their audiences leaving almost zero impact.
They’ve neglected the three buckets above, but more importantly they haven’t fully tapped into their strengths as a presenter so they dedicate the appropriate amount of energy in the right areas. In addition, they are unaware of how to manage their weaknesses.
The end result: they don’t know how to create and design a presentation that fits their true style. Their presentations only serve as testament to the important need for self-awareness.
Self-awareness and our ability to effectively communicate
According to a recent study by the Hay Group, those who are self-aware are generally in the Top 10% of their team or department. Their ability to lock into knowing who they are and what they do best makes them stand apart from the competition. The same is true for anyone giving a big talk or speech. Self-awareness is mandatory.
It’s time for an awareness boost. Being self-aware means the following:
- You know who you are at your core.
- You know what motivates you and what will put a re in your belly.
- You know how to control your emotions and master your feelings.
- You know your own strengths and how to double down on them.
- You know your own weaknesses and how to manage them.
- You know what to say and when to say it.
- You know where you can add value.
Are you looking to increase your level of self-awareness? Good news. There is an assessment you can take right now that will help you discover and maximize your presentation persona. It’s called Badge. I like to think of it as the Myers-Briggs for presenters where you can find out which 1 of 16 profiles fits you best.
You can then take your new found knowledge and work on your strengths and weaknesses as a presenter. Will you be the energetic Activator? The well-loved Befriender? Or perhaps the clever Scientist?
Here’s how you can discover your profile:
Within a few minutes, you will out exactly what you bring to the table in relation to presentations and public speaking. Self-awareness is a good thing. What better time then right now to to discover your presentation persona.
Scott Schwertly is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3 and the creator of Badge, a proprietary presentation assessment tool which helps presenters discover and maximize their presentation style. He is also the author of two books, “What’s Your Presentation Persona?” and “How to be a Presentation God”.