It happened again this quarter.
Two key speaking activities excite me every year: the MBA mini-keynote competition and the industry report presentations. I spend considerable time coaching the MBA students of a globally ranked African business school for both programmes. And this year is no different.
For the mini-keynote competition, I was scheduled to coach participants from the business school where I worked part-time alongside MBA students from other reputable business schools in Africa. The shortlisted nine contestants were required to deliver their presentations, while I offered feedback on improving the delivery. Each of those two scheduled virtual coaching sessions lasted three hours.
Next came the coaching sessions for the industry report presentations, which were more intense, with each session averaging five hours. I reviewed each of the five industry group presentations, made suggestions to sharpen them, and told the students to repeat sections of their presentations. I was relentless.
So much work happened behind the scenes, excluding the practice the students needed to commit to.
Some students were brilliant during the programmes, while others could have benefited from more practice. But overall, I was proud of their efforts.
As a communications trainer and coach, I’ve realised, over the years, that the four factors below are critical to delivering captivating presentations. The exceptional students displayed them for the mini-keynote competition and the industry presentations. And you should, too—if you intend to wow your audience and become memorable.
This trait is non-negotiable for every presentation where you must make an impact. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
Confidence triggers trust, and trust is a conduit of believability.
As the presenter, knowing your content thoroughly should be a constant; otherwise, don’t bother delivering it. Additionally, you’ll need to champion it well. You don’t need to morph into someone you’re not. But you do need to exude confidence with nonverbal behaviours to boost your credibility and influence the audience.
So how you move (or stand still to stress a point), project your voice, vary your tone, use volume, adopt ‘open’ gestures, and incorporate pauses—they all communicate confidence and increase the perception of your mastery.
The MBA students who used their body language strategically were confident and convincing.
If you struggle with self-confidence, spend significant time rehearsing until you can present your material five times in a row without making mistakes. In my experience as a communications coach, facilitator, and award-winning trainer, I can attest to this: Practice begets confidence and makes you adaptable to changes.
A Harvard researcher and social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, gave an insightful TED talk on how power poses can make you feel confident. Watch her condensed explanation on using power poses to make you feel powerful. Then adopt her recommendations to increase your influence.
Do whatever you must, including making self-affirmations before your next presentation. But ensure you’re confident (or poised to exude confidence) when you get into that room/conference hall to face your audience.
Being brief but complete is your new superpower in this tech age, where we’re inundated with information and prone to numerous distractions.
Know the big idea of your presentation, and then tweak it until you get one complete sentence. In my book Influence and Thrive. I referenced Joel Schwatrzberg’s ‘I believe that…’ test, which he recommends in his practical book ‘Get to the Point’. Joel is a fellow communications expert who has read my book (and I, his) and whom I recommend you follow on LinkedIn or X.
The MBA students who shone structured their mini-keynotes and industry report presentations to make them easy to follow. They also got to their points quickly.
Nonetheless, being concise is more than just stating the purpose of your presentation early and making it short. It’s about stripping away the extraneous information by focusing on the foundational question. It entails respecting the audience’s time and ensuring each slide in your presentation warrants its presence by complementing your big idea.
If you’re someone who likes to explain every angle of a point—because you worked hard to cover all bases—then understand that approach will reduce your impact.
Recently, I came across a simple but fascinating psychological bias called the ‘dilution effect’. Watch the TED talk below given by Professor Niro Sivanathan of the London Business School on the topic. He explained that introducing irrelevant or weak points dilutes the weight of your overall argument. Less is more if you need your message to have an impact. So now, research supports the need to be concise in your presentation if you want people to pay attention.
For tips on how to be concise in your communication, read this article.
Note: If your presentation is brief, your points can be retained.
You could exude confidence and make concise points, but you’ll lose your audience if your presentation is unclear.
Clarity is often mistaken for simplicity. Although being clear also entails using simple language, you should consider another element: the call-to-action (CTA).
Whatever your role or industry, your CTA will address at least one of the three points below:
- What you want your audience to know
- What you need the audience to feel
- What you tell your audience to do
I dub this widely used tactic the ‘Know-Feel-Do Premise’. It helps your content to become ‘sticky’. In essence, you should address the so-what question that members of the audience ask themselves.
When coaching the MBA students, I kept hammering the so-what question for each slide. If they took too much effort to answer the question, I recommended that they deleted the slide. There were a few ‘aha’ moments because they could then focus on the relevance of their points.
Note: If your presentation is clear, it’s actionable.
The final factor that amplifies your delivery is your conviction.
No one in that room should be more passionate or assured of your content than you.
To influence people to support you, you must be convinced that your solution/recommendation is the best route (despite the risks or uncertainties). Use your credibility to heighten your points, and be intentional about verbally conveying that conviction.
Strong examples of convincing statements/questions include:
Despite the risks, I recommend that we adopt Plan A/use this technology/partner with y/revise the current strategy to ensure…
Based on our cutting-edge research/thorough market study spanning x variables/firsthand knowledge of y/20 years of experience in the field, we believe that…
Therefore, shouldn’t our company cut/improve/save x by doing y?
Considering all we’ve shared in this presentation, is now not the time to boost profits/accelerate growth/curb the brain drain?
We needn’t reinvent the wheel. Our solutions will prevent the pitfalls of x by…
Let’s remember the cautionary tale of x/our (main) competitor and follow the route my team and I have recommended to…
I advise that you deliver your convincing statement/question towards the end of your presentation. Make it (part of) the closing remark.
I challenged the MBA students to distil their convincing statements into short sentences and shoot them at the end.
So keep your energy high until the end of your presentation. Then, deliver your convincing statement/question while using your nonverbal cues (especially a change of tone/volume) to signal its importance.
You won’t be forgotten.
There was a networking session after the industry report presentations on Career Day. This event allowed recruiters to meet and interview the MBA students one-on-one.
I mingled with the recruiters and advocated for the students. Some recruiters raved about candidates who had delivered excellent presentations. One reputable recruiter even begged me to direct an exceptional MBA student to their booth for an interview—and thanked me later!
Ensure you display the four Cs in your next presentation to captivate your audience and influence them to act in your favour.
Over to you:
Do you need to influence people and get results with your communication? Sign up for my transformational speaking, coaching, and training programmes.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t rush off just yet. Please remember to:
– Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons below.
– Sign up for email updates so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!
– Fill the ‘Contact/Book Lucille Ossai’ form in the menu above to let us know how we can help you solve your communication problems.
N.B: First image is courtesy of Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke via Pixabay. Video of Professor Niro Sivanathan’s talk is courtesy of TED. Second and third images are courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pixabay.