From the PRSA-NCC Workshop “How to Make Great Presentations” Held Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015
By Robert Krueger
If you believe in what you are presenting, the audience will naturally find you credible. This has become the central takeaway for public speaking instructors in recent years. But what if you are presenting something to an audience that does not care to hear your topic? This was the takeaway discussion from a recent PRSA-NCC workshop on presenting to internal and external audiences.
Workshop leader and award-winning communications coach, Heathere Evans-Keenan, APR, of KPR presented attendees with the three characteristics of content in an effective presentation. She stressed not only asking yourself what is the intended “big idea” of your presentation, but also what’s in it for the audience. According to her, your content must have a benefit for the audience. Building the body for your presentation around this allows you to not only be clear and compelling, but also capture your audience.
Second, your presentation must use the correct content. Audience members are always looking for the logical benefits in a presentation, which is needed to justify why to make a decision or accept a call to action. Evans-Keenan said that some presenters make the mistake of stopping with logic instead of also addressing the emotional benefits. The best presenters always speak to the heart because they are able to talk from the heart. Tapping into people’s emotions can easily be achieved through the art of storytelling. Presentations are brought to life with our personal stories.
Finally, the third content characteristic is commitment. Staying on message with the presentation and questions will transform a presentation. Communicators always want their message to have a lasting impact on its target public. Immersing oneself in with the people involved and focusing on the experience of the audience always makes for a more memorable presentation.
But content is not always king with presentations. Sometimes you have to win over a hostile or distracted audience. Evans-Keenan emphasized the winning strategy of first admitting your differences and then presenting the opponents’ favorable arguments. Finally, humor them by appealing to their objectivity.
Since there are times with executives and audiences where there is a limited amount of time to make a case, she recommended the Boylan Method as a successful model for framing your talk, even if you only have 30 seconds. According to her, the first 90 to 120 seconds are the most critical part of any presentation. Your opening is where audiences actually decide whether your content is worth their time and attention.