Fake it till you make it?

Business presentations are complex, stressful and demanding! They are about “are you competent to do the work”, “can you provide the results” and is also about “are you a good fit” and many times it is “do we like you and can we work with you”?

The very process of creating presentation must reflect who you are as a culture, what your values are and how you help people. But it mustn’t be all about you; it must be all about the client to whom you are making the presentation too. Often, I see presentations that are nothing more than an ego massage for the presenter.

It is as if the presenter became so focused on providing the information that they “think” the client wants, which in their mind is all about them! It about how and why you are a good fit for the client and how you can help them attain the goals that they have, which have usually been defined by the request for a proposal.

In playing games it is easy to understand the objectives, score a goal, shoot a basket, complete a pass – usually the rules are clear and are easy to understand. This is not true in business presentations there are many hidden agendas – price, speed, reputation….

Today the biggest challenge in the mind of the client is “can we trust you”?

Our societies in North America are undergoing radical change and during this time “trust” has become one of the key issues in business. Do “you” do what you say you will – can you be trusted to deliver. Cynicism is now one of the major issues to address in every presentation – so how do you do that and not make it all about you?

No wonder so many presentations fail, particularly in the high stress and competitive marketplace of today. I believe that it is the pressure of the presentation itself and the fact that so much is at stake – the future of the company, revenue and reputation – this pressure causes many to implode.

Perhaps the insecurity of the presenters is the cause of the problem, thinking that everybody should like me and love me and love my work! Many people are mistaken in the belief of that other people should and must like them after all they are a good person. But it is not about like or dislike it is about results!

The old adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression is very true, particularly in a presentation; I have seen likable strong and good people fall apart under the pressure of giving a presentation.

When coaching teams succeed I use the analogy of P R E P- Prepare, Rehearse, Energy and Perform. These four steps help focus the team’s energy, intention and gives direction to the presentation.

Prepare: What? You want a brand-new presentation!

The biggest mistake you can make is to use the same old slide presentation, after all you know it – but does it win business and more importantly will it be winning presentation today!

Research the company you’re going to present to and how your values fit and take a look at your competitors in the situation. Go to the website of the company or organization you getting to present to, look for the values what to they stand for what is the most important objective and also look at what to other people think about them.

This makes it easier to script and organize your ideas to present, this is the best kind of preparation that you can do – getting to know them is critical! You want to be able to understand the people and organization so well that when you stand up in front of them to present they will feel like friends or at least people that you know very well.

Prepare your slides to answer only the questions and the queries in the RFP – don’t open holes for yourself to fall into by giving more information than is requested – this is a major and sadly a common mistake. Getting of track and bogged down in the minute details that can be handled after you have won the contract.

Prepare to finish ahead of schedule, it indicates that you are well prepared and respect them and their time.

Rehearse: What I Need To Rehearse!

Getting busy people to rehearse is rather like herding cats and I must say as a presentation director it drives me crazy – is a presentation that is likely to bring large revenue to the company and they don’t have time to rehearse – they don’t have time to invest in the presentation – to get it clean, to be powerful and worst of all they rely on people who are not professional presenters to evaluate and prepare the slides.

Every presenter has their own way of working. After time you find what works for you. There are two types of preparation for me: preparation that happens in the lead up to, and over the rehearsal period, and preparation that happens in the hours before the presentation begins.

During the rehearsal period my own private preparation work includes a lot daydreaming, reading the script quietly to myself repetitively so that I become familiar with it.

What do you look to get from rehearsal?

Emotional connection and clarity in what I want and what I am saying. To be comfortable with the slides so that I don’t have to think about it – this comes from repetition. The more you can say your lines and do your movement over and over again in rehearsals, the more you can be free in performance.

Can you rehearse without an audience?

Yes. It is good to take time rehearse without the added pressure and nerves of rehearsing in front of an audience.

However, it is then very helpful, if not essential, to have someone to rehearse with – to speak to, so that you stop thinking about how you sound, and you start focusing on how you are affecting the person you are speaking to. The most engaging and persuasive presenters are those who are focusing on who they are speaking to, not on themselves.

Energy: The Day Before

It is vital to be aware and awake at a presentation, that seems like a simple statement that doesn’t need explanation – but often the presenters have been travelling the night before across time zones slept in strange beds with fiddling with their presentation until the a.m. and then they appear tired slightly disorientated and having no interest in what they doing. Given that this could make a break your company or your reputation surely you would invest in your own energy. Arrive early take a look at way going to present, walk around the neighbourhood get some fresh air relax be ready to deliver the best presentation ever.

I recommend that you finish, put away your presentation material 24 hours before the event ~ no exception. If you feel compelled to do something about, study your audience, get to know them so that when you meet them both you and they will feel like friends.

Use your mental preparation time to imagine doing well, seeing nods of agreement in the audience. Prepare like an Olympic athlete, prepare mentally to win the audience over, develop a prep ritual to access the best of your abilities.

Take a day off, relax, get a massage, go for a run, go swimming, make love ~ take time to get your body ready to support you while you deliver your presentation. Do what Michael Phelps (18 Gold 4 Silver medal winner in three Olympics) take a power nap, use your prep ritual and go out full of energy.

Perform: Perform, What Me Perform?

Many people believe they can just power into a performance, using just energy and volume. You don’t get a second chance to make a great impression or to deliver a great presentation – what you do get is one chance to make it or break. It is critical to invest in yourself, read several books about presentations, get some presentation coaching, take a course, it will make a difference. Develop this skill, make it career focus just as many of the great business leaders and presenters have done.

Yes you are expected to perform ~ all presentations, speeches are performances. However they are radically different from acting, the actor has a script, stage direction and a director ~ the presenter has themselves ~ just you ~ yep that’s it ~ just you. Unless you are the head of a major corporation or running for political office, then you will have the resources of a professional speechwriter and presentation coach.

Is it that fair NO it just is!

When you have some fun with all of this and let go of any need to be “perfect” I know it will work. Oh yes don’t forget prepare, rehearse, energize, relax and then perform!