To Deliver a Great Presentation, Set Action Objectives

Business leaders are constantly in presentation mode, whether we are communicating with employees internally or with clients and investors externally. And with the expansion of tools such as videoconferencing and screen share, which offer new avenues for presenting information, there's always a need for leaders to re-evaluate their approach to delivering a presentation. I recently wrote about communicating simply; a good presentation requires clear communication, but it also involves a more thorough consideration of intent.

A recent Fast Company blog post offered some interesting tips taken from public speaking coach Achim Nowak's book, Infectious. Nowak explained that public speakers can draw on the techniques of actors, who are trained to approach each part of a scene with an objective for their characters. An objective should be an action verb, it should have a strong effect on the actor (or presenter) and it should describe the impact that the actor (or presenter) hopes to have on the audience.

"Action verbs matter because they unleash forward-moving velocity," Nowak wrote. "They propel us toward the other person. More important, however, is this: An objective needs to be 'a turn-on' in the brain … Good objectives stimulate my brain, strike my fancy, spark my imagination."

Presenters who clearly define a verb of intent, such as "to motivate," "to entertain" or "to provoke," will bring more clarity to their presentations, Nowak said. While a presentation can have different objectives during different sections, leaders should reduce each portion to one objective to avoid rambling and muddling their message.

In a blog post for the Harvard Business Review, presentation consultant Nancy Duarte outlined some considerations that are particularly useful for accomplishing one objective many presenters tend to share: to disarm opposition to an idea. If a leader has a clear intent to dismantle objections by anticipating audience reactions, his or her presentations are more likely to be effective, Duarte explained.

"If you've made a sincere effort to look at the world through their eyes, it will show when you speak," she wrote. "You'll feel more warmly toward them, so you'll take on a conversational tone. You'll sound - and be - authentic when you address their concerns. As a result, you'll disarm them, and they'll be more likely to accept your message."

Virtual presentations pose unique challenges. It can be difficult to recreate the feeling of live presence remotely. Technology has made this much better. Video conferencing allows viewers to see and hear the presenter as if they were physically present.  Screen sharing ensures that all participants are viewing the same part of a presentation at the same time, which is an improvement over the old approach of emailing a presentation to review over conference call. So while there is nothing quite like being there, these technologies make virtual presentations go much more smoothly.

By setting a clear intent for the effect you want a presentation to have on the audience - and anticipating their reactions - you can equip yourself to deliver a winning message and accomplish your objectives regardless of the presentation environment.

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