Business leaders share the secrets of presentation success

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Have you ever received a pivotal piece of advice that changed your thinking, influenced your actions and helped you succeed? “Aha” moments like these frequently come from tuning into the wisdom of our colleagues.

If you’re looking to improve your business presentation skills, today you’ll learn the secrets of how some top executives did just that.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many stand-out business leaders who became confident and engaging presenters and used those skills to achieve goals and grow their careers. Recently I asked a group of leaders I’ve coached over nearly 20 years to share some of their best presentation tips and advice. These men and women are responsible for delivering communications that are crucial to the health of their organizations, which range from nonprofits to Fortune 100 companies.

Here are the valuable insights they revealed. Get ready to be inspired!

What’s a practical public speaking lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t yell.

“It’s funny how we tend to raise our voices and start ‘yelling’ at the audience to make it seem like a presentation. You’ll make a stronger connection when you talk to a crowd of a thousand like you were talking to your best friend.” -- Paul Gottsegen, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Mindtree

Practice builds confidence.

“Knowing my material inside and out along with practice, practice, practice gave me the confidence I needed to get in front of the audience. Drafting my speech early allowed me the time to refine my presentation and to become very comfortable with it.” – Vicki Redding, vice president, apparel, Vans

Edit to boost impact.

“It’s extremely helpful to have video editing experience – at least once. Going through the process of creating a short, powerful story based on a longer interview makes you appreciate how important it is to be direct, compelling and high energy.”  -- Jeff Lennard, vice president, strategic industry initiatives, National Association of Convenience Stores

Expect the unexpected.

“Things do not always go as planned, even for the most seasoned speakers, performers and entertainers. Be prepared for anything!” – Elisse E. Glennon, vice president and chief administrative officer, NJ Sharing Network

Get more practical speaking tips from this article: "3 Presentation Peeves"

What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier in your career?

The audience is on your side.

“The audience is rooting for you; they will look past minor mistakes, so don’t focus on perfection. Instead, focus on the audience and giving them something of value, rather than trying to ‘survive’ a presentation. When it’s the latter, the audience wants it to be over even before you do!” -- Jeff Lennard

Be yourself to achieve your goals.

“Today, I know that success comes from within and not from others. Being my authentic self is the true path to success.” -- Andrea Conners, president, Athena International

The more you do it, the easier it gets.

“Presenting may be scary, but it won’t kill you! This is coming from someone who was terrified of public speaking. Get out of your comfort zone and embrace opportunities to speak in public, because the more you do it the more comfortable you become.” – Vicki Redding

Learn more confidence strategies from this article: "Book Review: Enhancing Your Executive Edge"

What advice can you share with business leaders who just are starting to embrace public speaking?

Relationships matter: cultivate a circle of advisors.

“Asking for advice is not a weakness! The best decisions are made from a diverse viewpoint to understand all perspectives. Collaboration is the key to success, and the best leaders seek input from all stakeholders.” -- Andrea Conners

More is not better.

“Always keep your presentation simple and to the point. The audience will lose interest if your speech is long and rambling. Instead, make it interesting and include a memorable tagline that makes the message clear.”  -- Becky Youngblood, project manager-sustainability, International Paper

Adjust your attitude.

“Don’t look at the job of public speaking as a burden. Rather, seize the unique opportunity you have to share your message and connect with people.” – Elisse E. Glennon

Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.

“Be brave. You are going to have some royal screw-ups along the way -- that’s the only way to learn. You will definitely learn if you get out in the fray.” -- Paul Gottsegen

Get more business presentation advice from this article: "5 Persuasive Communication Lessons for Today’s Business Environment"

Here’s what I took away from the experience of gathering these presentation secrets: There are countless tips and strategies that can drive presentation success, enough for everyone to have their own favorites. It pays to be always on the lookout for new ideas to make your own and elevate your presentation success.

In fact, here’s my tip: if you are a seasoned presenter, make a point of sharing your best strategies with your team to improve their skills. And if you’re just getting started with business presenting, be sure to actively seek out the advice of experts who can help you grow.

 

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.

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