daunting prospect. But the fact is, if you want to be a powerful
leader, expect to give plenty of
presentations. Giving great presentations is not as difficult as
you might think. All you have to
do is communicate your message in a way that is accessible,
engaging, and memorable.
In this lecture, you will learn how to give presentations that
listeners will remember. We will
explore how to create visual aids that complement your
message. We will also discuss
techniques for conveying authority and presence at the fr ont of
the room, as well as what to
do before and after your presentation.
Why It Matters
• Presentations are powerful tools to share your ideas with large
• A high-impact presentation can galvanize your entire
organization around an idea.
• Delivering a captivating talk to a room full of people
demonstrates your executive
presence in a way no other communication can.
“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the
knowledge you send but by
what the listener receives.”
reasons may vary, but at the
core of each of these feelings is the same fear: you think your
listeners are judging you. You are
worried that the audience – even the people you do not know –
will think less of you if you do
not impress them.
That is not a pleasant thought, and it is one you need to rise
above. Delivering a high-impact
presentation is a great way to get noticed by your peers and
leaders. And even if you are not
addressing unfamiliar faces in a big auditorium, you give
presentations all the time. A team
huddle, a sales pitch, and even a board meeting entail you
delivering a message to a group of
people. Do you want to pass up an opportunity to share your
message – or even land a job –
just because you do not want to talk to people?
If you want to communicate with confidence, you need to
overcome your fear. To do that, you
need to banish the thought that your listeners are judging you,
even if they actually are.
Everyone in the room is there to listen to you. You have a
message that they need to hear; they
want to learn from you. And nobody in the room wants you to
fail. Your job, then, is not to give a
speech. It is to teach your listeners. You will do that if you
present your message in an
understandable and exciting way.
Before You Begin
In Week 6 of our course, you learned that knowing your
audience is one of the five factors of a
The next issue to consider is the environme nt in which you are
speaking. Are you presenting
alongside other people? If so, each presenter needs to know who
is addressing what topic.
Each person should also know how much time they have to
present. You never want to
monopolize the presentation time, or give your co-presenters
less time to deliver their
messages. Speaking of time, how long do you have your
audience? Knowing how much time
you have will help you streamline and organize your content.
Going beyond your time limit,
especially if you are the only presenter, is an easy way to annoy
your listeners. Another
environmental factor to bear in mind is where you are
presenting. What sort of materials will you
need for your presentation? If you want to include PowerPoint
slides, for example, you have to
make sure the room has the tools you need.
Illustrating Your Points
There is a reason Jeff Bezos has outlawed PowerPoint slides
from meetings at Amazon. You
have likely sat through dozens of unengaging slide show
presentations. There may have been
too many slides, or maybe the slides contained too much
illegible text. Worse, the presenter
might have just read each slide aloud. Those speakers missed
the whole point of presenting in
the first place. As Jack once wrote, “Giving a speech is…about
conversations that go on long after you’re done talking.”3
message needs to come directly from you. Visual aids are there
to illustrate your key points.
Therefore, they should not contain too much information or
text. If you are using slides from a
program like PowerPoint or Keynote, you generally do not need
more than twelve slides. If you
include more than that, you risk losing track of your message.
Resist the urge to write too much
on your slides, and keep any charts or graphs as simple as you
can. Audience members should
not have to strain their eyes to see what you are showing them.
And if you are using slides, do
not just read from them. When that happens, either the slides
are redundant or you are.
Think of your visual aids as reinforcements of what you are
saying. They are there to amplify
your words. Instead of inserting massive blocks of text i nto
your slides, use pictures or graphs.
You can explain what the visual elements mean in your actual
speech. For example, if you are
comparing your organization’s performance to that of its
competition, show the logos of your
biggest competitors. Include a provocative statistic about each
performance. If you have to include text, use short bullet points.
Just use them economically.
Choose a simple font like Calibri or Arial, and avoid using only
capital letters. If there are key
details that are important to your presentation, consider creating
a handout for your audience.
Your visual aids can also be helpful for varying the pace of
your presentation. If you show your
listeners ten slides, and all of the slides look very simi lar, you
will lose their attention quickly.
Design your visual aids to include some variety. For instance, if
you have to show a series of
slides with graphs, break them up intermittently with pictures or
videos. If you can, find a way to
include dialogue in your presentation, or even an activity. When
you force your listeners to
respond in different ways, you have a better chance of keeping
their attention for the whole
Commanding the Room
As we discussed earlier in these notes, you have nothing to fear
from your listeners. They are
not judging you – they are in the room so they can learn from
you. The audience wants you to
succeed. So many speakers feel intimidated by their listeners,
and it shows when they talk.
They slouch and avoid making eye contact with their audience
members. They fidget with their
hands. They mumble and trail off at the ends of sentences, using
phrases like, “so, yeah.” In
effect, speakers who act this way are making themselves look
and feel small. These actions do
not just demonstrate nerves. They indicate a complete lack of
executive presence. When
speakers do that, they subliminally tell their listeners, “I do not
want to be here right now.”
JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence
Week 8 Lecture Notes
your main points. Moving to a different part of the room serves
as a visual cue that you are
segueing to a new point in your presentation. Remember,
though, to keep talking while you
walk. Shuffling silently to a different place looks awkward and
forced. Think of “transition words”
that can serve as cues for you to walk to a different spot. If you
are speaking, and you begin a
sentence with “additionally,” “furthermore,” or “not only,” for
instance, those would be good
opportunities to walk. Just make sure that, wherever you move
to, the entire audience can still
On the subject of movement, most people do not pay much
attention to their hands when they
talk. If you are giving a presentation, however, your listeners’
eyes will follow your every move. If
your hands are moving, the audience will look at every gesture.
This is why you should not over-
gesture during your talk, even if you are an extremely
passionate presenter. Your hands serve
the same purpose as visual aids; they can emphasize key phrases
or points that you make. But,
if you emphasize every single word of your presentation, your
message will get lost quickly. If
you are going to gesture, make sure your movements are visible.
Avoid gesturing below your
waist or above your shoulders. If you are not moving your
hands, keep them in a neutral
position, such as at your sides. Try not to clasp your hands in
front of you – this makes you look
unsure of yourself. You want to project confidence in every
visual element of your presentation.
However, your most important tool as a presenter is your voice.
• How do I express that I feel the same way?
If you are talking about something very serious and dire, you
will convey the gravity of the issue.
You will pause often, so that you and your listeners can think
about what you are saying. You
need to sound sober. But if you are talking about something
exciting, you need to sound
excited! You have to make your listeners feel motivated and
appreciated. They will feel great if
you show them that you feel great. Whatever your talking points
are, you have to bring an
emotional energy to the front of the room. Use your voice to
demonstrate that you are excited,
anxious, concerned, wistful, or even sad. There is nothing
wrong with showing your emotions in
front of your listeners. In fact, that is exactly what an
empathetic and authentic person does.
Just make sure you display your feelings appropriately. If you
are too flamboyant, you will
destroy your ethos. But if you do not show your feelings, or do
not vary your feelings, you will
commit one of the worst sins a speaker can commit: you will
bore your listeners.
You may not be delivering a theatrical performance when you
speak. Regardless, you should
always practice your presentation before you deliver it. You
should be comfortable enough with
your content that you do not even need notes. Go over your
main points, and think about what
you want your listeners to take from your presentation. Think of
voice echoing, you will have to speak a little more slowly. If it
is a conference room, will
attendees be seated at the same table? If so, you do not need to
walk too far when you
transition between points.
Your voice also needs to be well-prepared before you start
talking. Drink water or tea to soothe
your vocal chords. Practice some vocal warmups or tongue-
twisters to loosen your facial
muscles. And breathe slowly and deeply before you begin. This
will help you relax and maintain
the vocal energy you need.
Once you are done talking, you should feel quite relieved. You
conveyed a message to a large
group of appreciative people, and you spoke confidently and
smoothly. But your presentation
does not always end when your speech does. If your listeners
are particularly engaged, they will
have questions for you. In fact, they might have questions
before or even during your
presentation. You can ask your audience to hold their questions
until you are done, but some
audience members might push back. If someone asks a question,
and you refuse to answer it,
you may sacrifice all of the goodwill and empathy you have
created with your audience. If you
are interrupted with a question, do not get flustered. Make a
mental note of where you are in the
presentation. Then, answer your listener’s question as
succinctly and honestly as you can.
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JWI 505 – Lecture Notes (1206) Page 8 of 8
Finally, you will give many presentations as a leader. You
should always be thinking of ways to
grow as a presenter. Once the presentation is completely
finished, ask your colleagues for
feedback on your organization and delivery. If you tell them
you want to improve your
presentation skills, they will be willing to give you helpful,
candid comments. This is also a great
way to build interpersonal relationships with those colleagues.
You show that you trust them and
that you believe they want you to grow as a leader.
In this lecture, we explored what goes into a strong
presentation. We discussed how to use
visual aids to augment your content, as well as how to deliver
your presentations in a
professional and engaging manner. Most importantly, you
learned why you have nothing to fear
from speaking to large groups of people. Remember, every
presentation is just a conversation.
The only difference is the number of listeners.
In the next lecture, we will examine how to communicate
through digital and social media. We
will determine what goes into a strong digital engagement
policy, what channels to use for your
communications, and how to enhance your online presence.
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