Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to Give a Killer Presentation

How to Give a Killer Presentation

It’s hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. Unfortunately, most of us are born without the presentation gene. I have no idea why, but for most professionals, presenting is a real struggle.

They stand there, like they’re glued to the floor, with their 90-slide presentation with a dozen bullets and sub-bullets and a book of text on each slide. Then they complain that executives and salespeople make all the money.

I’ve sat through presentations that were so bad I wanted to strangle the guy just to put him and the audience out of their misery. I’ve also seen presentations that were so inspiring they changed my life.

Connecting with an audience, communicating your vision and passion for a subject, can be a beautiful experience. It’s also a rare opportunity to make an impression that might impact your future. It can either be a gateway or a roadblock to professional growth. Which one is entirely up to you.

As for me, I’ve been professionally trained, plus I’ve had a few decades of practice. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Ten Rules For Delivering a Great Presentation

Developing the pitch. Start with your main point of view and a handful of take-aways. Then build a storyboard around that, one slide per thought. Keep the number of slides down and allow a few minutes per slide.

The icebreaker. Start with something to break the tension (yours and theirs): a welcome gesture, engaging or humorous anecdote, graphic or video, or some combination. Keep it relevant and appropriate. Don’t tell a joke.

The old axiom. Old advice, but it works: First tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.

Don’t read what’s on the slide. Know the pitch cold (without having to look except for a brief cue) and speak in your own words. If you (rarely) want the audience to read what’s on a slide, look at it and read silently along with them.

Engage the audience. Ask questions. If they don’t respond, try offering an answer and asking for a show of hands or ask easier questions. Make the audience part of the experience.
Be accessible. Don’t stand behind a podium. Use a wireless mic if needed. Get close to the audience and move from place to place while maintaining eye contact, but only from time to time. Do not bounce around like a ping-pong ball.

Pause for effect and emphasis. Practice being comfortable with silence for two or three seconds. It’s the most dramatic way to make a point. Avoid ahs, uhs, and other fillers of uncomfortable silence; they’re annoying and detract from your presence.

Make eye contact. But only for a few seconds per person. Too short and you’ll fail to engage; too long and it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t bounce your eyes around constantly.

Use hand gestures. They’re engaging and interesting. But when you’re not, keep your hands at your sides. Don’t fidget, hold onto things, or put your hands in front of you, behind you, or in your pockets. Avoid nervous habits.

Don’t block the audience’s view. Don’t step in front of the screen or block it from view, except for the occasional walk-across. Gesture with your hand, but don’t touch the screen. Don’t use a pointer unless you must.

Remember, you weren’t born with this ability; it takes practice. Videotape yourself presenting to an empty conference room or get someone with experience to watch you and provide feedback. If your company hires a speech coach for executives and up-and-comers, get in on it.

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Finding your own style where you feel comfortable comes with experience. It may take a few years, but it’s worth it. Nothing can boost your career like being able to give a killer pitch.

Ref: Steve Tobak

15 Signs That You're Done Climbing the Corporate Ladder

15 Signs That You're Done Climbing the Corporate Ladder

You climbed the corporate ladder or started your own business. You’ve had your share of success and failure, made a few bucks, made a name for yourself. Congratulations. Now what? I mean, how do you know when you’re done and ready to move on?

Tired old concepts like retirement, even metrics like age and wealth, aren’t as black and white as they used to be. There’s a big world out there beyond the boundaries of your current work life. Maybe you want to do something completely different, something you’ve always dreamt of doing.

I bet a lot of you are thinking about it. How do I know that? Because, it happened to me and a lot of successful people I know. They got tired or burned out. Or they got canned in a tough job market - as good an excuse as any to contemplate what to do next.

But how do you know for sure? Denial, inertia, resistance to change - they’re powerful forces. Sometimes the signs are there but you just don’t recognize them. Fortunately, just like body language, your mind has a way of making its desires known. You need to tap into that; here’s how.

15 signs that you’re done climbing the corporate ladder:

1. Business travel used to be exciting, now it’s just stressful and exhausting
2. You used to enjoy commanding meetings; now it just feels like herding cats
3. Company politics no longer feels like a competitive sport
4. You feel like you’re working just to pay for ever-more expensive “stuff”
5. Punching out that annoying office nemesis is becoming a waking fantasy
6. You’re shooting yourself in the foot all the time and you don’t know why
7. You used to feel compassion for your employees; now they’re just whiny pains in the butt
8. More and more you wonder if this is all there is, if it was all worth it?
9. You think about having an affair just to get some excitement in your life
10. The status of position and buying power no longer satisfies or fills “the void”
11. All the ego stroking is starting to get old and feel disingenuous
12. Operating results are just numbers that affect your compensation
13. You used to feel passion for the business; now it’s just the same old thing
14. You’ve made your pile of gold and now all the fight’s out of you
15. You daydream or fantasize more and more about doing something different

So you’ve got a bunch of these signs and more. Now what? Well, that depends. It depends on a lot of things. Think about it. Spend time with yourself. Be honest with yourself. Bounce it off someone you trust, someone who really knows you. Think of it as a process, a journey, and you’re just at the beginning. Does it feel exciting, maybe a little scary? Good, then you’re on the right path.

Ref: Steve Tobak

5 Classic Boardroom Mistakes

5 Classic Boardroom Mistakes

You’re relatively new to the executive or management ranks and you’re presenting to the board of directors or the executive staff. Everyone you know says, “don’t screw it up,” but what exactly does that mean? Well, this will help.

On second thought, you probably will (screw it up), but you know what? It won’t be the end of the world and you will live to pitch another day. Still, it’s a good idea to at least try to avoid some of the stuff I’ve seen (and done) over the years. These five really happened.

5 Classic Boardroom Mistakes

Think it’s “no big deal.” The CEO walks into your office and nonchalantly says, “You’ve got 20 minutes to pitch your business unit’s plan at tomorrow’s board meeting.” Your near-panic is visible, so he adds, “Don’t sweat it; it’s no big deal.” Just because he says or acts as if it’s no big deal doesn’t mean it’s no big deal. I’m sure his first time was a big deal. Prepare. Know your material cold and be ready for a healthy amount of Q&A.

Walk in with a half-baked plan. Boards are typically comprised of smart, opinionated people who are also former or current executives. If you pitch a half-baked plan, it may get twisted, debated, and mutated to the point where you end up getting a green light to do something that bears little or no resemblance to your original plan. And if it fails, it’s still your plan … and your fault.

Try to out-maneuver a founder. Don’t underestimate the loyalty, power, and sway even a dysfunctional founder may still have with a board that owes its existence - and perhaps riches - to him. Even if you’re the CEO, you can do irreparable damage to your standing or even get fired - which I’ve seen happen. Exercise extreme caution.

Expect the board to actually do something. Never forget that it’s the job of company executives to manage, plan, strategize, make decisions, and of course, execute. The board’s job is to provide oversight, advice, and sometimes, connections. If you need something from them, be clear and upfront about it, but don’t expect much more than feedback.

Pitch a controversial plan without support. I watched a president get shot down by the chairman (who incidentally was right) after pitching a controversial acquisition. It was embarrassing in front of all the officers and directors, but it didn’t have to happen. They had a good relationship; the president should have sought one-on-one feedback prior to the meeting. Rally some support before the meeting for hot or controversial ideas.

By Steve Tobak