Recommended Reading to Boost Your Presentation IQ

Recently, a client expressed anxiety about presenting. She said she always over-prepared, obsessing for weeks in advance, losing sleep and repeatedly rehashing what she wanted to say and do.

I asked her, “When do you know your presentation is good enough?”

She responded, “Good enough to do what?”

Her question led me to read TJ Walker’s two excellent books, How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation and TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations.

Walker writes in a quick, easy-to-read, conversational manner with no pretense — his knowledge and experience can help catapult any presentation from boring to bravo. I shared these books with my client and recommend them to you.

How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation

In today’s extreme business environment, you have to balance time and performance. So the challenge becomes, how can you be “good enough” to impact business results?

According to Walker, as long as you find a way to have an impact, you don’t need to be a rock star. Walker’s step-by-step advice can help almost anyone write, rehearse and deliver presentations that he calls “pretty good” – which means good enough to make a difference.

After reading this book, my client pointed to one helpful tip in particular. Walker says it’s important to select a single idea to convey to your audience and to focus your presentation on that message. That helped my client after she was promoted to vice president and, with 30 minutes’ notice, had to address a group in her new role.

She followed Walker’s advice, spoke with confidence and earned a high level of credibility with her peers.

TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations

Using a snappy Q&A format, Walker answers just about every question you’ve ever had – but were afraid to ask – about giving a presentation. Each answer is given in a clear, direct way; each suggestion is easy to understand and easy to implement.

One of Walker’s best pieces of advice is to keep it real and be yourself. As he points out, polished and professional may mean that you are suddenly just like every other presenter. Walker says, “Doing what everyone else is doing is playing it safe…. You must do something, anything, in order to get people to leave your presentation with a positive impression of you and your ideas.”

Walker also offers excellent advice about using PowerPoint. He suggests that you create two separate PowerPoint decks:

  • a streamlined, highly visual version to project on-screen, and
  • a more detailed version with all of your text, data and charts that can be used as a handout or email follow-up.

Both these titles are worthy additions to your bookshelf. Take a look, and you’ll find they are must-have resources that will help you be confident, heard and inspiring whenever you step up to speak.

Sales Presentations With Love

It was the sixth house Mark and Andrea had looked at in just one day, and they hoped it would be better than the previous five. The house was slightly out of their price range, but the real estate agent had insisted they at least look at it. Pulling into the driveway, they couldn’t help but gaze at the house, perched so peacefully beside the Maumee River and illuminated by orange tint of the sunset. At first they tried to hide their faint smiles from the real estate agent, but as soon as they walked through the front door their stoic resistance melted. Their eyes followed the spread of the natural wood floors, and climbed up the arched passageways towards the detailed, historic ceiling. Through each passageway and opened door, the house revealed its beautiful features and distinct personality. Mark and Andrea couldn’t help but smile at each other. In the living room, they envisioned their children laughing and playing on the soft, beige carpet. In the kitchen, they saw their family making meals together around the large center island. Andrea gasped in sheer delight at the sight of the roomy master bathroom, where she would finally have space to get ready every morning. Mark nodded in proud approval of the spacious garage, where he could store his tools and new fishing gear. With just one walk-through of the house, Mark and Andrea felt they were at home.

The inevitable details of the sale came only after they became emotionally invested into making the house theirs. What was it that captivated Mark and Andrea? It wasn’t the age of the house, price of the house, or even its new roof. It was the pictures they had in their minds as they walked through the house and saw it as their own. It’s hard to find a more emotional purchase than that of buying a house, yet that powerful element can be implemented into any sales presentation, regardless of how ordinary or routine the product may be. When you create an emotional and visual experience in your sales presentations, you completely change how a customer’s decision is made. You make your customers fall in love with your product simply by envisioning themselves using it. If they can see how your product will make them happier, they will want to buy it. The rest of the sale (even the price and contract terms) is just a detail, and as long as the details are in the ballpark of what the customer can do, the sale is made. Before a customer can see themselves using your product, they must have the interest to do so. A unique sales presentation is the best way to spark curiosity and engage customers. Don’t resort to brochures, comparison charts or the dreaded power point presentation. Be bold. Be different.

If you’re not sure how to do this, ask yourself two questions: “What are my competitors doing?” and “What is the customer expecting me to do?” Your sales presentation should not be a part of either answer. Blow them out of the water with something exceptional, and your customers will want to know more. Feed their interest by choosing a sales method that will inspire them visually. Paint a picture that demonstrates how your product leads to success and happiness. Not just anyone’s success and happiness – theirs. If they can see themselves enjoying your product, it will feel right to them. This is what will determine the sale. Getting your customers emotionally involved with your product will change how they make the decision of buying it. The details of the sale will be just details, rather than decisive factors. The strength in the sale will be in the emotional investment the customer makes with the product the very moment they can happily see it as theirs.

Are Your Poor Presentation Skills Costing You Money?

Imagine two people applying for a promotion. Both are equally qualified. But, the first person is a great public speaker. They have taken courses on public speaking. They have given presentations at staff meetings. They learned how to think quickly on their feet. The second person is an average presenter, at best.

Which person will get the promotion?

More importantly, would you rather be the great speaker who gets the promotion and more money? Or, the one who misses out due to their poor speaking skills?

So, how do you improve your public speaking skills?

The first step is to attend a presentations skills workshop. But, going to a presentation skills course is like going to the gym ONCE. In other words, a one-time workout will not make a long-term change. To make a permanent difference, you need to practice your new skills after the workshop.

Here is how to practice your speaking skills:

1) Find opportunities to use your presentation skills:

Join Toastmasters if you need an environment to practice. I was a member of Toastmasters for several years. It helped me develop my skills. I also enjoyed interacting with other business people in a fun environment.

You can also practice by volunteering for community groups or to speak at public schools. They are always looking for people to talk about career and life issues. You can contact your local school board for more information.

2) Ask for feedback:

Get a friend or co-worker to observe your speech. Ask them, “What did you like about my speech?” and “What would you suggest I do differently during my NEXT presentation?”

Notice you are asking for suggestions for your NEXT presentation. If you ask, “What is wrong with this presentation?” you are likely to get demoralizing feedback. By asking what to do differently for the next one, you will get constructive feedback about how to improve.

3) Videotape yourself giving a speech:

I know watching yourself on tape is not the easiest thing in the world. (After all, I swear I look taller and younger in real life!) But, watching yourself on video is the best way to observe your voice, gestures, and interaction with the audience.

4) Get a professional coach:

Everyone needs a mentor. They can spot details you would otherwise miss. For example, an executive hired me as a their speech coach. During his speech, I noticed he was only making eye contact with the right side of the room. People sitting on the left side of the room felt ignored. So, I taught him how to make eye contact with all parts of the room.

5) Reward yourself for good behavior:

There is an old adage: “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” We are too tough on ourselves – especially with public speaking. Public speaking is the number one fear for most people. So, you deserve a pat on the back just for attempting a presentation! Treat yourself to your favorite dessert or go for a nice walk as a reward for practicing your new speaking skills.

It takes weeks to ingrain a new habit. During that time, slip-ups and growing pains can occur. Be patient. Silence that nagging inner voice that expects you to be perfect. Motivational speaker Les Brown has a great saying, “Anything worth doing well, is worth doing poorly at first.”

So, rehearse your new presentation skills. Practice your skills so next time, YOU are the great speaker who gets the promotion and the raise!

© 2008 Reflective Keynotes Inc., Toronto, Canada