For more than 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of helping thousands of professionals achieve their goals. How? By coaching them to make the good ideas in their heads come out of their mouths so that others can understand them, see the value in them, and trust them.
One of the things I’ve observed during this time is that there's a big difference between how average presenters feel and how great presenters feel once their presentations are over.
Average presenters expend energy reflecting on three presentations.At the conclusion of a challenging, high-stakes presentation, average presenters often expend undue energy and time reflecting on three different presentations:
- The presentation they'd planned
- The presentation they actually delivered
- The presentation they'd give if they had the chance to do it over again
Imagine how ruminating over this would make you feel after you'd already presented? “Not good,” most people say. Some say it more colorfully than that.
Great presenters reflect on only one presentation.Let’s contrast this with great presenters.
More often than not, great presenters reflect solely on the success of the actual presentation they gave. They either skillfully executed their plan, or they masterfully adapted it in-the-moment to compensate for unforeseen circumstances.
Either way, they left it all on the proverbial table and did everything possible to achieve the outcome they needed to produce.
This feels indescribably good.
Great presenters are made—not born.In my experience, some people take to presenting more naturally than others. They become good presenters with just a little bit of effort. What’s interesting, though, is how few of these naturally good presenters ever become great.
Why not? Complacency.
As Good to Great author Jim Collins so aptly put it: “Good is the enemy of great.” In challenging, high-stakes competitive scenarios, good may not be good enough.
Regardless of where they started in terms of natural ability, the great presenters I know all invested time, energy, and funds to build that proficiency.
One well-known tech CEO shared that he'd participated in at least seven presentation skills workshops and coaching engagements during his career in order to become the presenter he believed he needed to be.
“Instead of working on my golf game, I worked on my presentation game.”A senior technology sales executive I'd been coaching for 6 months had just, in his words, “crushed it!”
“It” was a 30-minute presentation to 2,500 people, including his CEO. He was euphoric.
When I complimented him on his big win, he thanked me. He said it was just a matter of making it a priority to practice the things he'd learned during our sessions in the scarce discretionary time his schedule allowed.
For six months, working on presentation skills took priority over his love of golf.
What started as a personal pursuit of professional growth ultimately permeated his entire organization. He invested heavily in taking the sales presentation and communication capability of his organization from good to great. In the process, sales revenue grew from $800 million to a stunning $6 billion during his tenure.
The better you get, the better you feel.It’s a uniquely satisfying feeling when you end a high-stakes presentation knowing you “crushed it.” Part of it comes from knowing you’ve given tremendous value to the people in your audience.
Part of it comes from knowing you’ve achieved your goal, whether that was to inspire your team, sell your solution, or secure funding for your project.
And part of it comes from knowing you did something—and did it well—that most people are afraid to do. That feeling never gets old.
I recently read that 70% of business professionals think presentation skills are critical for career success. I feel sad for the other 30% because they don't get that they hold a career-limiting belief.
Imagine if you were a great presenter.Becoming a great presenter is a journey—a completely workable and rewarding one. Are you ready to get started? Take the first three steps:
1) Envision the outcome.
Start with the reasons why you want to become a great presenter. What will this help you achieve that's not achievable today?
Then close your eyes and really picture how you would look and sound if you were a great presenter.
What words would you want your audience to use to describe you? Be sure to imagine how good that would make you feel and the rewards that would result.
2) Seek expert instruction.
To become a great presenter, you have to expand your communication comfort zone by experimenting with new communication behaviors and discarding any bad habits you may have.
Most people need help to do this, which could be in the form of a workshop, coaching, or some combination of both. You’ll find thousands of options, all promising to help you become a great presenter. Choose wisely. They're not all created equally.
3) Practice! Practice! Practice!
There’s no substitute for practice to cement the habits and muscle memory of a great presenter. Use routine low-risk meetings as opportunities to consciously practice your skills. Lock yourself in a conference room a couple of times a week and practice out loud and on your feet. Can’t get a conference room? Practice at home.
Caveat: Practice makes permanent, so practice the right way (see step 2).
Building great presentation skills isn't easy and can't be done in a day. But once you make the commitment and start doing the work, your efforts will begin to have an immediate impact. You'll start seeing results. And that feels amazing.
Are you looking to take your presentation skills from good to great? Learn more about Mandel's Executive Coaching and Speaker Training services. Do you want your team to experience the indescribable feeling of "crushing it" whenever they present to stakeholders or customers? Browse our Communication Training Workshops.
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Find out why memorizing is a terrible idea and what you should do instead to prepare for your next presentation.
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