Presenting to the boss is a double edged sword!
On the one hand, it is an opportunity to show what you know, to be promoted etc. On the other hand, if the boss thinks poorly of you or dislikes what you say, you may be forever sitting on the sidelines or worse yet, sent home. This conundrum may jar every muscle in your body, leaving you unable to play at your best.
So what’s a presenter to do? There are four simple keys that will support you in stressful times. Embrace all four and you will feel more composed and raring to go. Embrace only some and you won’t!
The most reliable stress-reducing tonic available to quiet your uneasiness is thorough preparation.
The more you have researched your opponent, built a solid game plan, anticipated their tough maneuvers and gathered the right support, the more confident you will feel that you are ready.
The more shortcuts you take, the more insecure you will feel. The rougher the opposition, the more preparation you need.
A professional athlete would never walk on a playing field without practicing. It would be unthinkable.
To be a superstar, you need to practice hard. While you can’t rehearse every move, due to the fluidity of a conversation, you can be flawless on the execution of your opening and closing remarks of your presentation and whatever else you might stumble on.
A presenter gets booed by the audience when he or she reads from notes or slides. The same is true when the person explains a complex idea in a convoluted manner. By rehearsing difficult explanations or multifaceted plans out loud, you can make any necessary adjustments to verbiage and also identify critical spots for an analogy or example.
By rehearsing your transitions from one point to another will become smoother. Lastly, hard-ball questions are the downfall of even the best players if they don’t see them coming. Practice your responses to the questions you have anticipated until your answers are succinct and your voice sounds confident.
Many of us tend to devote our energy to what we fear instead of what we want.
Take for instance Mary who was asked to do a quarterly review of her quality team’s performance for the VP of Operations, the VP of Sales and five other members of the executive team. Although knowledgeable and well prepared, she had a bad attitude and hardly got any sleep the night before her Monday morning meeting. All her self messages were things like, “Don’t mess this up.” “Don’t lose it.” “Don’t sound stupid.” Her negative self talk resulted in poor performance and distracting mannerisms. In fact, one of the VP’s commented to her immediate manager that he hoped she was never in front of customers.
Instead of hoping that you don’t destroy your presentation, have a positive attitude. Keep your focus on sharing your all-important news. It is amazing what positive self talk and visualization can do to quiet the hurricane brewing inside you.
See yourself as a dragon slayer and you will be one. Worry that you will be perceived as a blithering fool and you will surely falter.
In stressful times, pausing is a lifeline. If you pause and take a breath, you can clear your head and think on your feet. You can remember where you want to go next or how best to respond to an objection. You can also eliminate those pesky filler words, “um, ah and you know,” that chip away at credibility.
Pausing is also helpful to decision makers. By giving them some breaks, they can think about what you just said and formulate their questions or concerns. They can also absorb what is on your slides or printouts. It can be your winning play.
Presenting before your boss can be scary. It can leave you whirling like a dervish. To be a peak performer, stay limber by committing to Prepare, Practice, and Picture and Pause. The cheers of the fans will be ringing in your ears.
How often have you thought to yourself, “I need to be more influential?”
If you think this to yourself, often we don’t know how to address the issue. From a communication standpoint, three issues are critical to making a powerful impression on others.
People need to:
1. Understand Your Ideas
2. Accept Your Points as Appropriate
3. Trust You as Being Honest & Credible
1. Understand Your Ideas
When you are presenting your initiative, people have to follow your logic. One point logically has to lead to another.
Ideas have to be well supported. You have to provide the data and analytics to make people comfortable moving forward. Decision makers can be risk adverse; they do not want to make a mistake. Although most of us provide the metrics, we may provide too many details. We may also bury our thoughts in long convoluted sentence structures, leaving executives confused and unable to provide a decision.
If you present a simple, well documented solution, you increase the likelihood of having real impact.
2. Accept Your Points as Appropriate
Leaders accept your points as appropriate if they fit into their identified initiatives.
They expect you to do your homework and know what those key ideas are. For example, if the company’s thrust is to grow business in emerging markets and your idea shows how to do that, it is likely your idea will be considered. On the other hand, if your plan is to develop a marketing campaign around a product that is considering a faltering brand, you probably won’t be successful, unless, for example, you can show a trend among the 35-45 year olds for loyalty to products that they loved in their youth.
Presenters who show influence always connect the dots. They don’t expect their audience to do so.
3. Trust You as Being Honest & Credible
People need to trust a presenter as a “straight shooter.”
Some people are trusted because they have many years of experience and truly understand the business. Their reputations precede them. Others whose reputations are not well known are trusted because they “appear” confident. Their body and voice show that they believe in what they are saying. They stand erect, look people in the eye, gesture in a meaningful way and sound passionate. They easily answer tough questions and sound sure. The speaker who “hems and haws” and reads from notes or slides is not likely to get a positive reception.
While a lot of factors come into play when influencing others, from the perspective of communication, do not overlook the importance of presenting a simple, well supported argument, tying your ideas to the audience’s critical issues and delivering your ideas with confidence and conviction.
People will never give a nod of approval to someone who rambles, hasn’t done his o her homework or looks or sounds tentative.
All the best with your future presentations
Do people ask you to repeat a lot?
Do people tell you to slow down during conversations?
Or, do people often have difficulty understanding the messages and ideas you share?
If so, you might be a fast talker. It might be alright to be a fast talker at home or with friends and family, but it is definitely not okay on the job, especially if your primary communication with others is over the phone as an inside sales or customer service representative.
The problems with being a fast talker are many. People may think you are trying to "pull something over on them" or to commit to something they shouldn't. It annoys them when they don't have time to process the information you are giving them, and thus, it may cause them to end the conversation abruptly.
Since others probably weren't able to take notes or compare what you have said to what others have said, they also can't verbalise their questions or objections. Without time to understand and voice their concerns, listeners hesitate to move forward on a decision or make a purchase.
Talking fast also causes articulation to be sloppy. The person's lips, teeth and tongue cannot get into the right position to say the word correctly. What starts to happen is four syllable words are said in two or endings are dropped. People may incorrectly think you have said something you didn't. Additionally, lots of filler words materialise, and, thus, you will sound ill-informed and not confident.
Finally, if you have an accent and your pace is quick, listeners may interrupt you often, causing you to lose your concentration. It will make listening and speaking a real chore for both parties.
If you are a fast talker, do not despair. You can slow down by pausing and taking a breath at the end of a thought or idea or where you want to highlight a point. The idea of pausing and breathing may sound simple, but it is harder than you think. At the beginning, it can feel like a lifetime to pause for even half a second.
Voicemail can be a big help. By replaying voicemails before sending them, you can monitor your speed. If you hear a number of filler words ("um,", " ah," " like," and " you know") or if words are not clearly pronounced, you aren't pausing long enough.
Another suggestion is to tape yourself reading something out loud, perhaps a business journal or product update and practice pausing and breathing between points for one to three seconds until it becomes second nature.
Finally, try reading children's stories out loud. A fairy tale or nursery rhyme requires the speaker to pause frequently in order to bring the appropriate emotion into the voice.
It is not okay to be a fast talker. The more you work at pausing and breathing, the more knowledgeable and confident you will appear to the person on the other end of the line. Consider how great it would feel if someone described you as precise and thoughtful, instead of as a fast talker.
All the best with your ongoing communications!
Just as competitive athletes visualise the outcome of their performance before the game begins, it makes a lot of sense for you to do the same thing before a presentation.
Never go into a meeting with only a vague idea of what you want to accomplish. Know ahead what you want people to think or do differently after your presentation. Being unfocused wastes time and leads to disappointing results. With clarity about your objective, you can align your goals and discussion points with what is important to them.
A good starting point is first identify what your listeners are currently thinking or doing and then next, what you want them to change, either start or stop doing. Is it an attitude, a specific behaviour? For example, maybe your audience is currently thinking we tried this before and it didn't work. It is foolish to do it again. After the presentation, you want them to see this is not the same plan. It is different and they need to embrace it.
Your objective should be framed from the perspective of your listeners, not you!
An objective structured from your perspective suggests that the message is all about you, not them. "I want to give an update on a project." "I want to share the month end financials." "I want to go over why the problem occurred and how I have fixed it."
The reality is people only care about themselves and how your information can help them. Always think from the perspective of what you want or need from your listeners. If your answer is nothing, it's just for me to give an update; it's an invitation for people to tune out.
If you share the quarterly results, what should listeners do concerning these results? Should they continue funding the project, approve your recommendations, or delay a marketing campaign? Knowing what you want will help you include or exclude certain information.
Begin your objective with a verb. The Team should:
* Understand how this plan differs from the old plan
* Embrace the plan
* Adjust targets and goals by beginning of the new quarter
True professionals always keep their focus on the prize. It helps you stay on message.
You, too, will achieve better results if you ultimately know what you want your listeners to think or do differently. It is your stake in the ground.
All the best with your future presentations!