In this three part series we’ll look to cover one of the most feared skills that a leader can possibly look to exhibit: Communication. Get communication skills for leaders right, and the world can be your oyster. Get communication skills for leaders wrong, and you’ll get nowhere near the results you could have achieved (Read that as NO oysters!) In Part I, we took a look at planning your presentation, here in Part II we’ll delve into proper practice/preparation you should undertake, and lastly in Part III we’ll tackle presenting… Enjoy!
Communication Skills for Leaders – Presentation Practice/Preparation
Think back to that presentation you participated in as an audience member that was fantastic… Think about what it was that made it fantastic. Got it? If you’re like most of the leaders that come through a “Communicate with Influence” workshop you identified “engagement” as the that key to success.
So if you know that engagement is the key in your presentation, how will you practice, or prepare? Your engagement goal is (should be?) to get your audience if sitting to creep towards the edge of their seat (front edge that is). If they are standing, for them to get on the balls of their feet leaning forward. In order to accomplish this, you’ll want to vary your presentation pattern.
Variation of Sights, Sounds, and Content
If members of your audience are like typical audiences we prepare for in communication skills training for leaders, they have a certain threshold at which their attention span deteriorates rapidly. Typically, you have twenty (20) seconds to grab your audience’s attention from the beginning of your presentation. Thereafter, every three (3) minutes you should recapture their focus (Otherwise, they’ll get distracted, and a distracted audience is one that has “left the building” along with Elvis!)
Varying your speaking volume and rate are other techniques certain to engage your audience. Speaking from a position of passion can also further your variation. But how you relay content should be from the audience’s perspective (In other words, what is it that the audience desires in order to fully understand/act on what’s being presented? Again, this should be accomplished through their desires, not what you like or how you like it!)
Your PowerPoint Sucks!
We typically spend no less than an hour in communication skills training for leaders discussing the do’s/don’ts of PowerPoint presentations. While “death” by PowerPoint is never a desired outcome, unfortunately this typically is the destination for many a leader… and deservingly so! When was the last time you were an audience member and saw firsthand a PowerPoint presentation that was engaging? If you’re like most of the leaders I encounter, your slides are so chock-full of information/data that there is little/no whitespace left on the slide!
So what’s the poor leader to do but create slides that have a plethora of data so as to choke the slide, and leave the audience member reeling because not only can they not read the slide but have little/no recourse thereafter? The answer is to create a PowerPoint slide with simply a title and an image… That’s it!
How to Practice Your Presentation
They say that practice leads to perfection. However, what if you are practicing wrong? Only “perfect” practice leads to perfection. I bring this up because there typically is little/no practice involved in the majority of leadership presentations (and that’s a HUGE mistake!) So if you’re going to practice, at least make an attempt to practice with the goal of perfection.
So what is perfect practice? Consider it a mental exercise where you will see the presentation from front to back, then back to front, and finally diagnosed from a side-angle. In Part I of this series (Planning), we discussed planning out your introduction/conclusion statements and simply putting together a bullet-point list of body content. At a high-level, practice your presentation by seeing those structured moments front to back, then back to front. Seeing your presentation from this perspective will allow you to effectively navigate (or develop) your strategy effectively from your audiences point of view. Viewing your presentation from a side-perspective allows you to detail not only what you will say, but how you can be most persuasive in delivering the message.
Let’s Get Physical!
I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention the primary medium of communication, that being you and your body. Before you say a word, your audience has already judged you. Yep, that’s right… Before you say word one your audience has already determined the outcome of your presentation. If earlier I mentioned that you have 20-seconds to align your audience around your message, you had better look the part as a leader before you even begin.
So what does it take to effectively communicate by looking the part? The majority of audiences want their leader to have confidence (think of this as communication content on steroids). In addition to this key mental characteristic, audience members will also diagnose how you are dressed as well as your physical presence. While dressing for success can largely offset some of these physical moments, it’s important to do the best you can with what you’ve got. Whether you like it or not, we all have a choice (read that as in you’re in CONTROL) of how we look and what we eat. Choices that look to leverage your leadership persona should be carefully considered.
In Part I of this communication skills for leaders presentation series, we took a look at planning your presentation. Here in Part II of this series we’ve taken a look proper practice/preparation you should undertake. We investigated your variation of Sights, Sounds, and Content, how to avoid having your PowerPoints suck, effective ways to Practice your Presentation, as well as how to get the Physical Edge when Communicating. In the final part of this series (Part III) we’ll tackle presenting.
PS – You may also enjoy some of the other recent posts I wrote:
- The Leadership Challenge: Helping Those That Don’t Want Help
- The Leadership Challenge: Saying “Thank You”
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Mindful?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Better Off Lucky Than Good?
- The Leadership Challenge: Can You Drive the Development of Leaders Who Transform Your Business?
- What’s Inside Your Leadership Time Capsule?
- The Leadership Challenge: 10 Characteristics to Develop Your Executive Presence
- The Leadership Challenge: Happy New Year! Now What?
- Leadership Amnesia: Should You Forget the Past to Move Forward to a Better Future?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are Your SMART Goals DUMB?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Climbing the Leadership Mountain?
- The Leadership Challenge: They Want You To Fail! 8 Leadership Tips to Overcome Failure
- The Leadership Challenge: Do You Exercise Your Moral Muscle?
- The Leadership Challenge: Conducting Post-Mortem Reviews
Sam Palazzolo is the Managing Director at Tip of the Spear Ventures, an agile Venture Capital and Business Advisory Services firm specializing in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and Communication Skills Training for Leaders.