Do Presentations About Financials Need to Be Boring?

In a word, NO.  As a public speaking and presentation coach in New York City and New Jersey, I occasionally see presentations by financial service executives that are needlessly boring, and I say it’s time to put an end to it!

The key to creating a good data driven presentation is to understand that a presentation must first and foremost be engaging and entertaining.  If you are merely reviewing data, there is no need to present.  You may as well simply email the information out.  So how do we create an entertaining, yet data driven, presentation?

Check out Chris McKentt’s presentation on the investment logic of sustainability posted above.  Chris does a few things well to help engage the audience:

1)  He has a very clear premise – His premise is “investment strategy and global sustainability do not need to be incompatible”.  He uses his presentation as a way to call the audience to action (a persuasive speech always trumps an instructional speech).

2)  He uses Power Point as a visual medium – Power Point is very useful when it is used simply, and in a design capacity.  Think color, shape, form, and stick your extraneous data into a handout.

3) Quotes, quotes, quotes – Notice the way he sprinkles the speech with meaningful quotes.  They enhance the power of his premise.

4) Analogies, analogies, analogies– Creative comparisons are another way to engage the audience.  I love how Chris compares the reduction of one company’s carbon footprint with the effect of taking 2100 cars off the road.

5) The power of three – Chris has an introduction, a discussion section, and a closing section.  He tells us what he is going to tell us, tells us, and then tells us what he told us.  It sounds absurd, but if you watch the speech, there is a real sense of satisfaction with his closing section.  That sense of satisfaction exists not just because he has made his point, but also because the point he has made was designed artfully.


Three Signs Your Presentations Need Help


Do you feel that your presentations lack spark? Are your colleagues nodding off in the middle of your speeches? Here are a few signs your presentations could use an overhaul:

1) No Preparation – If you haven’t done the preparation work on a presentation, culling together the material, designing your PowerPoint, agonizing over the premise, rehearsing it out loud in front of a coach or colleague, then you can’t expect the presentation to take off. There’s no excuse to wing it.

2) Your Absolutely Sure Your Presentation Is AMAZING Nope. I find that the people who are most sure about their presentations are often the ones with the worst presentations. I’m not sure why this is, but I think a little self doubt is good. It forces you to work hard, think creatively about each slide, and really do your homework.

3) No Follow Up Questions – It’s always best to end a presentation by asking for follow up questions. You can be sure you’ve bombed if no one has any! It’s generally an indication that you have not been clear enough with your material, or that you have not presented your material in an interesting enough manner.

The Three Keys to Presenting at the Meeting Table

images If you’re feeling like your presentations in small meetings are suffering, try these three simple tips to jump start things:

1) Call or email your attendees beforehand –  This is the simplest and most effective way to improve your presentations and gauge what is important to your attendees.  Ask some probing questions beforehand, and flesh out what is important to your group.  Eliminate elements of your presentation that aren’t needed.

2) Check in with your group after each major bullet point – Everybody professes to do it, yet it’s seldom done.  If your attendees are confused about the product you are selling, or the initiative you are launching, they are not always likely to say so.  By giving your attendees permission to speak up during your presentation at the beginning of the presentation, you take out the risk of being misunderstood.  A simple “Please feel free to ask a question if you are confused about something” should suffice.

3) Watch out for death by PowerPoint –  Statistically we can absorb three pieces of information per slide.  Not four, not five and certainly not fifty-six.  Three.  If your slides look like a page from a calculus text book, weed out the less than pertinent data and put it into a hand-out that you can pass out before the presentation.  Check out this blog post for examples of great Power Point slides.

There you are!  If you would like to sharpen a presentation or speech, call me to set up a free, 20 minute consultation!

8 Speaking Tips Gleaned from the Debates

Here are my eight speaking tips gleaned from the debates:

1) Always know your audience – Americans love a good fight, and as a general rule, it’s better to err on the side of being too aggressive during a presidential debate then not aggressive enough. Obama mastered this lesson quickly. Know your audience.

2) Understand the occasion – During the first debate Obama looked like he was ready to chat with members of a PTA meeting, not do battle with a formidable opponent. If you understand the occasion, you will prepare appropriately.

3) Rehearse – Mark Twain once said “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”. The same applies to debates, and yes, to your business meetings. Think you might get asked a tough question in front of the boss next week? Start prepping answers now. Take out a pad, and make some notes.

4) Eye contact matters – … a lot. 80 percent of our impression of a speaker is non-verbal. Romney wiped the floor with the president at the first debate largely because he looked the president directly in the eye when he challenged him.

5) Voice matters – …a lot. Obama had a tendency to be high-pitched during the first debate, and it played into the next morning’s scathing reviews of his performance.

6) A story is worth a thousand statistics – Romney has an encyclopedic mind for statistics, and stats are an important element of speaking well, but they tend to be subjective. He was at his most effective when he spoke about his time as a missionary in France, or relating stories of the hard-pressed in the midst of our down economy.

7) Watch your tone – This one is tricky, but it’s important to be weary of coming across as too defensive. There were moments where I felt that both candidates were a hair to strident… especially Romney. If you hear yourself accusing either the audience or a colleague or participant, allow for some silence, and re-word your thoughts.

8) There’s always another speech – Everybody has an off-day. You can say what you want about our president, but he doesn’t give in easily. He bombed the first debate, and dusted himself off, and resolved himself to prepare better. You can do the same.

Do you want some help with your presentation style? Contact me for a free, twenty minute in-person consultation.

How to Reduce Um’s and Ah’s While Presenting

Check out minutes 2:00-4:00 in the video above.  The interviewee, Jo Becker, has a lot of interesting things to say in regard to Obama’s foreign policy, but unfortunately her message gets lost in a haze of um’s, ah’s and sort of’s.

How do you fix this?  Get a rubber ball.  No joke.  Go through your presentation and squeeze the ball every time you say “um”, “ah”, “like”, “sort of”, or “kind of”.  Go easy to start, just notice how often it occurs, then run through the presentation again, and really commit to a long moment of silence when you squeeze the ball, and resist the urge to fill the space with stammering.

We use these vocal fillers when we a) don’t have our thoughts organized or b) feel the need to qualify or weaken our stance on the topic we are speaking about.  We fix the vocal tic issue when we a) pause in silence and take time to clarify our thoughts during our presentation or b) stop qualifying our ideas so darn much! 😉

In any case, give me a buzz if you’d like to work on this issue.  I’m happy to help you get your presentation to the next level!