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Confident Presentation Conversations

Conversational confidence is in some cases a natural gift and in others a developed skill. A way to grow that confidence and to completely feel comfortable being in the spotlight, effortlessly conversing with people and telling stories, is to get rid of the negative emotions associated to it.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to partner with a colleague in preparation for an executive presentation at a Fortune 50 company. After many conversations during our prep sessions, I was able to assess that the stakes weren’t particularly high for my partner. In other words, personal gain was not an objective for her as a result of the presentation. When asked, “what will it mean to you and/or your career if your presented recommendations aren’t followed and you’re not identified as the person to move the initiative forward?”, she replied that it would be a temporary loss for the organization but not a career staller for her. That’s one potentially negative emotion out of the way.
We still had a few others to conquer however, including emotions associated with how to use the Live Meeting technology (which she hadn’t done before), how to virtually walk an audience through a document without reading it to them, and how to make the content relevant and relatable. It was and is a journey but one I believe will end in a confident presentation conversation.

Step 1: Overcoming the technical aspects of the delivery
Practice, practice, and practice again using the tools you have to deliver. Whether it’s a PowerPoint projector, a web application, a webcam, a laser pointer, etc. you need to practice so that you’re familiar with the technology. Remove the all negative emotion about what can fail with the technology.

Step 2: Connecting your audience to key information in a document they can read themselves
When presenting virtually, it is common practice to share the documents you’ll review online prior to the meeting. This covers any unforeseen issues with technology and allows the audience to come somewhat prepared with questions. By highlighting key information and understanding the context of it, you can direct the audience to pages and places in the document while speaking more broadly about what they have in front of them. Knowing what is important to highlight and why it’s relevant to the audience saves time in presenting and allows time for dialogue. This approach can remove the negative emotions associated with reading stumbles, length of presentation, and blindsiding your audience.

Step 3: Sharing stories (examples) relative to the highlightsThe relativity of your stories to the audience’s knowledge and experience is key to making the presentation conversational. This is where you get away from simply placing data and analysis in front of people and engage them in the world you want them to see. Perhaps not for every content highlight (from Step 2), but for those where you can genuinely share a personal story, you can find a comfort in what you will present. Comfort in your stories equals confidence in your presentation. Confidence in your presentation leads to less facilitation and more conversation.

So the journey with my colleague is yet complete, but the last practice session was a conversation. We’ve practiced enough to eliminate any emotions about the technology. We’ve moved beyond the word by word reading of the document. And now her true passion for the recommendation comes through in the stories she shares about recommendations in action.

It’s been a learning process, but those three simple steps will result in a Confident Presentation Conversation.