I’ve been working with a cross-functional team recently and had the pleasure of sitting in on their big presentation last week. It was thrilling to watch their respective bosses sit up, open their eyes, nod their heads, and take copious notes. The team managed to convey their key findings and recommendations in such a way that the senior leaders approved them without any need for the dreaded “further discussion and review.” It was a walk-off, bottom of the ninth home run. For you hockey fans, it was a five-on-three tick tack toe.
Are you looking for that kind of result? Then I have a few tips for you.
1. Lure them in. If you are not overly pressed for time, the best way to engage your audience is to prime the pump. Find a relevant and creative set-up that gets them focused on your key concepts. Think of an old-school camera that is out of focus until you manually adjust the lens.
2. Create EWPs (Emotional Word Pictures). How can you spice up your delivery so that each sentence carries the weight and the texture of what you truly want your audience to experience? The team did a great job of making their audience feel the pain of the “current state” to the point where everyone in the room was getting uncomfortable. They did not soft-pedal the problems and took the time to build their audience’s investment in their recommendations.
3. Incorporate all three “appeals:” There are only three ways to engage your audience to the point where they will agree with your position: the mind, the heart, and the muscle. If you incorporate step #2, then you have engaged their heart. If you craft an easy-to-follow presentation with just the right amount of data and the fewest number of PowerPoint slides, then you can engage their minds. This particular team spoke for twenty minutes and presented 12 slides, four of which were image slides, three were data slides, and one was a title slide. Pretty impressive (I’ll let you do the math on how many bulleted slides they used). To get the muscles activated you must clearly articulate why your ideas are worth implementing. Don’t just share the what and the how. Those are important, but without the “why” you will never meet your goals.
4. Use your voice to focus your audience. One of the best things this team did to maintain the rapt attention of their audience was to pause silently at a few critical points in their presentation. You could hear a pin drop, the room was so silent. The other thing they did was to use their vocal pacing to emphasize key points. They slowed down when they reached the core findings and then sped up when they wanted to get the audience energized around recommendations.
Using any of these strategies will up your game. All four, done well, will enhance your career.