If you are an expert in your field, does it really matter if you’re not a great presenter? by Maggie Lawrie, CEO Presentation & Executive Coach

If you are an expert in your field, does it really matter if you’re not a great presenter? by Maggie Lawrie, CEO Presentation & Executive Coach

CEO’s and Senior Leaders generally have pretty good communication skills, but standards vary considerably.  Not everyone needs to be able to wow their audiences in a powerful, presidential-type way, but I think we have gone past the point where being the best in your field is enough to hide behind.  Just look at the example Stephen Hawking set when, as brilliant as he was as a cosmologist and physicist, he still knew how to relate to his audience and draw us in.

Changing times

Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint or any kind of slides at Amazon meetings.  Elon Musk has called for people to walk out of meetings that are boring and too long.  Great presentation skills nowadays are essential.  The good news is, presenting with more impact isn’t difficult; it just takes a change of approach and practice.

One of my CEO clients who is known for his inspiring presentation style and for brilliantly engaging his audience with stories, says laughing “yes, I’m an overnight 10 year success story”!  In other words, he and I have worked at it for a long time and we just keep on improving.

My Top 3 Presenting Tips:

  1. No slides rule

Relying on slides reduces the energy in the room.  Watch the audience when slides are put up and you’ll see people relax, switch off a little, disengage and, even worse, reach for their phones.  I agree with Jeff Bezos although his alternative of people reading memos in the room first wouldn’t be my suggestion!

I have worked with a global CFO who went with my suggestion to drop slides completely and he received the best feedback he’s ever had.  Not easy for a finance person to have no slides at all whilst presenting!

  1. Power of Stories

So many of the countries I have visited in Africa have a tradition of sitting round in groups telling stories.  Stories are an amazingly simple way of expressing an idea, a vision or a plan with passion.  The audience feels involved and engaged.

Using stories to get the point across is something that can be learnt.  There is a way of structuring them that means you don’t digress or ramble on.  It takes preparation, but not with a computer.  After the stories are ready, then you can add any visuals that will enhance your talk.  This is a change of approach for many people who start their preparation by opening PowerPoint.  The best way to prepare is to think of your 3 key messages first, then your stories, then if required add supporting visuals.

Have a look on YouTube for some of Steve Jobs’ presentations as he has mastered the art of when and how to use slides.

  1. Be Yourself

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” – Oscar Wilde

By being themselves, any speaker will improve their inspirational ability and their employees’ engagement scores increase.  How?  Concentrate on the stories that will describe your points perfectly and preferably stories of your personal successes.  Sharing moments where you have overcome adversity to achieve is truly inspiring.  People get to know the real you.

One Question

At Executive level, I believe it does matter that you have the ability to really engage your audience and I also believe that becoming a more inspiring presenter is easier than people think.  The question therefore for the interviewer is when considering if they have the potential to be a good presenter is ‘Are they open to change and coaching?’

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” – Stephen Hawking

Maggie Lawrie is the Presentation and Executive Coach to CEO’s, Senior Leaders and Entrepreneurs around the world.  She has studied speakers and audience reactions for over 25 years.  To connect to Maggie please email rp@executivesinafrica.com to be connected with her.

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