8 Essentials for an Extraordinary Presentation

Think of someone you believe is an inspiring, motivating leader. It’s very likely that one of the skills that person has mastered is the art of presenting ideas and information. Successful executives and leaders make great presentations. And that’s a skill you can develop too.

Our executive coaching engagements often focus on improving communication skills, and working with executives and emerging leaders to help them become more effective, persuasive, and influential. Drawing from our experience, here are eight essential keys to making a great presentation.

  1. Echoing our coaching philosophy, to begin, you must have a goal in-mind: a destination you want to reach. Start with the end in-mind and then build your presentation to get from here to there. This approach lets your audience know where you are going. It establishes context and helps them “get it” as you take them on their journey.
  1. Never start your presentation with data. Data does not engage or inspire people. Facts and figures are better to include later in your presentation.
  1. Do start with a story, a big picture question, or a hypothesis. Develop a metaphor or an analogy that captures what you want to communicate and represents where you want to take your audience. People are captivated by stories. We are drawn-in by narratives that resonate emotionally. Your starting point can be as simple as “Imagine if…(the end-state you are proposing).”
  1. Never talk down to people. Speak to people as colleagues and partners. A condescending tone or patronizing attitude is a guaranteed turn-off.
  1. As executive coaches, our focus is exclusively on our client. It’s never about us. Similarly, when making a presentation, the focus should be on the needs of the audience. Don’t come across like a person simply trying to sell something. An attitude of sharing is critical — sharing your idea, your point-of-view, or your solution.
  1. Presentations are not about the presenter’s credentials. Even if you are presenting before a group that does not know you, it’s always best to jump right in and begin with your story. Credentials can come later.
  1. Look to build interaction with your audience. As coaches, when we do a presentation, we typically involve the audience. We ask questions, look for responses to hypotheticals, and engage with our audience. We’re never “talking heads.”
  1. Have fun! People will benefit more from a presentation where the presenter is at ease and enthusiastic. Enjoy the moment, and your audience will enjoy you.

It doesn’t matter whether your audience is large or small, or whether the setting is formal or informal. These keys will help you become a stronger presenter and a more inspiring and persuasive leader.

For additional tips, see an earlier Arden Coaching blog, “How to Make Your Next Presentation a Hit.” Also, two of Arden’s expert executive coaches, Kathy Poehnert and Tom Henschel are especially knowledgeable and experienced in helping executives prepare to make a presentation. For individual, hands-on coaching, contact either Kathy or Tom.

To learn more about executive coaching and leadership development, contact us at [email protected] or 646.844.2233.