TED Public Speaking Vs. Business Presentations

business coaching

The MacDonald’s of public speaking?

The influence of TED Talks and the impact of video tools such as Periscope on public speaking can lead you to believe that business presentations must be informal, purely conversational and last only 20 minutes, like lunch at MacDonald’s.

A business and sales presentation can be short, but as an example Apple’s last presentation lasted over 2 hours! I coached the “Wavefront” team for a presentation that lasted three hours, plus question and answer session of another 2 hours, and they won the funding they required.

What is the difference between a ‘public speaking’ event and a ‘business presentation’?

I am often asked this question as a speaker’s coach and as a consultant responsible for designing training for senior executives. At first glance not very much, both use similar tools and strategies and yet the differences are small but significant.

Public Speaking

During ‘Public Speaking’, storytelling and poetic license is allowed and expected as part of the performance. Dramatic expression used to emphasize the main points. Emotion and drama are essential elements, which add to the ‘entertainment’ value of the speech. The performance of the speaker is critical; a high level of stagecraft and experience is needed. The speaker uses anecdotal stories used to ‘make a point. Truthfulness not assumed by the audience, an unspoken agreement exists allowing for poetic license.

A Business Presentation

In a ‘Business Presentation’ the facts and accurate reporting essential as misunderstandings could cause losses in the millions. The presenter is representing appropriate behaviour essential, as the whole company or organization. Enthusiasm is allowed, but is moderated somewhat. The performance is important as it reflects on the preparedness and professionalism of the company. Reasoning, logic tells the story, and integrity, accuracy essential.

Question: How do I approach a professional business presentation?

Answer: Before communicating with your business audience it is important to look at your purpose and overall strategy. Defining the strategy will allow you to maintain focus and enable you to reach your short and long-term business or career goals.

Questions to help with clarity:

  • Who do you want to communicate to? Is English the preferred language? Is it a B2C or B2B relationship? Can you define age, gender, position, educational background and other demographics?
  • What do you want to achieve from this presentation? What industry are they in? What are their needs? What known opinions do you share? What do you need more information about? What is your timeline for this project? What is your budget? What is your value proposition or advantage?
  • Why do you need to communicate with this audience is it a – In house sales presentation to a client? – New product information? – Educational tool? – Increase sales volume? – Annual Report?
  • Do I need time to rehearse? When will you have the first draft for colleges to review?
  • How would you best reach this ‘audience’ during your presentation? Is it using power point or a straight speech? Do you need handouts? How can you make the biggest impact given time constraints? How can you use this event to further your company’s objectives? How can you meet the audiences’ needs with your presentation?

Example: Your audience is “The Board of Trade” this allows you easy access information on the audience profile, the environment and their general expectations.

You are giving an ‘information’ speech to the Board of Trade, it is about industry trends and your company’s projections on its performance. The topic structures the speech and a/v presentation. You should be accurate and up to date with information. The slide presentation should also reflect the business agenda. Stick to the facts, be personable and add personal anecdotes, creating the energy ‘we are all in this together’.

Rehearsal and preparedness is vital. Hire a professional to prepare the speech and the slides, insuring that all of the logos and material matches previous published information, marketing materials and reflects the company website. In this situation, your public presentation will affect the share price/value of the company, therefore, your performance and presence is critical. Investors and staff will use this ‘performance’ as a gauge of your leadership and business skills. Is that fair? No, but that’s the way it is.

Second example:

Your audience is a small group of senior advisers and fund managers who invest in your company and the topic is the same (an ‘information’ speech about industry trends and your company’s projections on its performance). However, the meeting is private and the speech is being given to an ‘invitation’ only audience. The same preparation of the information and the rehearsal is the same. The secondary focus is on building a personal rapport and connection with the audience, as this group/audience can have enormous impact on the company and your career. Learn everyone’s name and background. Greet them at the door as they arrive and welcome them. Insure that you allow for an extended question and answer session at the end of your presentation and give a copy of your speech/slide presentation to each attendee, with a personal note thanking them for attending.

To answer the question again: what is a business presentation?

The answer is always: any time you are representing your company or your own business interests.

Can it be relaxed? Yes.

Should it be conversational? Yes.

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