Earlier this year I was given a golden opportunity. To deliver a Keynote presentation to kick off a European event for a large multi-country software company. There were 500 people in the audience. It was a big stage and I had 40 minutes to fill. I was the first one up. It was quite scary and beyond my comfort zone, but I still said yes. Despite my trepidation It all went well. The key for me was practice. Here’s what I learnt.
So, you’ve written a fabulous speech, with a powerful start and a strong ending. Your slides look great and you’ve practiced endlessly. Now, it’s the day of the big presentation and there’s a lot at stake. No matter how experienced you are, you'll go through a range of emotions. You could be nervous, anxious or super-excited. Adrenalin and cortisol will kick in. Your heartbeat will go up and your palms will get sweaty. So how you do prepare on the day of the presentation? How do you make sure you’re ready to give it your best shot?
We’ve all wasted hours sitting through mediocre Powerpoint presentations. Everyone complains about them. You all know the expression – Death by Powerpoint.
I’m not a designer, but I spend a lot of time writing Powerpoint slides. And, if I’m being honest with myself, some of my presentations could have been a lot better. So, I set myself the goal of raising my game. To make my presentations easier to present from and easier for the audience to listen to. I never want to be accused of delivering dull presentations.
A great piece of advice TED’s Chris Anderson gives in his excellent ‘Official Guide to Public Speaking’ is to ‘Start Strong’ and ‘End with Power’. When we deliver presentations we often forget this.
Persuasion is an essential business skill. Whether we’re convincing our team to adopt a new strategy, or selling a new product, we’re always attempting to bring others round to our point of view. So how do we become more persuasive? What tools and techniques can we can draw upon? Luckily, the work of the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is a source of inspiration. His work is as relevant today as it’s ever been.
I recently read Daniel H Pink’s book ‘To Sell is Human’. It was written in 2013, but I’ve only just discovered it. One of the many things I really enjoyed about the book is the section on how to pitch ideas. It’s something we all have to do, no matter what our role, so it’s important that we master how to do it well.
Recently I saw a fascinating TED talk by David JP Philips called ‘The Magical Science of Storytelling’, where he explains how certain chemicals in your brain are triggered when we hear a great story. He refers to these chemicals - oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins as ‘The Angel’s Cocktail’, the emotions we all crave when we hear a great story. With practice we can all trigger these emotions when writing or delivering presentations. Here’s how.