Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advance Your Career by Mastering Your Presentations

What are the types of presentations that will move you up the corporate ladder?

Are you helping or sabotaging your advancement opportunities with how you present in front of prospective clients, board members or senior management?

A joint study by AT&T and Stanford University found that the single best question to predict high earning was "Do you enjoy giving speeches?"

Many fear it and avoid it like the plague. Some will even give up a promotion to a new job because it requires a lot of public speaking.

Overall, people understand the value of being able to present well in front of a group of clients, senior management or a large public audience but maybe think, "it's only for sales and marketing people" or "My performance is not measured by the my stage theatrics but by my skills, experience and results!"

While the latter statement may be true, nowadays in the corporate world, there are more expectations of middle managers and senior executives to be able to stand up at any given time and impress and wow an audience. This is regardless of whether you are in R&D, engineering, accounting or sales.

In today's world where public exposure and notoriety accelerate people to fame and success and combine that with being totally bombarded by the information blitz era, being competent at your job today is just not good enough.

You have to stand up and tell people you are competent, over and over again by making presentations. The tougher or the bigger in number the audience, the more competent you are perceived to be.

Here are the different types of presentations that you may already be presenting very well, or panicking as you have been asked to deliver one shortly or you have been avoiding or dodging with a lot of effort:

Sales Presentations - This type of presentation is no longer reserved for the sales and marketing team. While it is daunting to have to put your credibility on the line when selling to a skeptical or a tough group, there are ways to use this to your advantage.

The first step in becoming effective at this is to refrain from selling. Most sales presentations I've attended are focused on how big the company is, how impressive their products are, how the service will improve my life, and on and on. Not once am I asked what my needs are, what my concerns are and what I'm looking for.

Before you launch into your 60-slide standard corporate PowerPoint presentation, ask the audience what they want to know, what they are interested in, and what information would help them make a decision. Find out the needs of your audience first.

Please refer to our article "
A Formula for Your Next Sales Presentation".

Management Presentations - This type of presentation is when you have to report quarterly or annual results to the board or senior management or project status/results.

If the numbers are good, everyone gets acknowledgement and the most accomplished speaker in the group will deliver the presentation with a big confident grin. Everyone gets top marks.

However, when the results are not so good, the typical reaction is the pile on more slides and more data on why you did not achieve the targets. TOTALLY WRONG MOVE.

If you're the lucky one to be present the good news, you will make a very strong impression on senior management but if you have to present bad news, quitting your job or leaving the country is not the solution.

The key is to take accountability, be upfront, share solutions and no matter what, DO NOT MAKE EXCUSES! This reflects very poorly on your leadership skills.

The most important tip for presenting well in a situation like this is to master your confidence and one of the ways to achieve this is through preparation.

Preparation is vital for all types of presentations but when you're getting ready to go in to defend your territory and be attacked, you must spend a substantial amount of time anticipating what the objections, criticism, challenges will be and how you will respond instead of adding more flashy PowerPoint slides.

Expert Presentations - If you are asked to speak at a conference or with your team or department, you are already considered a leader and an authority on your subject. This type of presentation really adds points to your credibility scale. If you do this well, you are already secured in or very soon on your way to the top ranks of your organization.

To be even better at delivering expert presentations, focus on presenting value and sharing this with sincerity and a genuine desire to contribute insights and wisdom. It's not about you. It's ALL about what the audience will take away, what value are you adding to their life and what will change their thinking or actions.

In summary, there are different strategies for each type of presentation and using a loaded PowerPoint presentation is not the answer. Be clear on your objective, audience needs/expectations, do your research, prepare and get some coaching. Stressing over it is not going to get you results. You are far better off spending that time preparing.

The final good news...

The more often you present any of the above type of presentations, the better and more confident you will become.

If you have a presentation coming up and a specific question, please email us at

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