This may be a blinding flash of the obvious to some. But after delivering presentations for over 20 years, and teaching junior high school for 4 years, I just learned an incredible new way to boost the effectiveness of my presentations.
It’s not that I haven’t known (and taught) the importance of the core message; it’s that I’ve never used it as the cornerstone of my presentation before. I used to work toward my point.
The topic of my presentation last week was Presentation Skills. Typically, I’d organize the absolute best that I know about the topic and then determine how I could deliver it in the most fun and memorable way to meet the specific group’s needs. I’d work on anchor stories, humor, and engaging, practical activities. I’d develop and tweak my opening to make it compelling so that the attendees would want to listen. My goal was to teach Presentation Skills so they’d want to learn them.
This time I prepared differently. I took time to think through my core message. I knew it wasn’t “presentation skills” and it wasn’t even “these presentation skills will help you sell better,” but it took me a 7 mile run and a full day of staring, starting and deleting at my computer to know that. My core message wasn’t about presentation techniques at all. It was about motivating them to do something different so they could present more successfully. And with the group of experienced group of sales professionals I was about to talk to, influencing them to break their old comfortable patterns was as important as teaching the skills.
I tore up my old presentation and started fresh. I wrote the words, Present differently in the middle of a piece of paper (yes, paper!) and kept adding lines and circles with what they’d need to know to present differently and better. Every single thing I put into the presentation, every activity they engaged in, everything we talked about was about only one thing: Present differently.
So far I’ve received 3 emails from the 50 people about how they’ve changed the way they’re presenting their message. In 2 days! Does it matter to me if they use technique A or B? Not at all. It only matters that they’re presenting differently; they’re letting go of the old stuff that wasn’t doing it for them or their customers and thinking in a different, more customer-friendly way.
If I hadn’t read Presentation Zen, I’d still be teaching Presentation Skills.