I dug back into the archives and noticed that it has been some time since we’ve reviewed the foundation of public speaking. I call it the Three Keys to Great Presentations.
Shortly after launching my consultancy more than 20 years ago, I observed that clients were searching for a straightforward method for learning how to improve their presentation skills. They didn’t need complex theory or cutesy mnemonic devices. They needed a real world system. Thus was born the three keys.
Most of us—including your C-suite if they are honest about it—have experienced sweaty palms, trembling voice, knocking knees, and brain lock as we prepare to go forth and speak. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The Rationale Behind the Three Keys
Nearly everyone has the potential to become a solid orator. All you need to do to unlock your “inner speaker” is take advantage of these Three Keys. This easy to grasp method charts a course toward a sharper communications edge.
What are The Three Keys to Great Presentations?
- Assessing Feedback
Why the Three Keys? It is an easy to remember system that works. This ease of recall is important, especially in this day and age. We are inundated by more information in a single day’s edition of The New York Times than a seventeenth century inhabitant of England was exposed to during his entire lifetime. Keeping track of our deadlines at work, our carpool schedule for the kids, and all the passwords we need to remember is a taxing endeavor. The last thing your C-suite leaders need is a difficult to fathom speaking system that only adds to their daily overload.
The Three Keys are highly intuitive. Preparation covers what you need to take into account before your presentation. Performance deals with how you act during your remarks. Assessing Feedback puts you on the road to improvement after you speak.
Key #1: Preparation
How vital is preparation? Let me give it to you straight. I can guarantee that your presentation will fall apart if you do not prepare. That means lost customers if you operate a business; fewer votes if you are a public servant; and embarrassment, no matter who you are, if you perform like a clown in front of a roomful of important people.
Business executives, government officials, non-profit executives, sales managers, and other leaders understand the need to keep their presentation skills honed to a fine point. There is one simple way to stay sharp.
The critical factor is preparation. Drill into your C-suite the fact that preparation is the key to success. It leads to success in business, community projects, politics, and more. It also helps to sidestep failure and embarrassment.
I am an unyielding advocate for preparation prior to a presentation. There is too much at stake to leave a speech to chance. Deliver a sloppy performance filled with mistakes, the audience will see a huckster trying to pull a fast one. That is why you need to knock all those errors out by encouraging C-suiters to practice diligently.
Key #2: Performance
This is the most basic of the three keys. After all, you have to get up in front of the crowd and speak, whether you’ve prepared adequately or not.
Hone that performance to a fine point and you’re a star. Fail to take note of even the tiniest aspect and you run the risk of public embarrassment. Plus, doubt will begin to creep in, leading you to question whether you can trust your speaking abilities.
There are many aspects to performance. For example:
- An attention grabbing opening
- Nonverbal behavior
- How to integrate interactivity into the presentation
- Handling questions from the floor
- Using presentation software (when it’s a conscious decision; never default to using slides)
- Maintaining an energy level throughout
- Dealing with the inevitable distractions, everything from a slamming door to commotion in the room next door
- Dealing with rude audience members
- Ending the show with a bang
Key #3: Assessing Feedback
Two out of three ain’t bad goes the old saying. But it isn’t necessarily good when it comes to sharpening public speaking skills.
The majority of presenters focus on Performance, the second of the Three Keys to Great Presentations. Preparation, the first key, comes in a distant second. The truth is most neglect the vital third key: Assessing Feedback.
Ignore this key at your peril. Measuring performance is vital to your C-suite’s continued improvement as a speaker. Why? Better speakers get better results. They persuade more people more readily. They are more effective educators. They rise to the top of the corporate ladder. They win the respect of their colleagues and competitors. Your CFO or CIO may have a different goal in mind. Regardless, leaders tend to be effective presenters.
Just as the first chair in the orchestra is won by the violinist who absorbs the master’s teachings year after year, the C-suite executive who aspires to be CEO gains knowledge from trusted advisors who can sharpen her communications skills over time. That should be you, in concert with your communications strategy consultant.
You need to know where you want to go before you can plan how to get there. That same principle applies to assessing feedback.
Work with your C-suite to define their speaking goals. Aim for goals that are measurable and achievable. Then write them down and review them before every presentation. This makes them more concrete and achievable.
Strike a balance with those speaking goals. If you set the bar too low, the challenge isn’t sufficient. Attempt to reach for the stars, and frustration will result. The improvement curve will flatten out, perhaps even dipping downward.
These measurable goals will change over time, so set aside time to review them periodically. Aiding your C-suite in this manner shines the leadership spotlight on you.
Using the Three Keys
Your turn. How do you leverage the Three Keys to your benefit? What techniques do you use to keep your C-suite’s presentations humming along? What tales can you share about successful instances with your C-suite leaders?