Are there secrets to giving a great presentation?
It’s not an insignificant question, is it? Business people give presentations all the time – speeches, sales calls, business pitches – and the difference between a good presentation and a fine or mediocre one (or bad one!) is often the difference between a yes and a no.
So what makes for a great presentation? I certainly think about this a lot as I give scores of speeches every year. And having had the chance to meet some of the very best speakers and salespeople in the country, what I know is that there are indeed some simple strategies that can help anyone present and speak better.
Here then are some top tips from the pros:
Peter Handal is the president, CEO and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training. You likely know the name Dale Carnegie from the bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People (over five million copies sold!), but in fact, Carnegie was one of the great public speakers ever. Today, Dale Carnegie Training trains millions of people around the world in the areas of leadership, sales, interpersonal skills, and public speaking.
According to Handal, there are several key things that make for a great presentation:
Cut to the Chase: “The last thing the audience wants to hear is superfluous information. Right from the start, state your main points in a direct way in order to best express your message.”
Speak with Confidence: “Whether presenting a proposal or speech, by simply being confident in your convictions you can ensure to make a positive impact on your audience.”
And let me add, if you are not confident, fake it till you make it.
Listen: “In order to become a great public speaker, one half of the battle is talking while the other half is being a good listener.”
Master salesman Tom Hopkins once told me that salespeople should remember that they have one mouth but two ears for a reason – they should listen more than they speak. When giving any presentation, listening to your audience makes you far more accessible and relevant.
Know Your Audience: “When giving a speech, I always wander around the audience before a talk, or do research on them before I talk, so that I know who they are and in what they're interested in.”
Prepare, and then prepare some more: “Own the right to speak on a topic by doing your research, knowing the expected audience and always come prepared to answer any questions they may have.”
Indeed. By knowing you’re the subject of your presentation cold, you will gain that all-important confidence, avoid a lot of jitters, and decrease the chance for an embarrassing faux-pas.
Here is one additional excellent Dale Carnegie tip: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
A few other tips:
“Enthusiasm sells!” In the past year I have had the pleasure of getting to know a well-known infomercial host. He is incredibly successful, has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products, and naturally is very good at what he does. His presentation secret? “Enthusiasm sells!” His point is that your enthusiasm for your subject is infectious and gets other people excited, and once that happens, your job becomes much, much easier.
Have an X factor: My friend Steve Little is a world-class speaker, presenting hundreds of speeches to business people every year. According to Steve, “80 percent of your ability to succeed is your stage presence, nothing else.” What he means is that you have to command the room, the presentation. Of course you will know your stuff and relay important information, that is a given. But to really succeed with your presentations, you must have some sort of X Factor that gives you a presence. It might be your enthusiasm, or knowledge, or humor . . . whatever it is, tap into it.
Tell stories. As Tony Robbins is wont to say, “People love stories.” And if you have ever heard Tony speak, you know why he says that. Tony, like all great speakers, uses stories to drive home points in a way that is relatable. People do like to hear stories and you will be a far more effective speaker if you can learn a few great ones and pepper your presentation with them.
And finally, don’t worry if you are not a naturally great speaker. Consider the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“All great speakers were bad speakers at first.”
(Follow me on Twitter @SteveStrauss)