All of us – from senior management to a fresher – have sat through at least one (if you are lucky) excruciatingly boring PowerPoint presentation! I remember my worst experience - it was this lady from a digital marketing agency who read out every single word of a 40-page PPT! Talk about zero presentation skills!
I distinctly remember thinking that I don’t care how good their offer is, there is no way I am giving my marketing budget to someone who is doing such a bad job of marketing themselves!
This little anecdote underscores a point we all already know – communicating well is the key to success. And not just in the corporate arena; being able to present your idea and vision clearly and with confidence, is critical to success in all professional spheres. Whether you are a small business owner, a blogger or a politician, if you cannot put across your ideas convincingly you will not grow professionally.
But presentations can be spruced up, and speaking skills can be polished. Sometimes you might need some professional guidance, but with a little bit of time and effort, it can be done. If you are looking for some quick tips to improve your presentation skills, then dive right in -
First off, know this - it is entirely possible to upgrade your presentation skills in very little time. While getting comfortable with public speaking might need some practice and experience; there is a lot you can do in a couple of days to improve your presentation skills.
A killer presentation is a combination of two things -
Before you write down even one word or make your first slide, evaluate your entire content, and find the core message you want to leave with the audience. You could also jot down key points you want to reiterate or emphasize.
We all love a good tale, and nothing keeps people’s attention more effectively than a good narrative structure. Start with a bang, present problems, take them on your journey of finding a solution, and leave them on an uplifting note.
If you are presenting dry facts, then try not to do so directly; weave a story around them to make them more exciting and memorable. An excellent way to do this is to explain them through your own personal situation, through a case study or through an imaginary experience.
With every passing decade, attention spans are getting shorter, so you must structure your content to inject some excitement every 5 mins. This could be a quiz, a question, a multimedia component, a game, props or a joke – anything that breaks the content flow.
Nothing breaks the ice and gets the audience behind the speaker more quickly than humour. A funny picture or a cartoon, an amusing anecdote, a quirky quote or a self-deprecating pun can lighten the atmosphere and put people in a more receptive mood.
If you are using decks, then make sure that you keep these basics in mind -
Many people tend to shift from one foot to another and sway back and forth or continuously touch and adjust their clothing or hair – all this comes across as nervous, distracting behaviour. If you are not seated or don’t feel comfortable striding around on stage, then it's best to just stand still and use hand gestures.
During a presentation, maintaining eye contact is also quite important; its best to select a bunch of people distributed evenly across the room whom you can look at directly. Along with eye contact, its also a good idea to smile - not only does it help you keep your nervousness in check it will also project a positive attitude to your audience.
Nothing beats practice! There are very few natural speakers who can go extempore; for most people, it is advisable to memorize and practice the presentation several times. If you don’t want to bank on your memory alone, then carrying cue cards is highly recommended.
Naturally, if you are presenting along with a deck, you can always turn around casually and refer to the slide. But coming back to where we started - no matter what you do, don’t start reading off the slide! It is there to create a visual reference point to what you are talking about and cannot replace your energy and your passion.
I am sure you are reading this because you have an idea or vision bubbling inside you that is just waiting to come out and I hope reading these tips can help give it the attention it deserves.
Nancy Duarte, the guru of presentation skills, puts it so well -
“..an idea is powerless if it stays inside of you. If you never pull that idea out for others to contend with, it will die with you. Now, maybe some of you guys have tried to convey your idea, and it wasn't adopted, it was rejected, and some other mediocre or average idea was adopted. And the only difference between those two is in the way it was communicated. Because if you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen, and you can change the world.”
For working professionals and business owners, a presentation is an essential part of their work. If you feel you need to upgrade your skills in this arena, click on the Request Consultation button above.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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