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, in Part II we delved into proper practice/preparation you should undertake, and lastly here in Part III we’ll tackle presenting… Enjoy!
Communication Skills for Leaders – Presenting Your Presentation
When was the last time you witnessed a presentation and you had to actively think about what the speaker was saying? If you’re like most of the leaders that come to a “Communicate with Influence” workshop as part of their leadership development training, you probably can’t remember (sigh!) The reason why this is unfortunately the case is that most presentations are better cures for insomnia than they are for providing you with actionable information.
So what does it take to convey/share/discuss actionable information? The answer lies in asking questions. Let’s take a look at three (3) different types of questions you can ask your audience to keep engagement levels high and results-focused.
Ask a Rhetorical Question
A Rhetorical Question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that’s asked in order to make a point, rather than to elicit an answer. There are times when rhetorical questions are so repugnant that a question mark doesn’t need to end the statement (Remember, it’s implied).
Here’s a great question that was asked at a recent communication skills training for leaders session: “Can you imagine a world that never had been touched by Steve Jobs?” The question in and of itself opens itself up to multiple interpretations, and as such requires each of the members of the audience to ponder their own response. Better yet, each member is awaiting what/where you’ll go next (High engagement).
Polling Questions for Instant Feedback
I love polling questions, and it’s a good thing! When I was pioneering webinars I found that a virtual audience is much more vocal than one that is sitting in a room with you. Why? I have a lot of hypothesis from these early communication skills training for leaders examples, but the one that I keep coming back to is the nature of the polls and the medium through which they communicated (i.e., the computer).
Important to remember here that you must establish ground rules regarding how you want participant responses (“Raise your hand if you…” if live and “Use the Chat area to tell me…” if virtual).
The great aspect of polling questions is that you get feedback immediately from your audience. Important to note that you should consider all variations of answers when preparing your presentation, or have facts on hand regarding how population segment at large answered similar questions which you can share.
What? Where? When? Who? and How? Questions (But NEVER Why?)
In my executive coaching sessions, I fall back on my training with Marshall Goldsmith and the International Coach Federation. It was drilled into my head that I should never, never, never begin a line of questions that began with the word “Why?” The logic for this, and try it for yourself as a leader, is that when asking a question with “Why?” will drive the participants to think logically, and absent of all emotions. As a result, think of the next time when you are about to use “Why?” and substitute it with any of the other W’s and the one H.
5 Presentation Habits that Should Be Avoided
While I’ve tried to present you with focused/results-oriented content here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some habits that will simply ruin your presentation. Stay away from these five bad habits:
- Ummm – Toastmasters counts them, and so does your audience in a presentation. Say one and you may be Ok depending on who’s in the audience. Say more than one, or allow them to be periods between your verbal sentences and you will lose your audience!
- Hands – If you’re like me, you are passionate when you speak. As a result, you not only move your hands, but your entire body! Do your best to limit movement of your hands. Keep the “I’m a Little Teapot” nursery rhyme in mind regarding what not to do.
- Braggadocios – Keep bragging to a minimum… You’re audience will immediately hate you if they catch on (and yes, they are smart enough to catch on!) I once was an audience member with someone I really respected. They began the presentation with the “I got in late last night as a result of speaking in another city on the other side of the country and catching the last flight in…”Spare me, and your audience.
- Slang/Jargon – If no one knows what you’re referring to when you speak in acronyms, then don’t! I know as well as you do that each company needs their own Rosetta Stone to decipher their own jargon, but please keep these comments to a minimum especially when dealing with external agencies to the organization.
- Q&A – I could write an entire blog post on answering questions (If you’re interested, drop me a line). Here’s the bottom line when it comes to questions: If you’re going to open yourself up to taking them, you’d better have considered all that will/could/are asked of you. If you don’t prepare not only the questions, but most importantly the answers to each of them in advance you are setting yourself up for disaster!
In Part I of this communication skills for leaders presentation series, we took a look at planning your presentation. In Part II of this series we looked at proper practice/preparation you should undertake. In the final part of this series (Part III) we’ve tackled presenting. We investigated asking rhetorical questions, how to leverage polling questions for immediate feedback, effective ways to start your questions (What? Where? When? Who? and How? Questions… But NEVER Why?), as well as 5 presentation habits that should be avoided.
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.