Presenting in Business Today – The Leadership Challenge

ducks walking in a row

Presenting in business has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

The question is, has your organisation changed or are you part of today’s leadership crisis?

Would you:

Market your business today the same way you were marketing it 20 years ago?

Use exactly the same technology today that you were using in your business 20 years ago?

Lead your team exactly the same way today you were 20 years ago?

We’ve all learned quite a few lessons in the last 20 years.

For most leaders, the answer to each of these questions is likely to be ‘no’.

Why has the culture of  presenting in business remained static for decades? 

Every week we are called in by HR Business Partners of some of the world’s biggest brands to help their people improve their presentation skills.

On further discussion, we are often told:

‘It’s not joined up thinking’

‘Their message isn’t clear’

‘They are boring’

Then the phenomenon is exposed

We go along to see some of these people presenting and the synopsis we were given seems to be accurate.

However, when we get those same people into the training room it all changes.

With a little encouragement, guidance and support we witness an incredible transformation

The same people suddenly become imaginative, creative and very engaging speakers.

Yet as much as they like, accept and are excited about our ideas hey often share a few stumbling blocks:

‘Our executives and managers just want the data and the facts; they would hate the idea of headlines and images’

‘We have these awful corporate templates which no one can deviate from’

‘It’s pretty scary here, we are expected to know the answer to everything’

‘What they may have told you that they want and what they actually do themselves are very different’

Comments like these aren’t isolated; we hear these and much worse every week.

Presenting in business today is a leadership challenge

Leaders want their people to present more effectively but paradoxically, in the same way they’ve always done.

At least that’s what their people say

Many leaders tell us they want more creativity and engagement but that’s not how they present themselves.

Many want their teams to do as they say, rather than as they do

That creates uncertainty, animosity and distrust.

You can’t send people on a presentation skills course to be different, when you continue to do as you always do.

Leadership is about leading by example

There are a great number of things leaders can do to create a far more effective culture and environment to help transform and support the way their teams communicate:

Leadership Tip 1:  Ditch the templates

Does your organisation really need them? 

Ask yourself what useful purpose they serve in enabling and encouraging your team to express their creativity, responsibility and talent.

Why do you need your logo and Corporate colours on every slide? 

By all means give them some clarity and guidelines but don’t stifle their creativity.

Leadership Tip 2: Tell them it’s fine to say ‘I don’t know’

Many professionals tell us that culturally it’s unacceptable to be honest and say, ‘I don’t know’ to a question they just don’t know the answer to. Working in an environment being fearful of simply saying ,‘ I don’t know’, can’t be a great place to work.

Encourage your team to express a view or opinion and have the courage to simply say, ‘I’ don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you’.

Leadership Tip 3: Encourage a conversation – not a ‘data dump’

Data is one of the easiest things to get in most businesses today. In fact, many organisations are overwhelmed with statistics.

If that’s really all you want, ask them to just send it to you. Tell them you will call them if you have any queries.

Don’t make your team stand there and read it out from a slide, line after line.

Tell them you’d like to have a conversation about the data instead. You would like to hear the story behind the numbers and their impact on the business.

Leadership Tip 4: Tell them how to keep you engaged

It is extremely difficult for people to read a long list of bullet points and listen to you at the same time.

In meeting rooms across the world, eyes are glazing over every day.

Audiences desperately try to focus their attention on simultaneously reading complex data whilst listening to the speaker’s interpretation. 

Imagine how much more effective presenting in business would be if you told people beforehand what you want.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to share in advance what you need from them?

Don’t make them guess

Leadership Tip 5: Ask for the story

Numbers are important.

There is however. a time and a place for them.

The time is before the presentation and the place is not on a slide, it’s on your desk.

Get the numbers up front and use the time of the presentation to hear the story behind the numbers and the way forward.

The only numbers that should be on a slide are the really important ones

Leadership Tip 6: Help them prepare

Don’t let your team spend an inordinate amount of time preparing a detailed presentation when all you are interested in is the bottom line.

Tell them in advance. Make it clear exactly what would be helpful. 

Leadership Tip 7: Let them be themselves

In other words, don’t induce high anxiety by making them think they have to be polished, slick and all-knowing oracles.

Help them to be who they are and to tell it as it is

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious all of the time.

Help them to relax, use humour and enjoy, rather than worry about presenting in business.

Far too many leaders send people on a presentation training course expecting everything to change after a day’s training.

As much as we love coming in to work with your teams, they need your help too.

If you need help presenting in business:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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