The most effective presentations aren’t presentations at all. They are conversations, and you probably already have all the skills you need, they just need to be unlocked.
Let’s say the Big Boss from Headquarters is coming to your regional office for a full day of all the department heads presenting their annual plans to him, or their major initiatives for the next year.
Your end goal is that you want to stand out in front of the Big Boss. The best way to stand out is to do what other people are not doing.
Start by imagining what the other department heads are doing. What they’re usually doing is, if their presentation is to be thirty minutes, they start out with about an hour of content, and then they gradually cut things out until they get down closer to forty minutes. They they cut some more until they get to thirty minutes, or at least they try to.
What often ends up happening is they get to under forty minutes and then they say we can’t cut anymore, so they take that forty minutes and they try to cram it into thirty minutes.
These people end up trying to go too fast and barely having time to say what they walked into the room to say. They’re not doing their specialty, not doing what the company is paying them for. They’re doing something else, presentation skills, or, more correctly, what they imagine those presentation skills might be.
Their presentations are almost certainly going to be terrible. The Big Boss is going to be in pain. By the end of the day he’s going to be aching to get out of there. His head is going to be ready to explode.
So go the other way. Do what the others are not doing:
You know your subject better than anybody in the world, so distill your subject into a couple sentences. We’ve even seen one of our clients distill his message into six words.
The others will get up there and start presenting to The Big Boss, and their message will get lost. They’ll be trying to do a million other “presentation things,” but they won’t be doing what they’re really good at, which is talking about the subject they’ve spent years working on.
You, however, get to walk into that room confident that you can sum up your message in just a few words if you need to.
You get to get up there and talk about the things you’re really good at, using the skills you’ve already been practicing everyday for you whole life, because the “presentation things” aren’t getting in your way.
Yes, it’s a little counter-intuitive, but the best way to present is the way that unlocks the skills you already have: the communication skills you’ve already been practicing your whole life, and the subject matter expertise you bury yourself in every day at work.
Now, this does not mean you get to be lazy, or that you’re going to oversimplify things. You’re not going to walk into that presentation room, magically deliver your entire message in 15 seconds, and then confidently strut out of the room while everyone says, “Oh my god, that was the most amazing presentation I ever saw!”
No, on the contrary, the reality is that you’ll probably need the whole half hour, but the difference will be that The Big Boss will be asking you questions, asking you to dive deeper and brainstorm with him right there on the spot. He will remember you as the one who electrified his brain when everyone else put him to sleep.
About Matt Krause
Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their export customers better. His clients work for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.