I had the pleasure, the privilege indeed, of interviewing Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO on stage at this morning’s AMCHAM Business Briefing, and apart from his Olympian brain and encyclopedia of accomplishments, what really struck me was how powerful a communicator he is.
This is a man who has an extensive science background as an entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscience and educator. He is an inventor, an investor and one of this country’s great thinkers. But guess what? He held that room of 200 plus, using the power of storytelling to bring complex policy and science to life, making the topics he covered interesting and entertaining.
It served as a reminder how important communication and presenting skills are, regardless of what area we specialise in. If you can’t communicate it, how will you convince an audience, a market, a Board, a stakeholder to come around to your point of view?
Working with senior executives to polish their presenting skills is one of the favourite parts of what I do here at KDPR. It is so rewarding to see highly talented people, leaders in their field, grow in confidence in their speaking skills and become more accomplished presenters. Today I thought I would share a few of my key tips you may wish to try, for making every presentation count and becoming a speaker with whom people really connect:
1. Engage the audience from the start
People are in the room to hear what you have to say, but as opposed to a written report, they also want to feel like they have an opportunity to get to know you a little better. So take the time to smile, to make eye contact with a few people in the audience, to bring them in with some humour and warmth before you launch into the detail. If you know someone in the room and you can relate a point to their business, all the better.
2. Let your body do the talking
It’s true that it’s not what you say but how you say it. Yes, you can have the best data and graphs to back it up, but if your voice and non-verbals aren’t reinforcing your position with confidence and enthusiasm, it can all be lost on an audience. Especially one that has been there since 6:45am on a Friday morning. Dr Finkel moved about the stage and used natural gestures to reinforce his point. He even rearranged the furniture and reassured the audience he was an engineer so it was all good. We are not robots, be animated, be expressive, connect with the other humans in the audience.
Dr Finkel had a 20 minute window to present a summary of his Finkel Report, which was two years in the making, and discuss Australia’s opportunities with Electricity. That’s a lot of content to squeeze in to a short presentation. But this is not the forum to go through every line item of the full report. Far better to present key elements well than try to cover it all. When I work with executives on content, we develop a structure that can be adapted to different time lengths, so the presentation is always ready to go.
The biggest challenge for most people with public speaking is to venture outside your comfort zone. But I can assure you, done in a safe environment, trying some new approaches to your presenting style will deliver dividends you will not believe.