Big Presentation Tips

This past week I did a thirty-minute talk as the leadoff presentation of our internal symposium.  This was one of my larger talks I have done, and it was an important one in my professional world.  A few days have past and I have had a chance to reflect on the overall experience.  I am happy to report the talk itself went well, based on the feedback I got.  Most importantly, my boss was happy!

Doing great presentations is an required skill for leaders in today’s business world.  I have decided to double my efforts to improve in this area.  I’ve been told I am competent as a speaker, but I would like to become a lot better at it.  It’s probably the best thing I can do to prepare for the next level.

I learned a few valuable lessons that I will apply next time (hopefully) I am invited to do a talk.  The three big lessons were: be clear about your goal, work with a team and rehearse in front of an audience.

Be Clear About Your Goal

In this recent experience, the goal was apparent to me.  I was speaking in front of an external expert and I had a good idea of what he was going to say.  As I was going through preparation, I went back to my objective: to energize and inspire the audience.  Essentially I wanted to “build a bridge” to next speaker.  I found it helpful to remind myself of that objective often during the process.  It helped me stay on point and get the right content in the talk.

Work With a Team

As a senior manager, I have access to a great team in my laboratory.  I brought together a small group of people to help me craft the presentation file, sound out the key messages and provide encouragement and support.  I don’t think you’d need direct reports to build a team to help.  If it’s important enough, you should not have too much trouble getting some teammates to help.  Probably the biggest help my team provided in this experience was to provide encouragement, especially as the talk got closer.  They helped me keep things in perspective.

Rehearse In Front of An Audience

For big presentations, I found it to be critical to give the talk to as large an audience as you can find.  If you can replicate the venue of the talk that is helpful as well.  This will help you figure out the time of your talk, and give you a chance to gather feedback.  As my instructor a few weeks ago said, it’s all about muscle memory.  If you go through a good dress rehearsal, your body will remember how it felt and it will reduce your stress as a speaker.

As I mentioned earlier, I think being clear about the goal, working with a team and rehearsing in front of an audience will be the activities I will focus on next time I get the call to do a big presentation.

The Ingredients For An Amazing Training Experience

I was nominated by my management to attend an off-site training the last couple of days.  The topic was Performance Based Presentations.  I thought, oh goody, another class on PowerPoint.  I could not have been more wrong.

The content of the course was absolutely amazing.  I got some great strategies for both preparing and delivering presentations in different scenarios.  In the next few weeks I have a few important presentations that this will no doubt make a difference in not only my success, but also help my self-confidence.

The moral of this story though isn’t about this great course.  A manager I had at one point had a theory about training.  There are three value propositions for training: getting away from the daily grind at the office to focus, the people you meet and collaborate with during the experience, and, of course, the content itself.

I have a lot going on in my world right now, especially at work.  Getting a break from my office and those fun meetings to build a skill, and the chance to meet some great people when added to the content of the course made this an encounter that will impact me going forward.  I am grateful for this opportunity.

Don’t Tell Your Boss Everything!

This post is intended for new managers, or someone who is facing an upcoming major presentation in a corporate environment.  Ever been faced with a situation where you have a big presentation or demonstration to your boss or someone even higher in your organization?  Here’s a tip:  when you are going through your preparations, make sure to hold something in reserve for the final presentation that will knock their socks off.

I happen to be going through this right now myself.  We have a major presentation in a couple of weeks to our senior leaders.  As my team and I are preparing the presentation for the division head, we are carefully reviewing the content, but I am holding back a few things (e.g. extra technology demo, new research idea, etc.) the team is thinking about bringing forward.  We are doing this for a couple of reasons.  First, if our extra ideas do not pan out we haven’t overcommitted and then look bad.  Second, we get the bonus of the surprise factor if we can pull it off.  In our case, we’re working hard to bring multiple surprises on top of a presentation we have already planned.

Taking calculated risks is a habit of a Big Play maker.  Holding some surprises in reserve can set the stage for a memorable presentation which can shape opinions going forward.  Good luck!