Mark Twain once commented: “There are only two types of speaker in the world: One – those who are nervous and two – liars.”
The performance of a presentation is frequently the difference between one that engages and one that sends an audience to sleep before you’ve even delivered a single key message.
Effective presentations inspire people to take direct action. That can be anything from delivering a better bottom line, to changing fundamentally an element of their behaviour.
However, many stumble their way through a dull PowerPoint presentation, leaving listeners bored or worse still, cringing as every minute passes.
These days, there are international circuits – such as the TED Talks – that attract some of the most exciting business personalities in the world up on a stage so a crowd can be drawn into their world, even if only for a few minutes.
As companies become increasingly global, key executives find themselves speaking across multiple cultures and continents, in an effort to connect with their “local” stakeholders.
In such a competitive global business environment it’s essential that any corporate representative who takes the stage always delivers a presentation that their company is proud of and, although we would all love to be naturally-gifted presenters, this is not always the case.
Many hours are spent by companies rehearsing their executives and preparing them for speaking engagements – huddled over notes meticulously prepared by advisers to ensure that key messages are compelling and easy to understand.
Yet there are some who ignore the three Ps: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
Invariably, a lack of preparation will result in at best a truly underwhelming experience for a listening audience. At worse, it could trigger a reputational disaster for a business associated with the speaker and tarnish their personal reputation in perpetuity.
Being ill-prepared for a speaking engagement conveys an underlying message that your company tolerates such behaviour which in turn can undermine confidence in that business. Every speaking engagement is a test for the individual, but also the company they represent, but more than that, it is a huge opportunity to convey the message you want to share with a willing and receptive audience.
We all know the telling signs of someone who is ill-prepared. As they step up to speak to an audience, they find themselves too reliant on speaking notes, scrambling to think of the next key message to deliver, and all with little or no eye contact, looking stressed, nervous or embarrassed.
Preparation also has a major impact on body language, which accounts for 80% of what an audience takes away from a presentation. The 2014 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor found that true personal experience and engagement remains at a premium across all communications – impacting on public sentiment.
So, when thinking about your next public engagement, don’t shy away from the three Ps because practice does make perfect!