Firms need to have professionals who are good at presenting. This article explains why reframing presentation skills training might just be the way to create an army of willing presenters.
Ask any professional services marketeer or business developer and they will tell you that one of the challenges they face again and again is finding professionals inside their firm to give engaging presentations. Sure there will be some stars who are naturals on stage, but they aren’t always available and they might not be the right experts for the opportunity at hand.
The problem with presenting
The problem with presenting is that it isn’t just about knowing the subject matter. There are many subject matter experts that come out in a cold sweat at the thought of standing up in front of an audience. The bigger the expert, the bigger the audience, and the more likely it is that some will do anything to avoid being exposed. They are unlikely to advertise that it is nerves that are getting in the way; they can turn to a number of excuses from being too busy, through to not seeing the value.
We regularly speak to partners who fear presenting. Sure, they know that they have to do it, but they can’t think of anything worse. Fear then gets in the way when they stand up, they get bad feedback and the experience underlines why they should never have done it in the first-place.
With the pandemic and the rise of online presentations, professionals could hide behind a screen and a script. For some this was prefered, for others it was just as nerve wrecking. However, whilst online presentations might have provided some with a comfort blanket, with face-to-face events coming back with a vengeance, those fears are bubbling up again.
Why professionals need to present
The truth is we present all the time. Maybe not to hundreds of people, but professionals are regularly called upon to put forward their ideas orally. That might be in a client meeting, to a prospect for a pitch, or maybe internally to the team or management board.
Presenting is a way of building a firm’s brand. It is a way of winning work. However, it is more than that. It is fundamental to demonstrating thought leadership. It is a way of influencing. It is a way of capturing hearts and minds. If done right, it is central to becoming a trusted advisor.
Why presentation skills training needs to be rethought
A lot of presentation skills training focuses on giving people a structure, thinking about the use of visual aids and getting them to practice. Now, all of those things are important. BUT, there is more to it than that.
Presentation skills training needs to focus less on the skills needed to present and more on the behavioural change that is needed. Most professionals know what a good presentation looks like. The reason they fail to volunteer to be on the panel at a conference, or to host the next client learning session isn’t wrapped up in a lack of knowledge of power-point. It is found within: the critical internal voice that says you aren’t good enough, that you are going to slip up, that you are going to be asked a question that you don’t know the answer to.
By increasing people’s confidence using coaching tools and techniques, professionals are more likely to move from cold sweat to “I’ve got this”.
Reframing presentation skills
This is where reframing comes in. Reframing is one of the tools that coaches use. There are many ways that reframing comes into play with presenting, but one of those ways is how we view presentations.
When we understand that presenting isn’t just about standing up and sharing our knowledge, we can move people to action. Incidentally, this is why coaching presentation skills isn’t just for those that can’t stand the thought of it, as with all coaching, it can also propel those star players that we spoke about at the beginning of this article to the next level.
Anyway, back to reframing. More and more we are being asked to consider presenting within the broader context of influence and thought leadership. Why? Competition. There is so much that competes for our stakeholders time: whether those stakeholders be our clients, our employees, our prospects. If anyone gives their time to listen to you, then you need to be able to capture their attention and give them something they will remember. Reframing presentations as a conversation with our audience with a specific objective shifts the way we think about them. It might increase our motivation to get good at them. It might increase our understanding of the tools we already have to deliver them.
At surface level the reasons for giving presentations are numerous, but fundamentally most can be brought back to influence. We might be looking to influence a buying decision, or to reposition ourself or our brand in someone’s mind. We will be looking to capture hearts and minds. All of this requires more than just a knowledge of how to avoid death by power point. It requires an understanding of people. Of how we are influenced and how that might clash with how others make decisions.
The trusted advisor piece? Done well, presentations tick the self-orientation box, the denominator that makes the biggest difference as to whether we are trusted or not. Done badly they can have the opposite effect. The difference, actually, has little to do with how charismatic or confident we are.