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Want to be a great leader? Become a great presenter

By Richard Ellis

In all my years coaching executives, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to become a better presenter. Why? Because business leaders know that powerful communications directly – and positively – impact their personal brands and professional reputations. Whether it’s a team meeting, a presentation to the board or a speech to five hundred people, great leaders need to be great presenters.

Standing in front of a crowd and delivering high-impact remarks doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The good news is if you follow a few basic rules of the road, you too can deliver a great presentation. 

10 simple rules for great presentations

1. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them: Don’t make people guess where you are going, tell them what they can expect right from the top.

2. Create an attention-grabbing opener: Your audience decides in the first two minutes of your presentation whether or not they are going to give you their attention. Give them something interesting from the start, and they will be more likely to listen all the way through.

3. Use your physicality: Much of how you communicate is non-verbal, so stand up straight, use eye contact, walk the stage, or sit on a stool to create intimacy. No matter what you do, try not to rely exclusively on a podium.

4. Keep it focused: Gone are the days of the 60-minute presentation. We lose interest very fast, so keep your remarks to no more than 20 minutes. Only use slides if you really have to – if your audience is reading, they’re not listening.

5. Make it personal: Don’t be afraid to tell a quick story and use some humor. The best presentations are the ones that draw the audience in and offer a little levity.

6. Emphasize what’s important: Take a quick pause after delivering your key points and don’t be afraid to repeat them for emphasis. Make it easy for your audience to take away what’s really important. Pace, tone and volume are critically important.

7. Use analogies and metaphors: Like storytelling, analogies and metaphors draw a deeper, more interesting picture for your audience and help make complex points more easily understandable.

8. Never read your script: Practice ahead of time – but don’t overdo it or you may lose your in-the-moment energy. Use one page of bullet points to help guide your presentation more naturally. If you’re reading your script, you’re not reading the room (see my next point).

9. Read the room: Are your remarks landing with your audience? If you’re not sure, simply take a quick pause and ask. It gives you a break, and your audience will appreciate the check-in.

10. A powerful close: Like the attention-grabbing opener, a powerful close is critical to communications success. The wrap-up is your chance to re-state and re-emphasize your key messages. This is how you make sure people take away what’s most important.

Richard Ellis is the founder of Ellis Strategy Group, a global leadership consultancy. With more than 30 years of international business experience, he is an accomplished executive coach, high-impact business strategist and noted communications expert. Find out more about Richard at ellisstrategygroup.com

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