By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)
A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of speaking at two PR industry events, the PR News Measurement Conference and the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit, both during the same week and like anyone else, I sat in the audience and ranked all the speakers from best to worst. I am sure I was being judged too and that’s perfectly fine. What caught my attention during these events is the stark similarity in presentation techniques that the “best” speakers had versus their counterparts who were a little more nervous to be on stage.
As a five year old getting ready to give my first musical performance on stage in-front of the whole school, I remember my legs trembling and my heart pacing at a 100 miles per hour. This is too much information but yes I did end up peeing on stage and my teacher had to cancel my part. The only reason I am sharing this episode on this post is to make the point that we have all been there when the nervous energy takes over you and at that moment, you just want to get off the stage. But at some point in your life especially as a leader of your organization, you got to consciously work on honing your presentation skills in order to be taken seriously. I might be biased but an effective leader is one who is also a powerful communicator.
At CRT/tanaka, our crisis communication and media training expert, Brian Ellis has helped several Fortune 500 leaders become effective communicators and he is one of my favorite speakers at the agency. Here are a few tips that I have personally learned from Brian as well as my favorite speakers in the PR and Digital Media circles like Bonin Bough, Digital Head at Kraft Foods, Scott Monty, Chief of Social Media, Ford Motors and Johna Burke, Senior VP at BurresLuce.
Share your passion in your voice: I have seen CEO’s who bring a sense of passion and energy to their meetings and presentations. This energy and passion is ADDICTIVE, listening to passionate leaders inspires you to follow their vision. On the contrary when the leader fails to bring in a sense of energy and enthusiasm to her meetings and becomes a huge time suck to listen to, chances are your team is dreading that weekly team meeting. When Bonin Bough keynotes a conference, it doesn’t matter if its 8am or 1pm (right after that awesome lunch), the audience is PUMPED UP! Energy is addictive; use it to your advantage as a speaker.
Demonstrate subject matter expertise without giving a sales pitch through your presentations: This is specifically for the sponsors of conferences who automatically qualify to be speakers by virtue of their sponsorship dollars. I sat through an entire presentation on “Data-driven communications, what your customers are trying to tell you?” by Jay Krall, manager of Internet media research at Cision and not once did I feel like Jay was pitching us Cision. He did a brilliant job of coming across as a digital expert that has a thorough understanding of data analytics without making us feel like a Cision sales guy talking constantly about how great their technology is. More sponsors should learn from Jay Krall, the art of influencing without selling. I definitely left his session wanting to set up a call for a demo from Cision.
Talk specifics and share real world examples to make your point: I am sure you agree with me in that we have reached a little bit of a saturation point with social media topics in general. So after 101 presentations on “How to integrate social to traditional,” about 50 different books on new media, I think the audience is more interested in hearing some “real world examples” especially of what didn’t work well. I respect speakers with real world experience in getting their hands dirty with actual client work versus those that site examples from national news outlets. I am sorry, I didn’t come all the way to listen to you give me a download on the BP crisis or the use of Twitter in Egypt’s revolution, national outlets and blogs have already postmortemed those issues at length . I would rather hear your personal lessons learned from your organization or clients.
Practice what you preach about “brands should become story tellers,” what about using that technique for your presentation: The best presenters are those that effectively use the story-telling technique during their presentation. Establishing a connection with your audience, the use of humor through a personal story or a shared experience right before kicking off your session seems to be the hallmark of great presenters. I have seen presenters speaking on the topic of “How to tell your brand’s story?” in the dullest way possible. What does that do to your credibility as a speaker? A great example of someone who has mastered this technique and always delivers a stellar presentation by engaging with her audience is Johna Burke, Senior, VP at BurrellesLuce. You can follow her @gojohnab.
Make your audience a part of your presentation: I do this all the time. I always start my presentations with a question I would like to ask and what this does is, helps those that were just about to fall asleep, wake up and pay attention to you. Even better if you ask a question that emphasizes one of your key messages for the presentation, now you got your audience involved in your key message. Their ego involvement in what you are about to say is that much higher. The “I” in “Interaction” starts with you as a speaker asking your audience to participate in a quick poll (show of hands) or challenging them to think differently.
As a communications pro, I think it’s our responsibility to groom the leaders in our organization to be an effective spokesperson or anyone who is a brand ambassador to make the best use of the time with a captive audience. Effective communication is the hallmark of strong leadership.
Shel Israel, noted social media influencer and author of “Twitterville” recently published his new book, “Stellar Presentations: an Entrepreneur’s Guide to Giving Great Talks.” It’s a must-read for anyone who spends a good chunk of her time “presenting” or as I see it “influencing through steallr presentations.”
If you or your CEO needs presentation/media training, all you have to do is email us at email@example.com.