Work-life Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives
By: Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras
No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
Is there a secret formula for success in business – and in your career? Probably not. But I believe it makes sense to learn from the people I respect and who have been successful themselves.
Case in point: Ira Fialkow was the Executive Vice President for Shared Services at CEMEX, until recently. His career spans 25 years and he is a highly respected leader in his field. This series marks the culmination of 25 business lessons documented and developed by Ira over the past 25 years of his career. Ira used to distribute these lessons to the team every year. In this series, I will endeavor to share the 25 business lessons that I’ve learned from Ira and our shared services team.
This is part four of the series: 25 Lessons for Work (and Life!) – 3-Minute Coaching Sessions
Nowadays, having good presentation skills seem to be a no-brainer. In fact, there is plenty of information out there about how to give good presentations – for example, how to be a good speaker, which gestures to use, correct posture, how to capture your audience’s attention, etc. However, I think it is just as important that the message of each presentation is delivered concisely and effectively.
First of all, if your audience doesn’t get your message, then you didn’t deliver it. This is part of accountability – a common theme in all these 25 work-life lessons. The audience must be considered first. It is your responsibility to ensure that the message your audience receives is exactly the same as what you intended to deliver. Secondly, if you are not able to deliver your idea or solution, then there is no innovation – the second repeating theme on these work-life lessons. No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
Make sure your message is the one they receive
Before you even create your presentation start with the end in mind by asking yourself: With what message do I want the audience to leave? Business leaders that develop exceptional presentation skills do it by analyzing both their audience and their purpose for presenting. This message needs to be the exact message the audience receives. To do this, you will need to consider how your audience best processes information. For instance, will a story that relates to the solution you are offering going to engage your audience, or will it make them impatient?
In discussing this with Ira, he mentioned that whenever it came to issues related to change management, he would always try to engage the audience with a story that they can relate to. The story should be relevant to the current situation and help explain the “Why behind the what?” For people to engage in change, they first need to understand the need for the change. Without that understanding, there will be no desire to hear the message.
In giving a presentation to executives, usually they know the “why” and are primarily interested in the “what”, “who” “how much” and “by when”. However brief the presentation is, that too needs to have a good story flow, but delivered in a much more summarized manner.
The success of your presentation is best measured by how well the audience understands or appreciates the subject matter after you finish speaking. Naturally, presentations will be very different depending on the target audience and the message being delivered. Your presentation should have a logical sequence and the message should tell a story that can be readily retold by the audience.
Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.
A 2009 report on American consumers, published by the Global Information Industry Center of the University of California – San Diego, stated that the average American receives about 33.80GB or more than 100,000 words of information per day. (Bohn & Short, 2009) That’s a lot of information to process! If you want your message to be heard and understood, keep it short and relevant. Studies show that the average adult’s “undivided attention span” is roughly 30 seconds. So even if you have the most interesting topic or are the most exceptional presenter, you still can’t keep the audience’s undivided attention for so long. That’s why our advice in this lesson is, “be brief be bright, be gone.” The story or message needs to be brief and focused — compelling and worth retelling for it to stick. Everybody is busy and you have to be able to cut through the clutter. You need to be able to present your idea concisely. We call it the “elevator speech” – a 30-second presentation you would give to your audience (such as your CEO) if you found yourself alone in an elevator with them (and you have their undivided attention).
Secondly, your message needs to be memorable. This is what “be bright” means. Your presentation needs to be impressive enough to cut through all of the other information that your audience receives. And finally, after you have delivered your message concisely and memorably, finish your presentation, and “be gone”. There’s nothing worse than having a drawn out presentation. For this, you need to assess your audience and determine if the message has been received or if more information is required. Remember that the closing part of the presentation is what the audience will remember the most. Repeat your purpose statement. By doing so, you deliver your key messages one final time.
Work-life Lesson 4 Takeaways:
- Know your audience. Each presentation must be tailor-made for the audience.
- No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
- Make sure that your message is the one they receive. Your message should tell a story and it should be one worth retelling.
- “Be brief, be bright, be gone”. It is important that you deliver your message concisely and memorably.
Link to Previous Lesson: Set your performance standards high and never give in to “good enough”. Be your own toughest critic.
About the collaborators:
Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.
Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.
Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.
Photos courtesy of Jscreationzs and Pixomar.
The senior vice president of the shared service organization that I work with is retiring after 25 years of service to the company. In a farewell gathering last week to honor his years of service and great accomplishments, 25 selected employees (old and new) took turns to share 25 business lessons learned from our retiring boss. Many of those 25 employees who stood and spoke about the 25 business lessons accompanied them with remarkable stories. They were stories that in many ways embodied the values and meaning of each of the business lessons. Being relatively new to the organization, I felt that the hour and a half of stories and messages provided me a glimpse of the organization’s founding stories, its key tenets, culture and identity. I felt a stronger sense of belongingness and understanding that I know will only help me in how I interact and collaborate with my colleagues.
Stories are powerful messages that shape the organization’s understandings of relationships and of how members deal with the mix of harmony, successes and failures that are always present in the workplace. These are past events that people talk about internally—and even externally. In some cases, leaders choose what stories to tell and immortalize. They are stories that best represent the organization’s values and culture.
Stories can also be critical experiences, major incidents, conflicts and problems that the members of the organization experienced together. The way leaders and members approached, worked through and solved critical experiences help shape the group’s dynamics. The daily actions and decisions of leaders and managers signal appropriate responses to wide-ranging issues. Because of social influence, leaders are the single most important factors and determiners of organizational culture.
Organizational culture is influenced by the leadership style. In other words, the personality, philosophy and experience of the leaders get embodied in its group’s culture. Leaders facilitate the development of organizational culture through different embedding mechanisms that align culture with the organization’s common goal and strategy.
Recently, I was involved with the redesign of a newsletter for our organization. I have always believed that communication is an integral part of any service organization – including IT. What we communicate is our story and our promise. This creates a perception to our internal customer about who we are and what we are about. At first glance, IT organizations and branding seem to be mutually exclusive. However, I disagree.
Branding in General
First, let’s talk about branding in general. Many professionals confuse the term “branding” as synonymous to “advertising”, “communications”, and “marketing”. They use it interchangeably. This confusion is costing companies a lot of money. Companies that market their products or services without first establishing their brand identities are not likely to achieve their objectives. Branding is about the customer’s perception of your product. It is the image of your products and services in relation to your organization.
Now how about branding in an IT perspective? This goes in line with the general concept of branding. IT branding is finding and knowing your IT organization’s identity. In many small- to medium-sized companies, internal customers only interact with IT when they have computer and IT application issues. This shapes their understanding and perception of the kind of IT organization they have. Branding for these IT organizations is getting their users to think that they are the sole solution to their IT-related problems. Once your IT is perceived as “only”, there is no place else to call.
How to Grow your IT Brand
The IT organization’s brand grows as the company expands. The IT organization’s brand evolves as the enterprise matures through the different levels of Process Culture maturity. Take time to revisit the article that I posted last year on Process Culture. As your organization’s Process Culture evolves and IT takes on a more important role, your IT brand grows with it. The IT organization’s identity is linked to this Process Culture maturity.
Just like the most popular ones in the market today—Apple, Coke, Marlboro, Google, the business has to strive to grow and improve its IT organization’s brand. It is important that the IT organization must have a good understanding of the internal customer segments in order to position its services appropriately. In small IT organizations, this means positioning support so as to solve more IT computer issues and improve internal customer service. In more mature organizations, IT can position services to create more business value. IT branding will help your organization become the partner of choice internally.
I like the article Russ Aebig wrote about branding for IT organizations, entitled “Attraction of Identity”. He started with some very good questions and I am sharing it here because I want to end this article with the same questions: “As an organization, who are you? What is your internal and external story? If you cannot crisply define yourself in a few words you likely have a problem on your hands.”
Photo courtesy of ignitionblog.