You don't want your boss to say, 'You could have said all that in two slides,' do you? Here's how to get your boss to love your presentation instead!
How about a riddle today? When does an audience consist of only one person?
Answer: When that person is your boss.
Okay, it's not much of a riddle. And most of the time, it isn't even true that your boss is the only person listening. But boy, it can sure feel that way!
If you're like most of the inhabitants of Planet Earth, you're usually extra anxious and eager to please when your boss is in the audience. Keep reading to learn some public speaking tips for leaving at least one person in the room happy. (Well, two, if you count yourself.)
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"Do I Still Have to Analyze an Audience of One?" Yes!
If you're a savvy presenter, you know that successful public speaking requires knowing your audience before deciding what they need to hear. In fact, sufficient audience focus is Rule #1 in my six rules of effective public speaking.
The reason is simple. Until you know what the needs of your listeners are, how do you know what information and content will allow you to meet those needs? Don't miss the forest for the trees by trying to understand prospects and customers, but not your boss!
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You face a particular need when presenting to leadership, in fact. Leaders need and want information that is as clear as concise as possible—and usually, delivered with a minimum of time and fuss. They don't want to go down into the weeds because they're flying too high above those weeds. They are overseeing an entire department, division, or company, and they are looking for "the vision thing" that will help them see as far ahead as possible.
That's what I advocate what I call BLUF, which stands for "Bottom Line Up Front." Give them your idea, or the results of the research you were tasked with, or your recommendation, etc., right at the start. Then tell them how you got there, and especially, the evidence backing up your claims. The truth is, they may not want the second part right now. Since their time is so tight, they may be interested only in your conclusion or results at this meeting. They may say, "That's great, thanks. Send me your research and I'll look at it when I have the time."
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Present Your Idea Before You Show Slides About It
Here's a point concerning the visual presentation of your material in that same talk (providing your boss wants you to go through the whole thing at the meeting). Avoid the mistake many speakers make, in introducing an idea at the same time as detailed data to back up the idea.
But isn't that how it's usually done? Unfortunately, yes. But think about it. If a concept is new to you, can you process accepting it at the same moment someone is showing you a detailed spreadsheet with data from the last fiscal year (and explaining all of it)?
Always present your idea or conclusion by itself, so your boss can absorb the vital point you're making. Flesh it out if need be. Then present the slides with the evidence backing up your idea. (It's part of my rules for succeeding with PowerPoint.) It's not getting in the weeds if your deck provides the proof needed to make your idea irrefutable. And it allows listeners the luxury of not having to do three things at the same time in terms of their attentiveness.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. Contact Gary here.