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Presentation Organization

by Gayle Brickman

Clear, concise, organized presentations help your audience get the message.  Published in Selling Power Magazine

 

An effective presentation leaves little to the prospect's imagination. The main ideas are prominent, clearly explained and presented in logical order. The presenter sticks to a well-designed plan without wandering off on tangents or leaving the audience wondering where the presentation is going. As a result, your prospects understand the benefits of your product, which in turn helps them decide to buy. Organize your next presentation according to these steps to give your buyers all the right ideas.

 

Analyze. Before you start thinking about the content of your presentation, think about why you are giving one in the first place. Get to know your audience and their preferences and quirks, find out how much time you will have to talk and decide what action you want your audience to take when you are finished. Through careful questioning you should already know your prospects' wants, needs and hot buttons - design your presentation content around them. Careful analysis before you get started should reduce preparation time, ensure your use of appropriate terminology, help you anticipate questions and objections and tailor a topic quickly for a new audience.

 

Funnel. You might have a lot of information to share, but that doesn't mean your buyers want to hear all of it. Address only those selling points that you know are of particular interest to your buyers. Envision pouring all you know about your product into a funnel, which then narrows your focus to three or four main ideas. If you want to share additional information, distribute it before or after your presentation so prospects can read just what they want.

 

Focus. To stay on track during your presentation, use a focus statement. Your statement isn't revealed to your audience, but serves as a constant reminder of how your information will be defined, developed and included in your presentation. Incorporate these three elements into your statement:

 

A presentation goal. Ask yourself what you want your audience to know, feel or do as a result of your presentation.

 

A presentation theme. To identify your theme, decide whether you will be informative or persuasive. Compose a theme that offers a benefit, i.e., "To persuade the audience that the new product will save time."

 

A presentation category. Your theme usually determines your category - a word or phrase that tells your main points. Categories of information include steps, methods, types, benefits and reasons why. If you want to persuade your listeners that your product will save them time, offer specific reasons why (category) it will save time (theme).

 

Identify. Your category of information will help you determine your main points. Brainstorm for all the main points related to your category (using the example above, all reasons why your product will save time). Remember that your main points should be important to your prospects. If you end up with more points than your audience can absorb, organize them under three or four main headings that will help them remember. Tie your main points to benefit statements that show prospects why those points are important.

 

Map. With a thoughtfully designed blueprint you help ensure a smooth and effective delivery. Jot down an outline of your presentation with key words and phrases (use terminology prospects will recognize) onto a "cheat sheet" you can use to trigger your memory and get you back on track quickly if you are interrupted. Use bold face and italics to help you find your place on the map easily, and to help you remember which words to emphasize.

 

You give presentations to let prospects know why they should buy. Make the most of your opportunity by delivering the information in a way that makes the benefits of your product crystal clear. Prospects that understand what you have to offer and how it benefits them are far more likely to make your presentation pay off with a sale.

Don't Read That Speech

by Gayle Brickman
Published in The CEO Refresher

Imagine this. A CEO of a major corporation walks up to the podium. He welcomes the audience, takes a sip of water, clears his throat, opens his notebook and reads his speech word for word, line by line, page by page.

When people find out what I do, they tell me stories like this. And it's no wonder. Most people read their speeches because that is how it has always been done. Reading from a script, however, can have a negative impact on your audience. Comments I hear repeatedly include:

"Why did I take time out of my busy day to hear this guy?"
"How could this be a CEO? He doesn't seem to know what he's talking about."
"He did not care enough about the audience."

But, the end of the story is typically the same. When it's time for the CEO to conduct the question and answer session, he does great. He steps out from behind the paper and "talks" with the audience – letting his knowledge, expertise and credibility flow from question to question.

CEOs often find themselves handed a speech – written by an outside speech writer – and with little time to prepare, simply get up and read it. But, reading a speech can be a big credibility killer:

Reason #1: Reading does not allow for a natural delivery.

There is a difference between a "presented speech" and someone just talking to you. The latter is certainly more believable, interesting and sincere. It is difficult to read from a script and have it sound conversational. When reading, there is usually little eye contact, fewer gestures and facial expressions, and a more monotone voice. By the end, the speaker has failed to develop a rapport with the audience. They may walk away feeling bitter ("What a waste of time. I could have read this on my own.") and questioning your credibility and sincerity.

Reason #2: Relying on a written presentation provides a false sense of security.

Relying on a written presentation, or even detailed outline, often inhibits flexibility – which can be quite detrimental when caught off guard. For example, if you are participating in a panel discussion and time begins to run out before it is your turn to speak, it can be difficult to make adjustments at the last minute. Or, when impromptu questions interrupt or distract during a presentation, "speech readers" often find it difficult to regroup, find their place and continue.

Regardless of the CEO's intentions, perception becomes reality. If you read to, rather than talk with, your audience, chances are they will be disappointed. They will perceive that you did not take the time to prepare – your credibility may be hurt, your message will be lost, and the speech will not be effective.

How to Overcome Speech Reading

The foundation of successful communication is organization. If your presentation is clearly organized, you will develop a more natural delivery – and the rest will fall into place. Keep in mind, however, that spending a lot of time preparing does not mean you are well-prepared. In my experience, it's quite the contrary. CEOs can prepare for a speech in as little as 20 minutes – as long as they know how to do it.

The Five Steps

Preparing for a speech – whether a keynote address, panel discussion, interview with the media or presentation to the board of directors – can be done in five systematic steps. You already have the knowledge and expertise, these steps guarantee that your audience will know it.

Step 1: Presentation Analysis

Ask yourself a few key questions: Who am I talking to? How long do I have to talk? Why am I making this speech? This last question is, perhaps, the most important because it prompts you to pinpoint the goal of your presentation. Armed with this information, you can create a presentation that is targeted to the wants or needs of your audience and that will help you reach your goal. Specifically, the analysis will:

Reduce preparation time by eliminating unnecessary or inappropriate information.

Ensure that you use terminology appropriate for your audience's level of understanding.
Help you anticipate questions or opposition from the audience.
Allow you to take the same topic and quickly tailor it for a different audience.

Step 2: Funneling to Generate your Theme

Too often, people try to present too much information, hoping something will stick. But, "data dump" overwhelms and confuses the audience. To make the greatest impact, help the audience understand your message and give them only information they can readily process and retain. Generate a theme for the speech that is focused and to-the-point.

Step 3: Creating a Focus Statement

The Focus Statement keeps you focused while preparing your speech. It serves as a constant reminder of how your information will be defined, developed and included in your presentation. The focus statement is comprised of three elements:

Goal. Your goal will be the answer to the question: "What do I want the audience to know, feel or do?"

Theme. People speak either to inform or persuade their audience. Having determined which you intend to do, you will be better able to identify what you want to talk about.

Category. Generally, the theme of the presentation will determine your category: a word or phrase that tells you what your main points should be. The categories of information include steps, methods, types, benefits or reasons why. Determining the "category" before defining your main point helps to keep you on track while developing your overall presentation.

Step 4: Defining Main Points

It is helpful to categorize the information you are going to present under three main headings. This will help make sure the audience can easily follow your presentation and understand your message. It can also be advantageous to use visual aids to clarify, emphasize or add variety to the main points. It is easy, however, to use a visual as a crutch – simply reading what is on the screen or chart. People do it all the time. But, to enhance your delivery and make a more natural presentation, be sure to use the visuals as "aids" that help you make a more effective speech.

Step 5: Mapping out the Presentation

To help my clients enhance their delivery, I have created what I call a "Speaker's Map" – the crux of making a confident, smooth, natural presentation. Based on this map, I help speakers create a blueprint for their presentation that lays out all the components of their speech onto one sheet of paper. You can even use the Speaker's Map to signify when to refer to each visual. Following the map's route is easy and natural for both you and the audience. Key words and phrases are used to trigger your memory and keep you focused. When interrupted, you can quickly get back on track by simply glancing at your map.

By organizing your thoughts onto one well-constructed map, your delivery automatically becomes more conversational because you are not "reading" to the audience. With a natural delivery comes increased eye contact, more natural gesturing and increased audience attention.

Making it Work for You

While the need to prepare for a speech is common knowledge, it is not common practice. As CEOs strive to juggle their busy schedules, preparing for a presentation appears to be a lengthy and time-consuming task. This does not have to be the case. Following the five systematic steps I have laid out will expedite the preparation process and will guarantee that you:

Develop a natural speaking style.

Communicate a clear and concise message.                

Identify and reach your speaking goal.

As a CEO, you have the expertise and knowledge – this process just helps you communicate it most effectively to your audience.

 

 

Ask me about customizing a workshop for your organization or speaking at your next conference, meeting or retreat.For more information, please email me.

To Drive Change You Must Present Your Case

by Gayle Brickman

The ability to clearly and convincingly communicate how your program will impact the bottom line is the key to success.
Published in The Human Resource Professional

 

The role of human resources is changing. The diverse work force and expanding global boundaries continue to put new demands and pressures on corporate America.

 

To help position companies for future growth, HR professionals are being called upon to drive change and results, not just monitor them. In fact, experts predict that leading change will become HR's greatest contribution to the corporation. To facilitate this growing responsibility, HR managers find themselves as part of the top management team, often reporting directly to the CEO.

 

For years, HR has been trying to gain credibility with upper management. Now, senior management acknowledges the importance of managing the work force, and it wants HR to provide programs. David Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Business points out, "Companies are now finding that the HR issues are, in fact, center stage to business competitiveness. It's a role that has been talked about for years, and is now becoming a reality. "

 

Once at the leadership table, HR professionals are expected to add value. Creating HR programs is the crux of adding value. But this is only half the battle. You can have the best ideas and strategies, but if you cannot convince the CEO to proceed, they do not mean a thing.

 

As you move up the organizational ladder you will be called upon to speak publicly in a variety of situations, including:

  • Presenting your ideas to upper management and persuading them to implement them.  

  • Explaining to employees the reasons behind a recent downsizing.  

  • Training personnel on a new software program.  

  • Addressing a group of potential recruits.  

  • Conducting a team or department motivational meeting.

 

Whatever the situation, the key to success is effective communication. How well you convey your message - how clear, concise and convincing you are - will dramatically impact the success or failure of your presentation.

 

Spending a lot of time preparing does not mean you will be well-prepared. For example, look at a presentation to the CEO. Sure, you must know the CEO. You need to find out, as much as possible, about your boss' hot buttons. You also have to know the business, so that you can make sure your program is linked to and supports the overall goals and objectives.

 

But having done your homework is only step one, not all the steps. Being able to clearly and convincingly communicate how your program will impact the bottom line is the key to success. Your job as a presenter is to make sure your intended message is heard.

 

This can only be achieved if your speech is clear, concise and well organized. The more organized you are, the more comfortable and confident you will be during the presentation, and the more effective and exciting you will be in selling your program. Whether talking to a handful of top executives or an auditorium filled with employees, one fact remains constant - the key to effective communication is organization. Learning how to organize your thoughts, defining your goal, identifying your audience and developing your theme, will give you the confidence you need to communicate effectively.

 

Preparing for a presentation can be done in five systematic steps. You already have the knowledge and expertise, so make sure your audience knows it. Following these steps you will enhance your credibility, improve your delivery and ensure that you communicate your message clearly and reach your goal.

 

As a successful HR professional, you know that the formal presentation is one of many times you will be called upon to speak. You may be asked to give impromptu project updates, address other key decision-makers, conduct informal training sessions or communicate quickly to employees during a crisis situation. These five steps can be easily modified to help you prepare for these situations as well.

 

Step 1. Presentation analysis. Before you put pen to paper, take a good look at your presentation. Why are you making this presentation? Whom are you talking to? How long do you have to talk?

 

Analyzing your audience and situation will ensure that you prepare a presentation that is targeted to their wants or needs, and that will help you reach your goal. Specifically, the analysis will:

 

  • Cut down the time you spend preparing by eliminating unnecessary or inappropriate information.

  • Ensure that you use terminology appropriate for your audience's level of understanding. 

  • Help you anticipate questions or opposition from the audience. 

  • Allow you to take the same topic and quickly tailor it for a different audience.

 

The first, and perhaps most critical, point in analyzing your audience is to define your goal. To a large extent, the goal will depend on why you are making the presentation. Are you selling an HR program? Communicating a policy change? Promoting the company to a group of recruits? Or holding a weekly staff meeting? Knowing specifically what you need to address will enable you to create a presentation to meet that goal.

 

Step 2. Funneling to generate your topic. By failing to focus on an appropriate topic, you can actually sabotage your own presentation. Too often, people try to present too much information, hoping something will stick. But "data dump" overwhelms and confuses the audience. As a presenter, your job is to help the audience understand your message and to give them only information they can readily process and retain.

 

Just as a funnel is wide on the top and narrows on the bottom, the technique of funneling allows you to take a broad topic and narrow it to one that is more focused and manageable. Funneling the information helps you arrive at a specific theme for your presentation - for example, how your proposed program will positively impact the company's bottom line - and keeps you focused on what your audience needs or wants to know so you can reach your goal.

 

Step 3. Creating a focus statement. Although not specifically revealed to your audience, the focus statement keeps you focused and helps you stay on track while preparing your presentation. It serves as a constant reminder of how your information will be defined, developed and included in your presentation. The focus statement is comprised of three elements:

 

  • Presentation goal. Your goal will be the answer to the question: "What do I want my audience to know, feel or do?" Be as specific as possible, in pinpointing what you hope to accomplish. The clearer your goal, the better you will be at communicating with your audience, and the more efficient you will be in reaching it.

  • Presentation theme. Virtually all presentations fit into two categories - informative or persuasive. By determining whether you intend to inform or persuade, you will be better able to identify what the presentation is about. Keep in mind that the theme must be specific and must offer a benefit. For example, "To inform the CEO about a new program" is too broad for most situations. "To persuade the CEO that the new program will enhance recruitment and retention efforts" is more specific and prompts you to focus on a concrete message and targeted benefits for your audience.

  • Presentation information. Generally, the theme of the presentation will determine the kind information you need to give your audience. Categories of information include steps, methods, types, benefits or reasons why. So, if you are trying to persuade the CEO that the new program will positively affect recruitment and retention, the only information you should give him or her are specific reasons why.

 

Step 4. Identify main points. The category of information helps you determine the main points of your presentation. In the above example, one main point could be that the new program promotes a more family friendly work environment. You would then go on to support this reason with illustrations and examples. Research has shown that people think in threes. Three reasons might be:

 

  • Allows telecommuting provided specific criteria are met.

  • Enables people to job-share in certain positions.

  • Defines career track according to performance, rather than time at work.

 

By categorizing your material under three main headings, the information will be so tightly organized and will flow in such a logical sequence that your audience will absorb and retain the information with little effort.

Step 5. Map out the presentation. Developing what I call a Speaker's Map is the crux of making a confident, smooth effective presentation. Based on this map, you create a blueprint for your presentation in which all the components of your speech are incorporated onto one sheet of paper.

Following the map's route is easy and natural for both you and the audience. Key words and phrases are used to trigger your memory and keep you focused throughout the presentation. When interruptions occur, you can quickly get back on track by simply glancing at your map. Finding because you are not reading to the audience. With a natural delivery comes increased eye contact, more natural gesturing and real enthusiasm. As your delivery improves, so does your success.

Putting It All Together

No matter what the situation or audience, effective communication with your prospect is the key to success. If your message is lost or misunderstood, even the best HR program will fail to capture the CEO's attention and receive the consideration it undoubtedly deserves. There are a variety of ways to create a presentation; but, by following these five systematic steps you will:

Save time. Identify and reach your goal. Improve your confidence and delivery.Give your audience a clear and concise message.

Organization is the foundation to successful communication. It will allow you to fully communicate your knowledge and expertise and help you achieve your ultimate goal to drive change.

5 Steps For Helping Your CEO

by Gayle Brickman Published in Presentations Magazine

 

It happens all the time! The CEO of a major corporation walks up to the podium; welcomes the audience, clears his throat, opens his notebook and begins to "read" his speech, word for word, line by line, page by page, in a dull, uninspiring drone.

 

But when it comes to the question-and-answer session, he is a different man. He steps out from behind the paper and "talks" with the audience, letting his knowledge, expertise and credibility flow from question to question.

 

Top executives often find themselves in this situation because they are handed a speech – written by an outside speechwriter and don't have, or don't take, the necessary time to prepare. Unfortunately, the consequences are lost credibility and respect.

 

Reading a speech can kill your credibility in a number of ways. First, reading doesn't allow for a natural delivery. While you're reading, it's practically impossible to have any eye contact with audience members, it's difficult to gesture and have facial expressions, and it's difficult to speak with any sort of enthusiasm. Hence, the drone.

 

Written speeches also, provide a false sense of security. Every word may be written down, but there is no flexibility to adapt to unexpected situations. You're sunk, if say, you're the last one to speak in a panel discussion and the moderator is running out of time. And if impromptu questions or other interruptions or distractions arise, it can be difficult to regroup, find your place and continue.

 

From reading to speaking: The Five Steps

 

Overcoming the speech-reading trap doesn't necessarily mean spending a lot of prep time. In my experience, it's quite the contrary. CEOs can prepare for a speech in as little as 20 minutes - if they know how to go about it. Preparing for a speech - whether it's a keynote address, panel discussion, interview with the media or presentation to the board of directors - can be done in systematic steps.

 

1. Analyze the presentation's purpose.

Ask yourself the key questions: Who am I talking to? How long do l have to talk? Why am l making this speech? The last question is probably the most important; it prompts you to pinpoint the goal of your presentation.

2. Build a theme around the key information.

People often try to include too much information in their presentations, hoping something will stick. Unfortunately, "data dump" usually overwhelms and confuses. To make the greatest impact, help the audience understand your message by giving them only information they can readily process and retain. Once the information has been pared down, try organizing your message around a theme to create a focused and to-the-point speech.

3. Create a focus statement.

The focus statement keeps you on track while you're preparing your speech. It serves as a constant reminder of how your information will be defined, developed and included in your presentation. If speeches are being written for you, require the speechwriter to write down the focus statement. Three elements comprise the focus statement: the goal (What do l want the audience to know, feel or do? Am l here to inform or persuade?); the theme (What story am l telling): and the information category (steps, methods, types, benefits or reasons why). Identifying these elements will help your presentation stay on target.

4. Define the main points.

Categorize the information you are going to present under three main headings. If you're using visuals, organize them around these main points and use them as launching pads for finer elaboration and/or discussion.

5. Map out the presentation.

Create a Speaker's Map to bring along - a comprehensive blueprint that lays out the components of the speech on one page. Note when visuals should be referred to, and use key words and phrases to trigger memory and keep you focused. Although it is common knowledge that speakers need to prepare, it is not a common practice. Every day, top executives 'wing it' with little or no preparation and pay the professional price in lost admiration and lack of impact. This does not have to be the case. For CEOs and other top-level executives, the difference between "reading" and "presenting" can be as little as 20 minutes of solid preparation.