Anyone who has ever received any type of presentation skills training probably has learned some version of the Three P’s: Prepare Your Content, Know Your Participants, and Practice! Practice! Practice! Even when we follow these rules to the game, why is it the throat will still tighten, the hands still sweat and the overall panic crawls up the back of our neck in the minutes leading to the floor being handed over?
I can offer my theory through the following story: many years ago, I had to co-present to a client with a senior leader. His portion of the power point deck was five slides and after two hours of running through them over and over again, he still didn’t have a clue what followed slide one. Exasperated, I asked pretty directly what the hell was going on in his head that he couldn’t present a few minutes of content. Equally exasperated, he shot back that he could care less about the topic. He was handed the copy by the marketing department and resented being told to present it from start to finish and without any adlibbing.
The fourth “P” that may be missing in the formula for a successful presentation is passion. You can memorize factoids, customer benefits, and data points until the cows come home, but if you really don’t care about the material you’re asked to present, you may end up feeling and sounding somewhat robotic, more focused on getting the bloody thing over with than actually engaging the audience toward your point of view.
When we coach clients on presentation skills, we take a fairly deep inward-looking dive with the presenter on what she wants to achieve, by brainstorming on the following three simple questions:
- Why are you doing this presentation?
- What do you want out of this?
- What does your audience want out of this?
Typically what occurs in these sessions are highly energized discussions where the presenter truly connects first with her key objectives to then consider the audience and what they expect, to then most importantly, build the outline with primary and supporting points. From there, we move into filling the presentation with the stats, stories, and graphics through the lens of her personal passion on the subject.
Starting presentation prep work with this inward-then-outward look is the ideal platform to know your participants, build your content and lastly, practice, practice practice.