As a consultant, how can I improve my presentation skills in front of an executive audience?

As a consultant, how can I improve my presentation skills in front of an executive audience?

By Zeeva Viola | September 27, 2017

Question:

As a consultant, how can I improve my presentation skills in front of an executive audience?

Answer:

Certainly not an exhaustive list – just a few that work for me:

  1. Think of your sales presentation as a workshop.

Selling is simply educating a group of interested people about a topic on which you happen to be an expert – your product.

During the planning stage, this will help you find ways to create engagement and reduce your anxiety knowing that you’re the expert in the room.

  1. Start with the punchline.

Tell the audience why they are there and what they’ll learn. This includes stating at the beginning what you expect the next steps will be after the presentation.

“Thank you everyone for your time today. After conversations like this, we’ve found it’s really helpful to schedule a short 1:1 call with each of you to answer any questions we don’t cover today. Would that be okay with everyone?”

or

“Thank you everyone for your time. We’ve found that the next steps, assuming today goes well, is usually a conversation with your procurement team so that we can look at what the economics of a business relationship might look like. Would that be okay with everyone?”

(Bonus tip: Nod your head while you’re asking.)

  1. Refer to your “presentation” as a “conversation.”

This puts your audience in an engaged mode – telling them that you expect interaction and reduces the formality in their mind that this is an exercise in show-and-tell.

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  1. Bring a wingman.

This can be an administrative assistant, business partner, consultant, engineer – anyone you trust to help you set up, field questions, and otherwise take some of the pressure off of you throughout the presentation.

Have that person sit in the middle of the room or table amongst the audience so they are psychologically perceived by the group as “one of them,” and for you to have a comfortable face to look at throughout the presentation.

  1. Create engagement early.

Go around the room before you start and ask everyone:

“What is the top 1-2 things you expect to learn today?”

This will help you adjust the presentation to the specific needs, enabling you to operate with much more focus, instead of hoping that your presentation is interesting or useful.

  1. Build a seating chart.

When you receive business cards at the start of the presentation, arrange them in front of you in a seating chart so that you can refer to people in the presentation by name.

Or keep a blank sheet of paper in front of you for when everyone shares their names and expectations for the presentation. Tell the audience that you’re doing this:

“Just so you know, I want to make sure I’m capturing everyone’s thoughts so I’m jotting down your questions to be sure we cover them all.”

  1. Cut off the presentation about halfway through.

Close your laptop and ask:

“We’re about halfway through our scheduled time today, and I want to make sure we’re on target so far.  Based on your expectations coming into the room and what we’ve discussed so far, how are we doing?”

You have the power to start and stop the presentation any time you want. By exercising this right midway through the presentation, you’re also giving yourself enough time to adjust the presentation in case you are way off course.

  1. Follow through on your ask.

“Thank you again for your time. We have about five minutes left until the top of the hour. We agreed at the start that they next steps would be to [insert next step], so what’s the best way to go about that?”

**This Q&A article was originally posted on Quora. Check out Scott’s Quora page here.