One of the keys to unlocking leadership potential is effective communications. Whether spoken, written or otherwise conveyed, leaders must align their intentions with the message to ensure clarity and understanding for others. One of the ways that communication occurs is by presentation. You may recall from high school or college English classes that presentations have different objectives (e.g. educational, persuasive, inspirational, etc.).
I made a presentation to a professional group recently that was comprised of small to medium size business owners. The subject was “Unlocking Your Leadership Potential.” My presentation included the latest from neuroscience and the implications for effective leadership, embracing immunity to change as a unique competitive advantage and the power of Invitational Leadership™.
During my presentation, I was reminded, once again, that what seems obvious to me may not be to others. Each of us have unique talents and expertise. Google defines unique as being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else. When communicating to others who are not or less familiar with your unique talents and expertise, it is important to confirm understanding. Stephen Covey described this as “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
You may be wondering how to “seek first to understand…”when presenting to an audience. After all, there is usually no or limited two-way dialogue. And, with a larger audience, it’s more difficult to confirm understanding. The best method I have developed over the years is to introduce myself to and establish a connection (prior to the presentation) with a few members of the audience. Tell them that you will be looking at them periodically to confirm their understanding of the presentation content. You can get real-time feedback from audience members via eye contact, posture, hand gestures and body language. Chances are if they are following and understanding your presentation content, they will acknowledge with an affirming smile, a nod of their head, etc. And, it is likely that others are understanding as well.
“What seems obvious to you may not be to others.” – Larry Fehd
Establishing a few personal connections with your audience, prior to your presentation, will also calm you down and provide a sense of comfort and safety. You now have some friends in the audience who are engaged and supporting you throughout the presentation. From neuroscience, we know that the brain’s core organizing principle is to seek “safety first”. Using the aforementioned technique will help to establish a sense of safety and bolster your confidence and effectiveness throughout your presentation.
Another important part of “seeking first…” is to ensure that the visual aids you are using sync with the spoken content that you are presenting. Most people tend to defer to visual stimuli first as opposed to auditory stimuli. Said another way, they will focus on your visual aids first and may completely miss or be confused by your words. My rule of thumb, less is better when it comes to visual aids. I also subscribe to the popular adage, “One picture is worth a thousand words”. If you choose the right visual aid (e.g. picture, graph, etc.) words may not even be unnecessary.
Tips and Practical Applications:
- The next time you are preparing for a presentation seek feedback from at least one trusted co-worker, colleague or friend prior to your presentation. Walk them through your visual aids and ask them to share what they are experiencing while viewing. Ask them what they like most about the visual aids as well as any areas of confusion or recommended changes.
- Before you start creating any content for a presentation (i.e., words, text, visual aids, etc.), ask yourself the following questions 1) what do I want my audience to learn 2) what do I want my audience to remember and 3) what actions do I want my audience to take as a result of my presentation? You may also ask what you want them to feel as a result of your presentation. Remember that simply giving an audience what they want may make you popular; going a step further to give them what they need greatly increases your value and creates genuine trust.
- When you complete your presentation be sure to seek immediate feedback. One simple means of doing this is to seek feedback from those you connected with prior to your presentation. Ask them what they would recommend that you start, stop and continue doing in the future. Be sure to integrate the feedback when planning your future presentations
Power of Invitational Leadership™
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Beyond Inertia and Status Quo
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