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Mar 30

The 3B Strategy To Nail Your Next Boardroom Presentation

By Briohny Williams | Delivering Presentations

The Opportunity You've Been Waiting For

They're the meetings you prepare the longest for with the shortest air time. High pressure, with potentially big results waiting on the other side. You're all set with your rehearsed remarks and the CEO asks "What would happen if we do nothing?". Hold up, you're not prepared for "nothing".. just all the "somethings" in your presentation!

A common chorus from professionals looking to move on and up in their careers and in business is how to raise their visibility within their company or their standing with clients.

Whilst it is fairly easy to gain experience in presenting your ideas, progress reports, even short training sessions if you look for opportunities within your business, there is little opportunity to practice presenting to a group that is used to making high stakes decisions on a regular basis.

What do we already know about an executive audience?

The high-level observations are fairly obvious; they need to make huge decisions, based on accurate information that is normally delivered in short-burst meetings and presentations. You're presenting because you have the knowledge they need, or have gathered information from subject matter experts. 

C-Suite executives could have a completely different perspective to you. However when you're the person at the front of the boardroom, you're suddenly the storyteller, the problem solver, and ultimately have to think quickly if the conversation goes in a direction you have not prepared for.

The great news is, most people in this position will improve over time, given the opportunity. The not-so-great news.. if you don't do a passable job the first time around, you might not get another chance with this particular audience.

To accelerate your learning curve and proactively anticipate common senior level questions, follow this simple structure to prepare your next executive presentation and always feel ready when presenting at the highest levels of business.

Be Brief

Let's think about the agenda of the executive team in real terms, these folks are pretty heavily scheduled. If you've been asked to present, it is likely that you are one of multiple people presenting to this group today. And you may be last on the agenda.

In the short amount of time you have, you have to be confident, credible, memorable and competent. Easy, right? The reality is, the shorter the time you have to present, the more you need to prepare.

Set expectations and let the group know how you'll spend your time and what you'll be covering. They will be more likely to let you continue your presentation and not interrupt your flow if they know what's coming up in a couple of minutes.

We are not magicians working up to a big reveal at the end of the show. Summarize your 3 main points (or less) at the beginning of the presentation and come back to supporting detail as the conversation progresses. Your slides should reflect this with a lean presentation, with supporting detail in the appendix so you can flip to details and supporting visuals as you need.

Be Bright

You can take the "bright" to represent 2 main ideas in this context; being a bit clever, and also knowing how to best communicate your ideas to this group by presenting what they will be looking for.

Be clever by providing a new take on data that the group may have seen before, a (hopefully) new perspective, alternative solutions with clear benefits and risks and a recommendation, if you are asked to provide.

It's important, though whilst you may be presenting information the group hasn't considered before, you stay entirely on topic by providing the information requested of you before moving onto other topics.

Do sweat the details. Many an executive presentation has been derailed by an "off" detail being mentioned in the opening minutes. This detail has distracted an audience member and either caused them to disengage from the following information or prompted side discussions. Meanwhile, you're standing patiently waiting to get to the next slide.. and then time runs out. They've got to move on to the next agenda item, and your amazing ideas are trapped in Powerpoint forever.

It pays to rehearse multiple times in advance of the presentation to ensure that you can present all the information you have in the time you've been given, factoring in Q&A time. If there are any words that you tend to stumble on, either eliminate them by replacing with another word or take a minor pause before you say the word and really concentrate on pronouncing correctly (the words quantitative and qualitative come to mind for me, you will have your own tricky words!). Run your presentation past someone who has had ideas adopted at an executive level who will provide honest and constructive feedback.

Be Gone

If you can't save them money, save them time. You may be a subject matter expert in your sector or industry, which is perhaps why you have been asked to present on this topic. No-one will be looking to gain in-depth knowledge from your presentation, you need to remember to "level up" and not go into intricate detail unless requested. Long-winded and overly detailed presentations will not likely cover the details that this group is looking for, and you may find yourself interrupted if you don't focus on highlighting the problem or topic, high-level findings, a recommendation, the conclusion and a call to action.

These presentations provide decision points to move a company forward. Although you are the messenger, the purpose of the presentation is to consider initiatives that will make the company more successful, and success usually requires getting others involved and on-board to make it work. Be curious and open to the discussion that ensues rather than anxious and defensive about protecting your work.

Building Visibility Beyond the Boardroom

If you're not getting the call up to present to the board, there are still plenty of ways that you can build visibility and be known within your organization when the opportunity to advance comes around.

  • Prepare for meetings by looking over the agenda and making note of questions or points to raise and then speak up.
  • Build self-confidence, knowledge, and skills by taking a public speaking course and put your skills to work by applying them whenever you can.
  • Offer to train new team members in your area of expertise and volunteer for high-visibility projects.
  • Grow your network internally and externally. When you receive the opportunity to work on new projects, introduce yourself to anyone you haven't met before and demonstrate your expertise by speaking up in meetings. Do what you say you will do in these meetings!
  • If you meet someone at an event, ask if you can connect with them. Connect on LinkedIn or email so you can easily find each other again and then occasionally send them an article or note topics of interest to keep the connection fresh.
  • Find a mentor that can provide you with advice, feedback on your personal presence, communication skills, building expertise. This should not be a manager or someone with any link to your performance appraisal.
  • Focus on the contributions of others and don't be afraid to highlight their achievements.

Visibility is about your character as well as being the first person to mind for new opportunities and advancement. If you're the most qualified person for the job, you do great work AND people like working with you, that's a pretty winning combination.

Mar 30

Make Eye Contact Your Secret Weapon

By Briohny Williams | Body Language

Why is public speaking so terrifying?

The nerves, not knowing what to do with (undoubtedly sweaty) hands, and not knowing where to look when you’re are in the spotlight. Trust me, it’s not staring at your notes or at the projector screen behind you!

If any of this sounds familiar, chances are you could improve your presentations, and start to use the opportunity to have a conversation with your audience and really land your message.

Eye contact is one of the most powerful, and totally within your control, weapons you have at your disposal.

Not only will you be able to “read the room”, you can also use eye contact to connect with your audience and boost your credibility and authenticity through the roof.

So, how to complete this terrifying task? Let’s split it into two; preparation and showtime.

Preparation

Prepare your presentation and once you have pulled together your content, which may include slides, it’s time to create your notes and rehearse. Not only will you be able to hear how your words are coming together, you can ensure your notes are going to work for you on the day, and also practice the all-important eye contact.

Try this eye contact exercise

  1. Find a space to rehearse your presentation. Ideally, you should have a mirror, plus 2 post-it notes that you can place at least one meter on either side of your mirror to give you a few reference points for your “audience”. Place the notes at a height that will replicate the audience eye level (or just not really high or really low if you’re not sure where the audience will be).
  2. Try to replicate the presentation environment; if you will be standing on stage, rehearse standing up. If you’re on a panel or presenting a webinar, you may be sitting down.
  3. Set up your smart phone camera to record your presentation, ideally next to the mirror so it captures your full body from the front on.
  4. Time to present! Scan your eyes to the mirror and notes you’ve set up during the presentation. Preferably, move your eyes in a controlled but natural scan around the room. If you continuously move your eyes from point 1, to 2, to 3, it will likely look staged and unnatural. Do a full run through your presentation, including the introduction, middle and conclusion.
  5. Watch your video. Yup, it will initially be the most horrible thing you’ve done all week. But tell me, once you get past seeing yourself on camera, what do you see?

When you review your video

  • Are your notes clear and summarized to a point that you are not reading them?
  • Do you need to practice your content more to refer to your notes less?
  • Are you feeling confident and interested in your topic? If you don’t have conviction in your topic, why should other people care? Perhaps you need a stronger introduction or think about the structure of the presentation.

If you’re happy(ish) with how you did first time, up the ante a little by asking one or two colleagues, family members or your dog to listen to your next presentation rehearsal.

  • Be sure to record the presentation again, and when you review your latest rehearsal also watch your first rehearsal again. Have you made progress, what else could you tweak?
  • Ask for feedback. Let your reviewers know that you are open to any feedback (structure, content, body language), however you are specifically looking to improve your eye contact so you will definitely want to hear about that. Your dog will find a way to let you know what she thinks!

Next, it’s showtime! Now that you’ve prepared with extra focus on eye contact, you’re feeling good, right?

Check back here tomorrow to read all about to put this all into action!