by PLA Emily
Fewer things are scarier than presentations. In a presentation, there isn’t a speech-checker to automatically flag and remove crutch words. Although you can generally predict the level of understanding of an essay marker, you will seldom find an audience that has a consistent understanding of your topic. Finally, you can work on an essay and know exactly what the final product looks like, but you won’t know what a final presentation looks like until you are in front of your audience delivering it.
In the face of this adversity, it is tempting to relinquish all control and simply wing it. Blast through the deck, throw together some speaking notes, and hope for the best. At times you can rationalize this under the presumption that too many presentations are overly rehearsed and scripted. “Going without a script is the only way to avoid a canned response” you may argue. This would be a mistake.
The secret to great presentation delivery isn’t to wing it, it’s to Wong it.
Ken Wong is one of the School of Business’ crown jewels. As a teacher, Ken has received numerous awards for his courses in strategic planning, marketing and business strategy. Most recently, he was named an Inductee into Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends. In 1998, Ken won the Financial Post’s Leaders in Management Education award, a lifetime achievement award for his work in undergraduate, MBA, and Executive Development programs. He generally only lectures at Executive Education and MBA level programs but once a year, for a lucky 50 students, he delivers a weekly undergraduate marketing course called Advanced Topics in Marketing.
A better title would be Advanced Topics in Giving-Kick-Butt-Edge-of-Your-Seat-Oscar-Winning-Do-It-Again-Please Performances. Ken holds 85 social-media-and-Blackberry-addicted commerce students in absolute rapture for three hours every Wednesday night. Having had the pleasure of enjoying six of these lectures so far, I could not resist sharing some of Ken’s secrets of success.
Rule Number One: Make sure they are listening
Ken never starts a presentation if even one member of our class is so much as whispering. He stands in front of the podium, surveying the room, patiently waiting for it to quiet. His facial expression, a careful combination of bemusement and confidence, communicates the fact that we are only doing ourselves a disfavour by continuing to chatter. Realizing that non-verbal trump verbal cues more times than not, Ken lets his actions do the talking. In doing so, he clearly communicates that what he is about to say is so important, he doesn’t need to demand our attention – the subject is matter is so critical its implied that we’ll sit up and pay attention.
Rule Number Two: Don’t Tell Facts – Tell Stories
Although entitled “Advanced Topics in Marketing,” if you were to walk into Ken’s class on any given Wednesday without knowing the title, you would never figure it out.
Ken doesn’t talk about the pitfalls of giving your employees directives instead of principles. Instead, Ken talks about his experience buying lingerie for his wife, and how what should have been a 15-minute-in-and-out-on-Christmas-Eve-speed-buy turned into the ‘most hellish 30 minutes of my life.’
You’ll never hear Ken speak about brands. Ask him about the ‘Telephone Rule’ though, and you’ll learn the difference between what friend you would call up for a yoga class vs. a flip-cup tournament. Just as how what your friends call you up for is your personality, what your customers would call you up for is your brand.
Finally, Ken rarely mentions market segmentation. Alternatively, he tells the story of how Viagra could sell for $0.10/pill as a blood thinner for heart patients, or for $30.00/pill in its current use. All because someone asked who has more pain, and realized people don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems.
Rule Three: Tell them three times
Through story-telling, real-life examples from client work, and actually stating the learning objective, Ken generally reinforces a point three times. So if you were laughing too hard the first time, trying to jot it down the second time, and finally were only able to listen the third time – somehow, it got through.
The great thing about Ken’s style is that it’s fairly easy to action. To make sure your audience is listening, try counting to three just after your professor has given you the go-ahead. During that time period, survey the room to make sure everyone is paying attention, and only when you have seen that everyone is focused on you, smile. Know that your audience is 100% focused on what you are about to say, and launch into your presentation.
From a story-telling perspective, pepper your presentation with as many real-life examples as possible. Try and pick out humorous examples, particularly from your own experience. They will humanize you in the eyes of your audience and give them something to remember you by.
Lastly, repeat your key points three times. Use an agenda at the beginning to provide an overview of what you will cover, deliver your material, and conclude with a quick hit-list of your key points. Three stooges, three little bears – it’s always three times a charm.