Over the next several months, I’ll be releasing weekly tips about business presentations. The recommendations will vary; one might be about finding the story, the next about setting up the room. They will all be practical and easy to apply. If you follow the advice and put it into practice, I’m confident you’ll become a more effective speaker. You can learn more about the tips, and presenting in general, in my new book How to Wash a Chicken.
My first tip is very simple: only present when you need to. If you pick your moments carefully, you will find that your presentations will go better.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with an up and coming business leader who was looking to get better at her presenting skills; for some reason her presentations were falling flat and her confidence was beginning to falter.
So I asked her about her recent presentations. It turns out that most of them were short updates to the board about the performance of her operating unit. She had five to ten minutes to talk through a page of metrics on performance, things like revenues, market share and operating income.
I quickly realized that the problem wasn’t her presenting skills, but rather that she shouldn’t be giving the presentations at all. Why present a page of numbers? It would be much easier to simply send an email.
In her case, the key question is this: Is the business review important? If not, she should just skip the presentation. If so, she should secure the time to do it properly. You can’t discuss the health of a business in five or ten minutes, as it takes time to lay out what is happening. There are a lot of things to consider: Is the category growing? Are profits up? Why? Margin? Pricing? What are competitors doing? What is the outlook?
One way to improve your business presenting is to pick your moment with care. If you don’t need to do a presentation, you should skip it. People are busy. The worst thing you can do is give a meaningless business review. Your audience will quickly tune out. Everyone is just a few inches away from a world of emails, social media updates and funny cat videos. You will see people losing interest and this will damage your confidence. Your energy will fall; it is hard to be energized when talking about something that doesn’t really matter.
There are times when you need to present. If you want to restructure pricing on a business, you’ll need to put together a presentation explaining the logic. If you want to launch a new product, you’ll need a recommendation. If your business is performing particularly well, or poorly, you will probably need to create a business update to explain what is happening, what it means and what are the next steps.
If you only present when you need to, your presentations will be better. You’ll start off with a clear objective and bring energy and focus to the meeting, and close with clear next steps.
When you pick your moments carefully, you will be set up for presenting success.