One key service we offer is executive presentation skills coaching. Leaders need to make an impact, and we train them how to do that.
At the end of 2018, Chester, a finance expert working for a global cocoa bean company, contacted us. He was planning to give a speech to the organization in two months’ time and wanted to make sure he was on top of his game. He would be presenting his flagship project, an online finance academy, to an audience from across the organization. Including, in attendance, Members of the Board.
We met at his office in Zurich, found a small empty conference room, and got to work.
At the beginning of every coaching session, I want to see someone’s baseline. Or how people are already presenting. So I ask them to just jump up there and begin their presentation the same as they would in front of a live audience. This is so I can identify their strengths, what’s going well, the issues they should focus on, and any areas for possible improvement. Here is the first draft of his opening.
As you can see, like a lot of business presenters, he jumps right into the subject. This is normal, a lot of people do it, but the problem with this approach is that when speaking, we’re excited, we’re nervous – we’re a mix of emotions. When we get on stage, the adrenaline rush takes over and we try and get everything out as quickly as we can. But just because you are rushing to get it all out, it doesn’t mean that your nervousness will subside. If anything, you’ll make it worse.
And to our audience?
To them, a rushed opening seems like you want to get it over with or that you have somewhere better to be. Additionally, at the beginning of most talks, people are not fully mentally present. Think about audience chatter, i.e. finishing small talk or finishing up emails on their phones. So after you have rushed through your opening, anyone who was not fully tuned in might have missed out on key information.
The trick is to space out the opening and not try to rush through it. As you go through what you practiced, you will feel your adrenaline and any anxiety fade be replaced by enthusiasm.
Our Journey to Better Public Speaking – an executive presentaton skills coaching
He decided to use a 3-stage opening. First off, he would carry out an audience poll to get his audience involved (asking if they ever learned anything new at their desks). Then, once he had their attention, he would share a relevant quote which connected to his subject. This had the benefit of highlighting his enthusiasm for his subject. Then finally, after grabbing his audience’s attention, he would show them a demonstration video of his online learning platform.
Chester chose a relevant quote from Benjamin Franklin,
which covered both investment as well as education and connected him to his passion for achieving a return on investment through encouraging learning. After a few hours, here was his new and improved opening.
Regarding his body language during delivery: I have been asked “is it OK to move back and forth like that?”. And the answer is (usually) “No” but this is a good example of what happens when we present in small spaces. People move when speaking passionately about something which is important to them and if you don’t have space to move, you’ll pace back and forth.
The good news was later, when he gave his final presentation to the full audience, he had the whole stage to use (and he did). So whether on stage in front of hundreds or at home on your webcam, always give yourself space to move around.
His presentation was well-received and a success. Afterwards, the CFO shook his hand in front of everyone and told him he liked it and his initiative was off to a roaring start. This is what an executive coaching can do. These improvements were made in less than 4 hours.
Chester shares his experience below – thank you Chester for recording this for us!
How can we help you with your public speaking and presentation skills? If you want to further your own professional development, get in touch for an initial consultation at no charge. If you are not in a position to have a private coaching, consider attending one of our open events. We are in Zurich 2-3 times a year. See our schedule here: https://impactpresenting.com/#OEPSC