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How To Present Like A Pro

At some point in your career, likely many times over, you will need to deliver a presentation. If you’re a recent grad it might be a short presentation about yourself in a job interview. If you’re a CMO you might be talking to a Board or your President, presenting a transformational business idea. Wherever you are in your marketing career, being able to communicate ideas is critical.

Everyone knows what a terrible presentation feels like, even when the presenter is a revered expert if the delivery fails – the idea is lost. So you might be asking yourself, what really separates a great presentation from a bad one? Is how you say something as important as what you say? In a TEDxNewYork Talk entitled “How to Sound Smart in Your TEDx Talk”, Will Stephen proves his theory by captivating an audience but literally saying nothing of any value during his entire talk. Through the entire presentation, the only idea he reinforces is how nothing of consequence is being said. However, how he delivers the six-minute talk, is interesting, funny, and memorable.

Here are 3 tips to help create a presentation that will captivate your audience, regardless of what you say (or don’t say).

Have a Killer Opener

First impressions are very meaningful, and you only get one shot. If you can capture your audiences’ interest and relate to them in some way, you’ve just bought yourself a little more time. If you start off with a disengaged audience, it’s going to be harder to win them over. Spend some time developing that opening sentence or two, memorize it, and practice. Here are a few potential ideas:

  • If you use a quote, try to think beyond the classic quotes for something unique. Either way, make sure it’s connected to your audience and your topic,
  • Set the audience’s expectations, try starting with the end; make them a promise, then be sure to keep it,
  • Say something unexpected or make a unique connection; what do sharks and lightning have in common? (A couple people who do this really well are Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Levitt, and Terry O’Reilly),
  • Start with something current or topical; think beyond the weather,
  • Open with a story, make sure it’s concise, emotional, and relevant to this audience.

Own the Room

“Fake it till you make it” or something I saw recently, “Believe it till you make it”. A lot goes into being able to do this. Things like surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, doing (and speaking about) things you love and are passionate about, and of course, experience. Experience is something you can only gain over time, but there are techniques that you can adopt to emulate this confidence and physically own your space.

  • Plant your feet (walking around is ok as long as it’s not a shuffle or a pace). If you will be sitting and you have a choice, opt for a stationary chair. If you sit in a chair that swivels, make sure you are not fidgeting,
  • Superman pose – it’s for real. Before you walk into your next, interview, pitch or speaking endeavour, spend two minutes beforehand in private where you literally plant your feet, puff out your chest, hold your head high and strike in your best Clark Kent with your hands on your hips.
  • Emulate Confidence by staying composed, maintaining your posture, and being OK with a pause once in a while. Just like white space can make a design or copy more poignant, a pause in speaking can serve as verbal white space allowing your audience to process ideas.

Use Your Voice

Even radio personalities often say they dislike the sound of their own voice. Own it, it’s part of your personal brand. There are obvious suggestions like making sure you’re delivering at the right volume and pace, but there a few other tips that can help you really leverage your voice as a speaking tool.

  • Make sure you are articulating your words, take care not to mumble or to ‘swallow’ word endings. It’s a common thing to do because you know what you’re saying, and maybe you’ve said it a million times. Make sure to deliver like your audience is hearing you for first the first time.
  • Tone and emphasis are ways to convey enthusiasm, conviction, and empathy. The tone you adopt should match the content. It is possible to change the meaning of a sentence depending on the particular words you emphasize. This is why it’s important to decide beforehand on what words you should emphasize and practice out loud. One last tip, don’t lower your voice at the end of sentences if you don’t want to put your audience to sleep – it is a technique used by hypnotists!

These are just a few tools to drop in your toolkit to make sure that through your manner of speaking you can convey an emotional response, and ensure your audience feels like they have taken something inspirational, educational, or interesting. It’s clear that you can turn nothing into something by perfecting the delivery. Try adopting a few of these techniques into your next speaking opportunity; go forward with equal confidence in what you say and how you say it.

About the author

 Jenelle Peterson, BComm MBA is a Senior Marketing & Research Consultant with Tenato Strategy, a Marketing Educator, and a board member with the Calgary Marketing Association. Jenelle’s passion for technology, design, and innovation has given her opportunities to work both on the business and agency side in a variety of industries; Oil & Gas, IT, Education, Health Care, and Consumer Goods. She loves the outdoors, making bad art, and all things Sci-Fi. Tweet her @petersonjenelle