In the Spring of 2001, McKinsey presentation guru Gene Zelazny shared public speaking insights gleaned over his forty-plus year career (video at bottom of post). Here, I have summarized his very well structured tips:
1. The only thing that matters at the end of your presentation is the answer to the question: Did I accomplish my objective.
2. Nervousness is natural and should be viewed as a sign of respect for your audience. Accept that you will make mistakes.
I. Define the situation
A. Objective: Why are you presenting? What do you reasonably hope to accomplish? What do you expect from your audience?
B. Audience: Who are the key decision makers with authority to say yes or no? How interested do you expect them to be in your recommendation? How knowledgeable are they about your topic? Why would they say no?
D. Scope: Your material should be no more comprehensive than the minimum needed to accomplish your objective or the time your have with your audience.
E. Media/Facilities: Use the simplest, most-appropriate tools for the task.
II. Design the presentation
A. Structure the story
1. Body: Do not chronologically recreate the months long discovery process you endured to find the recommendation. Start with the overall context (see II.A.2) and use the body for support. The exception is when you have an audience that will be hostile to your recommendation and they need to be taken there more slowly.
2. Introduction: You want to light a fire in the first minute. Use the PIP (purpose + importance + preview) approach.
3. Ending: Repeat your recommendations. Give your action program to turn your overall recommendation into reality. This includes: people responsible, time required, costs, etc. Last, finish with Next Steps. Note that the next steps should not be premeditated; instead, document the next steps that emerge from the discussion.
B. Sketch the storyboard
1. Visuals (based on Zelazny’s book: Say it With Charts)
a. Select the chart form
b. Write titles that ARE the message/point you want your audience to know
c. Use graphical treatment (ex: contrast) to draw attention to your message
(“Take responsibility for your point of view.”)
C. Produce visual aids & handouts
III. Deliver the presentation
A. Rehearse: Once alone in a room out loud. Once in front of three or four constructive colleagues.
B. Set up the facilities: including physical setup, room layout, lighting, etc.
C. Set the tone
2. Conviction: You must believe in what you are recommending or someone else should present.
D. Apply delivery skills
1. Verbal: natural, conversational word choice
2. Vocal: expand your range
3. Visual: open body language, natural gestures, and effective eye-contact (FYI: It is OK to occasionally refer to notes, but put them down when you are not referring to them.)
E. Work with visual aids: If your slide is complex, you will likely want to get close to it and point out the elements you are describing.
F. Handle questions: It is appropriate to say “I don’t know.”
1. Try to anticipate the three most difficult questions you will get from the most difficult people in the audience.
2. Listen the the question completely
3. If the question has multiple parts, it is OK to write down the parts
4. Pause to think
5. Repeat the question only if people were not likely to have heard it. Do not rephrase the question unless you must and, if so, you need to ask for permission to do so.
6. Assume everyone is interested in the answer so balance the eye-contact with the entire audience. (Tip: If you want to move on from the questioner, finish your eye contact with someone else.)
7. If you get a very difficult question, try to avoid saying, “I’ll get back to you later.” Instead, it is OK to say, “I don’t know.” Or, even better, consider reaching out to the rest of the audience to see if someone else has the answer!