No matter your job title, whether you are an executive leader, sales rep, doctor, marketing professional or something else, you may be called on to present important information while building interest and motivation. That’s a tall order, no matter how polished your speaking skills might be. So, whether your next high-performance presentation is to your senior management team, a potential client or a group of colleagues, it helps to remember four action steps. As a subject matter expert in communication (with a doctorate in instructional communication that involved in-depth research on the topic), I’ve found that these are actually the same steps that all outstanding keynote speakers use when they prepare to address audiences of thousands. They work for them, and they will work for you, too.
A — Authenticity. There is no way to lead or inspire your team unless they believe in both you and your message. In a very real sense, you are a part of the message. We know this because scientific research on speaker credibility for the last 50 years has helped us discover a secret of effective communication: The top two reasons why audiences believe a speaker comes from how they communicate expertise and trustworthiness. It’s the same way with you. No one likes to be manipulated, but everyone appreciates an authentic leader who tells the truth. As you prepare, start here.
B — Big Idea. What is the key reason for your message? Why are you speaking? What should happen as a direct result of your message? What do you want to accomplish with your audience? Once you boil down the answers to these questions to a single sentence, you have your big idea. Everything you say should support that big idea. Whether you want to inform, persuade, encourage, handle controversy or accomplish any other objective, you have to be clear enough to describe the big idea. Write it down and prepare to come back to it.
C — Content. Think about your big idea and how you know it’s true, important or achievable. As you think, jot down three to five supporting sub-points that prove or explain your big idea. Now, take each sub-point, unpack it and add supporting points. Write these supporting points down in outline form. Each supporting point should be an example of one of the following:
• Explanation — Describe some aspect of the details or the data under each sub-point that you present. This is the factual part of the presentation, but don’t go too long here or your audience will fall asleep.
• Interpretation — This type of supporting point under each sub-point helps the audience to understand the possible implications of your message. This is where you clarify your ideas and insights. Demonstrate how you have thought through the issues you are talking about, and present the ideas that you believe will work.
• Illustration — Provide examples from your experience or the experience of others that help the audience to see how the information fits what you are speaking about. Some illustrations are positive, and others are negative. Plus, if you’re careful to make sure they truly fit your points, stories and analogies work well, too. Use as many practical, real-world examples as time permits. These become the “raisins in the oatmeal” and make your content more interesting. Your audience will follow more closely than ever.
• Application — Suggest possible ways to put what you have said into practice. How-to comments help you direct the audience to take action. As much as possible, develop applications that the audience will perceive as a benefit to them. Always wrap up your talk with a conclusion that summarizes what you planned to accomplish and draw the audience to conclude that you are on target with what you asked them to do next.
D — Delivery. Here comes the fun! Use your eyes, voice, gestures and movement to create as many positive impressions as possible about you, your content and the purpose of your message. Learn the skills that work best, practice them over and over and add them in as you present your content. Once you combine excellent content with outstanding delivery, your audience will be ready to put your objectives into practice.
Article by Dr. Kregg Hood, President of EDC Communications, keynote speaker and coach for corporate executives and other professionals. Originally published by Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches.