The New Executive Communication Skill: Top Tips for Nailing Your Remote Presentations

Surveys show the vast majority of business presentations are now done remotely. If your company is among the 83% of businesses who deliver remote presentations, are you keeping up with the presentation skills necessary to deliver them effectively?

The remote presentation has some unique challenges, whether it is a webinar that includes video of the presenter or one that relies on slides. The presenter may not have the full attention of the audience, who may be distracted or engaged in other tasks while watching. It’s also harder for the presenter to know whether he or she is connecting with the audience, without being able to see reactions.

Still, the new technologies in remote presentations have made them increasingly popular. Webinars do allow for ideas to be shared between distances, and between greater numbers of people. They can be a useful tool when presenters take full advantage of the medium and avoid the pitfalls. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your opportunity:

BE PRESENT—EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT: Your audience has their distractions, but as the presenter, you need to take care you do not give them any additional ones. Silence everything around you that might distract you or your audience; phones, cell phones and emails. Make sure you’re fully engaged in your presentation. Your audience will hear that engagement in your voice and pacing, even if they can’t see you.

PREPARE AS YOU WOULD IF THEY WERE IN FRONT OF YOU: Remote presentations are more difficult, precisely because you’re not in front of the audience commanding their attention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means they’re expecting less of you. Take your preparations for your presentation seriously. That means not only building the right content for the specific audience, but rehearsing out loud and in real time so you’re purposeful about your presentation.

KEEP IT MOVING: Slides that stay up too long or presenters who don’t vary their delivery, pitch, and content, quickly bore an audience. You don’t want to rush through the information in your presentation, but neither do you want to move so slowly, you invite people’s attention to wander. Keep your pace conversational and comfortable, but make sure the visuals you use do their part in creating interest. Make sure what you’re saying matches what we’re seeing when we’re seeing it. Rehearse until you can get this timing down.

DON’T READ YOUR MATERIALS VERBATIM: Your virtual audience no more wants to be read to than any audience does. Virtual presentations are not an excuse to load your audience down with detail and long explanations. Treat this format as you would any presentation: Limit the number of key ideas you’re presenting, and then talk your audience through the presentation as you guide them toward some action.

BE PREPARED FOR TECHNOLOGY FAILURES: Always have a full printed copy of your presentation with you in case the audience can’t see your slides or there are other mishaps. Make sure you’ve you’re your materials ahead of time so your audience can follow along in another way if they have to. Know your key messages well, so that at any point you can return to them if need be. Have a backup plan (i.e. second head-set) at the ready; just in case it’s needed. It always helps to have a facilitator so that someone else can worry about recovering in the case of a technology failure, while you concentrate on the presentation itself.

YOUR VOICE IS VITAL: If your audience can’t see you, your main tool is your voice. Yes, you’ll want to build a presentation that has great visuals to keep your audience tuned in, but it’s your voice that serves as the real guide as to whether your audience will pay attention. You’ll need to vary your voice and use it appropriately. That means letting your audience hear your enthusiasm, your passion and your belief in what you’re saying. Think about how to ADD voices of others in your presentation to keep interest up. You can use a co-presenter or you can build in video to change things up for your audience.

ON CAMERA? OWN IT!: If your audience can see you, make sure you give them something to look at. Don’t look away from the computer or camera lens while delivering. You want to give your audience as much “eye contact” as possible and that means directly looking in their direction. Try and visualize speaking to real people (because you are), even though you can’t see them. Remember they are watching you, so don’t fidget, slouch or look distracted.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO LOOK AT: Give your audience a real “show”. Think about your content like a story with a beginning, middle and end. If they can see you, think about the use of ‘props’ you can display as you speak. If they can’t see you and you’re dependent on slides, than think about how you can grab and keep their attention. (Hint: it’s not going to be with more text). What visuals can you add to maintain interest? Are they unique enough, compelling enough, to keep your audience tuned in?

BE WORTH IT: Make sure you give your audience something they couldn’t have otherwise gotten from you. That means your materials are not your “presentation”, you are. Figure out what you can give your audience that makes their attention worthwhile.

Virtual presentations can and do serve a purpose. If done correctly, the virtual presentation can serve as yet another important communication tool in the toolkit of today’s executives.

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Power Up Your Team Presentations

If you’ve got a standout presenter, or even two or more on your team, you might think that’s good enough. It isn’t.

If you’re presenting to clients or perspective clients about your company’s capabilities, your entire team should be capable of presenting powerfully each and every time. Having the right team leader is important, but it’s not enough to ensure success. Your team leader is there to guide the team toward clear goals but anyone listening to the pitch knows it’s the group effort that will determine whether those promises you’re making will be kept.

Before your next team presentation, make sure each member of your team learns to present powerfully and in concert with one another. Remember these best practices for team presentations:

IT’S ABOUT THE SHOW, NOT JUST THE TELL
: If all you needed to win business was to detail your capabilities, you’d be able to win it just by emailing your proposals. There’s a reason for the oral bid or proposal even today when we have so many other options for giving and receiving information. Your potential clients want to “see for themselves” who you are and develop a level of confidence in the team. Make sure your team understands how to show their strengths. Each member needs to be truly comfortable with what they’ve been asked to present and fully prepared for what’s expected. Will they handle direct questions or defer? On what areas might they expect to be questioned or defer to others?

REHEARSE TOGETHER: However limited your time to prepare for the team presentation, don’t use that time solely for individual members to prepare for their individual parts alone. This is a team presentation and you’ll need to rehearse as a team in order to better see and hear the presentation the way your client sees and hears it. Give each other feedback on performance as well as content, with an eye toward how the potential client might view it.

IT ISN’T ACTING: Your team can’t “pretend” to feel confident, they have to be confident. If you see hesitancy or nervousness from a team member in their part of the presentation, get to the root of it before it can be displayed in front of the prospect. By the same token, if your team doesn’t know each other well, or doesn’t like each other, don’t ignore that. That kind of dissonance is exactly what your perspective client is on the alert for. A look of boredom or disagreement will send the perspective client exactly the wrong message about this team, despite what your words say. Understand your team cannot be stronger than its weakest link.

PREPARE FOR SUCCESS: Make sure your team has what it needs to present successfully. Share your due diligence with all members of the team, not just your team leader, so that everyone knows what to expect. Share your strategy too, so that each member of the team understands not only their part in the presentation, but your company’s strategic objectives and goals. Don’t give vague feedback (“keep practicing”)—make that feedback direct (“You need a stronger message to begin with. Make it more definitive.”)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Work on the whole of the presentation, not just its distinct parts. Pay particular attention to transitions between team members. Does the whole of the presentation flow in a logical way, with each piece as strong as the next? Is each member paying attention to what was said (and literally referencing what’s come before or supporting what’s coming next?) If you can’t work with a coach, video tape your presentation and watch yourselves to make sure you’re not missing something a client would notice.

Successful team presentations don’t happen by accident. Work for it. Invest in your executives and in your company’s success with executive coaching.

Elevating Your Elevator Pitch

If you’re in business, you already know an elevator pitch is essential to your success. Being able to communicate what you have to offer (your unique selling proposition) is one of the first things organizations from start-ups to established global entities know is essential to success.

That doesn’t mean delivering an effective pitch is easy. Knowing what to leave out, of all the things you could tout about your organization, is always the difficult part. Furthermore, the work doesn’t stop there. Not only do you need to develop that pitch, you’ll need to periodically review it as your organization grows and changes to make sure it’s still working for you.

And what about the all-important delivery? It’s not enough to get the content right. You’ll also have to make sure everyone who potentially deals with your target audience, and certainly the senior executives and representatives of your organization, communicate your pitch effectively.

Keep these essential points in mind:

  • IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO’S CATCHING (“THEM”):  A common mistake in elevator pitches is to tout what your organization does best. That approach asks too much of your audience. It assumes your audience not only stays interested (often through org charts and client lists), but will then do the work needed to figure out the synergy between what you do and what they need. Instead, do the work for them. Due diligence is all about figuring out what the need is for any particular client and then crafting your pitch exactly where it’s likely to be the most effective; how your expertise can help them meet their goals, solve problems and stay out front of their competitors.
  • VARY YOUR PITCH: If you understand that “It’s All About Them,” then you know you can’t use the exact same pitch with every potential client. Yes, it’s easier to have top executives work out a pitch that everyone will then work off of in speaking to potential clients and other audiences. The problem is pitches are never effective if they’re only crafted top down. You’re going to have to allow your people, who are likely after all to be closest to those potential clients and their concerns, some latitude. Yes, you want your teams on the same page and familiar with key messaging for your organization, but remember to allow them to find their individual best pitch for individual clients. Don’t ask your executives to memorize a script. Ask them to internalize and absorb a set of values and messages about what sets your organization apart. Remember, this isn’t acting. You want your executives to be able to speak with passion and authority about what they truly believe.
  • PITCH PERFECT TAKES PRACTICE: Whether you choose a professional coach or tackle honing your performance on your own, there is simply no substitute for practice. Countless organizations complain there is no time to hone the pitch. If you don’t, it means you’re practicing that pitch in front of the client and no organization should be doing that. Practice also doesn’t mean simply emailing written materials around to the team either. It means being in the same room and hearing the pitch the way your target audience will, orally. No matter how tight the deadline, how busy the team, oral practice simply has to be part of your preparation routine.
  • DEVELOP SOME BENCH STRENGTH: Every organization wants to rely on its best come game day. However, this is a skill that takes some cultivating. Begin cultivating your next tier of talent by giving them some role in these oral pitches. They’ll need ongoing practice and ongoing feedback to bring their skills up to where they need to be.  Executives shouldn’t be waiting until they have “the title” before learning how to speak for the company with both internal and external target audiences.
  • IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER: One of the recognized great political orators of our modern day, Bill Clinton, famously had coaching before every major political speech throughout both terms in office. Recognized industry presentation greats like the late Steve Jobs famously practiced presentations as full productions, complete with story-boarding and onstage rehearsals. No one gets good and stays good at these oral skills without ongoing, frank and pointed feedback.

It’s hard to think of another skill that has as much potential to impact success as oral presentation skills. Devote the time you need to honing and developing them for yourself and for your organization.

 

 

Pincus Group VP, Timothy Kenny Releases New Book

New Nonfiction Book By Timothy Kenny, Vice President of International Training for The Pincus Group

For Immediate Release:

In Far Country, Stories from Abroad and Other Places,  veteran USA Today journalist Timothy Kenny takes readers to places where there are “Dark Nights and Feral Dogs,” where Serb snipers shoot at reporters along a road called Sniper Alley and where a “Month in a Far Country” in the Caucasus is a teacher’s delight.

Kenny’s collection of creative nonfiction stories brings alive the places he has lived and the people he has known as a foreign news editor, Fulbright scholar and University of Connecticut journalism professor.

Far Country “is memoir,” Kenny notes in the book’s introduction, “an account of events that I witnessed and remembered. My intention was a simple one: to tell readers something about the ways in which unusual places are indeed, different, and why that is so.”

Trish Harris, editor of the Pea River Journal, says that in Far Country “the connecting thread is not the obvious adventure but human relationships. Each essay is a story we fall into, story after story connected through relationship and observation, from darkness to the next darkness. Kenny’s essays are not just reports from the front but a fascinating set of hard-won observations on any front, any complex of situations that any of us might encounter.”

The author, who was born and raised in Detroit, also writes stories “closer to home,” as he notes in the collection. In “The Fall of Detroit,” Kenny describes a city that has slipped from grace, and recounts his stunned and unbelieving reaction after years away. In “On Turning Sixty-Six and Six in Umbria,” he writes about the joys of raising a daughter who is sixty years younger than he is.

A reporter since 1972, Kenny began traveling abroad in November 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall changed the world’s political order and opened the door to a life spent observing other cultures and other lives in forty-five countries, as well as his own. He is currently of Vice President of International Training for The Pincus Group, which specializes in media and presentation skills training for executives.

Far Country is 152 pages long and includes photos. It is published by the independent Midwest publisher Bottom Dog Press, as part of its Harmony Memoir Series. Far Country is available at bookstores and online. The author will hold a series of talks and book signings at libraries and bookstores this summer and fall.

Review copies are available upon request. For interviews, contact Timothy Kenny at: Timothy.Kenny2011@gmail.com. Bottom Dog Press editor Larry Smith may be reached at Lsmithdog@aol.com.

Books by The Pincus Group Trainers:

 

Presentations and Practice: The Way to Carnegie Hall

You know that old exchange: “Excuse me. How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer? “Practice, practice, practice.”

Everyone who communicates formally with others knows they need to practice before ‘game day’. “Practice”, however, doesn’t include a cursory read-through of the material to yourself. You’re going to present out loud, right? Then practice that way! [Read more…]