The goal of a presentation is … influence!

gettyPresentations are so much a part of the founder’s life that I’m constantly on the lookout for new tips and perspective on how best to present. Because let’s face it, audiences do get jaded, especially investors, whose job it is to review presentations.

So I was glad to discover some new advice from Stacey Hanke in her post on Entrepreneur.com 3 Tricks to Get People to Actually Listen to Your Presentations. Many of her suggestions, like don’t read your slides, are techniques I’ve written about previously in my Do’s and Don’t posts on presentations, so I won’t repeat them here. But there are some good tips I’ve not see before or new twists on old techniques that are notable.

But let’s lead off with a couple of statistics. Professionals spend an average of 40 percent of their workday in meetings. Seventy-one percent of people report that the meetings they attend are a waste of time. The major takeaway from her article is that Presentations aren’t just about sharing data, statistics and facts. You must influence the audience to act upon what you have to say.

Here’s how:

  • Open with a story, not with your name title, why you are there, and other stuff that the audience knows already. You’ll lose them from the get-go by repeating this information. Jump right into your origin story – how and why you started the company – or a story about one the the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today. Keep it short and make sure it’s relevant.
  • Tease your audience. The old “tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them” is out. Start with hinting at something very impactful that they will hear soon if they pay attention. You want your audience to be intrigued.
  • Don’t let props steal the show. I’m a believer in show don’t tell, but Ms, Hanke is right to warn against letting props distract from what you are saying. If you are passing around your gadget then allow them time to actually interact with it talk at the same time you are expecting them to check out your prop.
  • Create a memorable takeaway, NOT a summary of what you have just said.  People don’t takeaway summaries – they take away at most three things if you have done really well and the median case is one. So figure out what your one takeaway should be and test it out beforehand. In fact I recommend presentations start with the one takeaway and build their presentation to deliver it.

Presentations are a means to an end – not an end in of themselves. They are a means to influence your audience. But influence is not an end in of itself, either. Getting your audience to take action is the desired end result of your presentation. So make sure you are following up with them afterwards, even if it’s just an email thanking them for their time and attention and asking if there was anything you could have done better. Presenters are like athletes, they should be striving to get better for every performance.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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