One of the biggest (and hardest) requirements for an executive is the ability to communicate, not just via email or in the boardroom, but also to the entire company in a presentation (or video). I’ve seen business owners afraid to talk in front of just five employees, and it is a shame. During generational transitions, many executives fear speaking to employees or other executives older than them, especially when they are twice their age. I understand the hesitation, but a lack of executive presentation skills can’t hold you and your company back. This lack of confidence in oneself to talk to your employees erodes your best qualities and makes you doubt yourself elsewhere, and it is entirely preventable.
8 Tips to Improve Executive Presentation Skills:
- Know what you’re going to say – Before you start rehearsing outline your speech in your head, brainstorm your thoughts and create an outline. Having a lean outline that transitions from one topic to the next smoothly makes the rest of the presentation much easier, and it is a much better use of your time compared to revising things later on. Continue to revise and your wording as you practice and rehearse; you’ll get more comfortable each time you go through it. The right words will come to you.
- Ditch the script – You will never be able to engage your team if you aren’t looking at them and you can’t look at your audience while reading a script. It may be contrary to your thinking, eye contact actually calms you down. People are comforted being by humans, so eye contact settles nerves better than hiding behind a script. If you must have a script, use a brief outline to keep you on track instead of a word-for-word script.
- Don’t Seek Perfection – In public speaking, perfection comes across robotic and like you’re hiding something. You can’t script out every word because it isn’t genuine and because it sets you up for failure. If you memorize your speech, missing a single word throws you off and can run the rest of your presentation. Instead, let your outline lead you down a path and be comfortable knowing that your verbiage will be different when you deliver your presentation that how you practice it. Your brain naturally evolves things, and you just need to go with the flow because your presentation is a different kind of awesome than your rehearsal.
- Instead, seek understanding – What you say is more important that how you say it. A great message can be delivered by a mediocre speaker and be an excellent presentation, however, a great speaker with a weak message is still a lousy presentation. To ensure you are understood, know what you’re going to say first by preparing and practice and talk to the “Common Man.” If you’re a construction executive, you need to speak to your tradesmen in the field, not your fellow c-suite executives. You must speak at their level, so they understand you and respect you. Talking over someone’s head, intentionally or not, with SAT vocabulary words and jargon forces people to tune you out and your message is lost. I call it simplification.
- Speak with passion – Your team wants to know you care whether you’re addressing the entire company, are in a media interview, or if you’re presenting to prospective clients. No one is inspired by robotic speakers and passionate speakers, even if it is subtle, is human, and they will forgive you for not being perfect. Showing your personality, smiling, and having a good time will make you more comfortable and should put you at ease.
- Practice it – Know that your presentation gets better as you practice it. Professional athletes, actors, and craftsman know it is about repetition; public speaking is no different. Practice your presentation out loud, not just in your head because you will remember it better and refine your words when you hear them out loud. To ensure you’re speaking without jargon and to the Common Man, have a non-technical colleague like an administrator or someone from a different department watch a practice.
- Do a Dress Rehearsals – I highly suggest a dress rehearsal to make sure you can move your arms freely when gesturing, and you will get used to using a presentation remote. A dress rehearsal is especially important for women because of the variety of outfits you can wear. Unlike a guy who generally wears a suit and one suit works similar to the next. Know if you’re utilizing a lavaliere (wireless) microphone because that may affect your presentation attire. Also, the more you practice, the more you lessen your nerves because you’ve been through it. If you don’t practice, your audience is just seeing your dress rehearsal.
- Anxiety is Good – Professional speakers get nervous before speaking, as do athletes, dancers, and actors — it is a good thing. You need some anxiety because it adds needed excitement and energy to your presentation. Remember, the majority of your nervousness drops within 2 minutes because your adrenaline recedes. I find practicing presentations reduces 80% of my clients’ fears and scoping out the room ahead of time also prevents last minute rushing and blood pumping.
Don’t sideline yourself and miss the opportunity to lead your company and be that rallying figure for them. Your employees, whether you have two or two hundred thousand of them, need to follow someone, and they’re looking for you to lead them. Public speaking is the best way to engage them, humanize yourself, and share your vision.
Get a stronger understanding about presentation preparation and consider my executive presentation skills training course, SpeakU.