It’s no secret: The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more important your pubic speaking skills become in your Edge Learning.
If you have your sights set on increased responsibility and the position and salary that go with them, you will need to position yourself ahead of the crowd in advance. You'll need to sell yourself, your ideas, your value and your ability at all stages of your career. This requires learning high-level public speaking skills.
What’s the worst reaction you’ve ever received when you delivered a presentation to your senior management?
It would probably come in second to the one I recently heard about. A woman – ironically she was interviewing me for an article about “Knockout Presentations” – told me the story of her disaster. It was early In her career as a policy analyst.
She was just out of school, proud of her MBA and working in her first real job. When her supervisor praised a report she’d done, she was thrilled. She was less thrilled when her “re - ward” turned out to be presenting the report to the executive team.
She spent hours writing out her presentation and prepared every conceivable statistic to back up her points. However, it never occurred to her that how she presented was as important as what she presented. When her turn came, things quickly went downhill. She stumbled through 200 slides, forgot her lines and got more and more flustered. The executives weren’t sure what her point was and started glancing at their watches.
Desperate, she wanted to flee. When the young woman concluded, the audience didn’t ask a single question. That would have extended the already painful event.
How to Be a Dynamic Public Speaker in the Boardroom
Perhaps you’re already speaking up in team meetings and getting your ideas across effectively. If so, how do you feel about facing a room full of senior management, or even five executives around a boardroom table, all staring at you? What is different?
Well, for one thing the stakes are higher. All business communications are important, but with senior management as your audience, you are in the hot seat. They are going to accept or reject the recommendations that you, your department or your team have worked so hard on. Weeks, months, maybe even years of work depend on your few minutes.
Who wouldn’t be nervous?
Don’t worry. You are human. This is a perfectly natural way to feel. But remember – they can’t see how you feel, only how you look and act. And you’ll look cool and collected when you follow these Dos and Don’ts.
- Practice. A report to senior managers is not a conversation; however, it must sound conversational. Once you have your notes, practice by speaking out loud to an associate, or when you are driving to work or exercising on the treadmill.Make sure you are familiar with what you intend to say.
- Open with your conclusions. Don’t make your senior-level audience wait to find out why you are there.
- Describe the benefits if your recommendation is adopted. Make these benefits seem vivid and obtainable.
- Describe the costs, but frame them in a positive manner. If possible, show how not following your recommendation will cost even more.
- List your specific recommendations, and keep them on target. Wandering generalities will lose the audience’s interest. Focus on the bottom line.
- Look everyone in the eye when you talk. You will be more persuasive and believable.
- Be brief. The fewer words you can use to get your message across, the better. Shorter is more memorable and repeatable.
- Don’t try to memorize the whole presentation. Memorize your opening, key points and conclusion. Practice enough so you can “forget it.” This helps retain your spontaneity.
- Never, never read your lines – do not read from a script or from your slides. Your audience will go to sleep.
- Don’t wave or hop. Don’t let nervousness (or enthusiasm) make you too animated – but don’t freeze.Don’t distract from your own message with unnecessary movement.
Where to Start When Preparing a Powerful Presentation.
- What is the topic or subject you are reporting on? Be clear with yourself so you can be clear with your audience.
- Why is you're topic important enough to be on the busy agenda of senior-level managers?
- What questions will your audience have? Can you answer them early in your presentation?
What Should You Present?
Present your conclusion: What is the central theme, objective or big idea of your report? How can you introduce it in one sentence?
Suppose that you’ve been in charge of a high-level, cross-functional team studying whether there is a need for diversity training in your company.
You might start by saying, “Our committee has spent three months studying diversity training programs and whether one could benefit our company. Our conclusion is that diversity training would be an exceptionally good investment. We would save money, increase employee retention and improve company morale.”
Present your recommendations:
“We recommend that the company initiate a pilot program, starting next quarter, using the ABC Training Company at an investment of $ ... .The ABC Company has successfully implemented this program with one of our subsidiaries, as well as with many Fortune 100 companies. All 27 members of the cross-functional team agreed with this conclusion.”
Describe what’s in it for them: Address the needs of senior management, as well as the company.Answer the questions they will be asking, and show them how your recommendation can make them look good.
For example, senior management is usually charged with increasing sales and reducing costs. What if this program means saving money by lowering employee turnover yet has a relatively modest cost?
“Why is this a good idea, just when we are cutting unnecessary spending?
One of our company’s key initiatives is to recruit and retain 20 percent more of the best available talent than we did in the last fiscal year. If this training had been in place last year, not only would morale have been higher, but our minority associates – who represent 23 percent of our company population – would have rated their employee-satisfaction survey higher. For the last three years, our minority associates rated their satisfaction 3 percent lower than the other company employees.This training could have helped increase satisfaction and retention.”
Wrap it up: “On behalf of the 27- member committee, thank you for this opportunity. The friendships we have formed and our increased company knowledge is invaluable to us all. The entire team is committed to this project. We are asking for your okay to start the pilot program.”
You’ll make a strong impression and increase your chances of acceptance when you can be brief, clear and concise. Practice your presentation and be prepared. My Fripp Speech Model free resource will help you get started.
It’s okay to be nervous, because nobody sees how you feel – just how you look and act. When you learn to create and deliver powerful presentations you will achieve success with your Edge Learning.
Speak to be remembered and repeated,
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More About Patricia Fripp
Hall of Fame keynote speaker, XTRAcredits Faculty, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills expert, and author, Patricia Fripp simplifies and demystifies the process of preparing and presenting powerful, persuasive presentations. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance identified her presentation training as one of the best investments you can make in your career. Called “one of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America” by Meetings and Conventions, Patricia delivers high-content, entertaining, dramatically memorable presentations. The first female president of the National Speakers Association, she is now virtually everywhere with FrippVTCE.com (http://www.frippvtce.com).