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MISSION-CRITICAL COMMUNICATION Strategic Thinking Whitepapers

The Art of the Killer Presentation mm

WE HAVE A CULTURE OF INNOVATION. THEY NEED TO SEE HOW WE STAND OUT. Our innovations and expertise are our biggest assets. But in a rapidly changing world of innovation, it’s a challenge to get clients, shareholders and end

Persuasion is the essence of the business presentation.

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Engage your audience to meet steep challenges.


WHITEPAPER

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AUTHOR DR. MARK T. MEALEY SENIOR COMMUNICATONS ADVISOR STRATEGIC THINKING COMMUNICATIONS PUBLISHED OILWEEK MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 2014

THE ART OF THE KILLER PRESENTATION

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he argument that persuades a key client in a face to face meeting defines the case you need to make in all other avenues of persuasion. That is why a well-made corporate presentation can determine the strategy for the rest of the firm’s marketing and communications. Presentations are a personal form of persuasion. If you want to master the art of the killer presentation, the most important step is to revisit the art of persuasion.

WHO MAKES PRESENTATIONS Many business professionals deliver presentations as part of their core responsibilities. For some, these presentations are relatively low-key, informal, or infrequent. But others regularly make presentations that might have a significant impact on the reputation and opportunities of their companies. Most bids, proposals and pitches, whether major or minor, require presentations. Shareholder meetings need presentations. Trade shows and conferences require presentations. Training needs presentations. Most business meetings require presentations of one kind or another.

WHAT’S CRUCIAL Move an audience to take actions that are consistent with a well-defined business objective.

Our most important presentations might be eye to eye and without props: we might have to make them on the spot in a lunch meeting, a conference hallway, or a business meeting. Presentations are unavoidable because in order to persuade a key audience we must at some point be prepared to sit down with them or stand in front of them, and make our case to them directly. Some people are more comfortable and more skilled with presentations than others. But if your position requires that you promote the interests, objectives, mission or vision of your

”In order to persuade a key audience we must be prepared to sit down with them or stand in front of them, and make our case to them directly.”

company by persuading others through speech, then the art of the presentation is crucial for you.

PRESENTATIONS ARE PERSUASION The popularity of skilled TED talk presenters and of master presenters like Steve Jobs help us to recognize that all good presentations have an element of drama. But they might mislead us into thinking that the best presentations are all like a performance. The fact is that there are many different kinds of effective presentations. Some do look like a performance, but in most business


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settings that would be a poor choice of presentation style. Persuasion requires that we choose different styles, different methods, and different tools depending on the circumstances of a particular presentation. Your aim might be to close the deal, or to position your company’s reputation in your market, or to respond to a crisis, or to persuade the people in your own company to agree on an objective or vision. But whatever the particular situation might be, whether we are called on to defend a strategy, or to make a report, or to present the case for our company, whether to a few people or to a room full of people, an effective presentation must persuade our audience. Since persuasion is the essence of the business presentation, the structure of the presentation and the props we might bring with us are functions of that objective. Business presentations ought to be designed to move an audience to take actions that are consistent with a well-defined business objective.

WHAT IT TAKES TO PERSUADE When I help people create presentations, I begin with a handful of key elements that define every effective presentation: an accurate picture of the people who we have set out to persuade; the objective or the action you want them to take; and the reality or truth that makes that action a good choice in light of the relevant risks. It is extremely difficult to bring conviction to a serious audience if these elements are out of focus. Yet it can be tough to get to clarity and a thorough understanding of each of these elements. My experience across hundreds of presentations in many different settings convinces me that the relationship you establish with your audience is what ties these elements together into a great presentation. The habit of making your presentation primarily about your message and objectives is

probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. The primary goal must be to meet your audience’s needs and objectives. Once you define your objective and your message in light of your audience’s problem, you will see how to structure your presentation, and what style of presentation to use. You know how much detail you need in your argument; you know what graphs or tables or images to use; you know whether to use PowerPoint or After Effects or Prezi or a whiteboard, or nothing but your words. Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle set out timeless advice about what it takes to establish a relationship with an audience, in order to persuade them. Aristotle argued that in order to persuade we must meet three conditions. We must establish credibility with our audience. We must forge an emotional connection with them. And we must craft a clear and compelling case that is designed to convince a clearly defined audience.

ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY Why should someone give us a hearing? We can’t get out of the starting block if we do not establish credibility with our audience. For Aristotle this is ethos, a word that points to the reputation or character of the person who sets out to persuade. The visual quality of your presentation and the style and precision of your language communicate a great deal to your audience between the lines. More importantly, if we presume to speak about pipelines, or about energy financing, or about the right business model by which to build energy processing facilities, or about any other topic that requires a specialist’s knowledge, then our audience needs our credentials and our company’s credentials. Not just the letters behind our name, but whatever is necessary to convince this particular audience that we have a right to be heard.

Bragging doesn’t help, of course. Ethos is often best communicated between the lines, and it is always best achieved through the testimony of people who already command respect. The more convincing your set of experiences are, or the value of your insights, or the quality of your achievements as credentials for speaking about your topic, the more likely it is that you will be able to move your audience across the goal line.

FORGE AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION Oil and gas professionals do not always recognize that in order to persuade we must forge an emotional connection with our audience. In Aristotle’s terms this is pathos, an authentic emotional connection you share with another person. Presentations require a very personal version of what marketing calls branding. Persuasive speakers frequently establish a connection with their audience by getting them to laugh, and by laughing with them. Authentic humour is a long lever. Inject drama into the presentation as another way to achieve an emotional connection. Good speakers tell stories and build their presentation around a narrative; they build suspense; they begin by painting the problem and the risks just as big and scary as they really are before they show how to attack that problem and to defeat it. A shared sense of passion or urgency about the problems and risks that your audience faces is the ideal foundation to create an emotional link with your audience. If they see that you have a strong personal connection to the topic, and that you share a common understanding about the problems and risks that keep them awake at night—if it is clear that you get the urgency of their problems at a visceral level—then you are far better placed to move them to action. A good doctor knows that empathy is the most powerful way to connect with a patient.

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Sympathy, telling someone how you feel, is not very useful as a way to connect. Most people do respond to empathy. Empathy is engaged listening which you demonstrate by accurately seeing and articulating their situation.

DELIVER A COMPELLING CASE What marketing sometimes calls the message and the value proposition, Aristotle calls the logos: in order to persuade, we must deliver a compelling, rational case. Most oil and gas people come from disciplines like the applied sciences, finance, accounting and law. Each of these disciplines prepare people to build strong rational cases using the analytical tools that belong to the discipline. People from these backgrounds can find it frustrating when they set out a case that they believe is airtight, but which does not convince their audience. It is possible that they do not have the knack of creating a concise message, or building visuals that communicate their message at a glance. Framing the argument in English prose and building the media presentation to go with it may not be in their wheelhouse. But the most important hurdles might not be tactical. The strategic issue might be this: which problem does your compelling case solve, yours or the one that keeps your audience awake at night? Connect with their problem and connect with them on ethos, pathos and logos, and your audience will give you the hearing you deserve. That’s what it takes to deliver a killer presentation. ST


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LET’S TALK... Meet your mission-critical business objectives. Engage your audiences to meet the steep challenges that you face.

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ou have steep challenges. And a significant part of every business challenge is the need to engage your key audiences effectively. Your objectives dictate that you engage clearly and persuasively on the channels that matter to your audience. Any deliverables you require—a crucial speech or presentation, a key report or whitepaper, a web or mobile asset, a one-off special project— must be designed to achieve your objective with maximum impact. EARNED TRUST Persuasion requires trust, whether your audience is inside or outside of your company. And trust doesn’t come from a silver-bullet message or a perfectly executed communication strategy. You earn trust from consistent actions over time. Trust flows from what you are as a company and who you are as a person.

The foundation for trust: the value you have already created and continue to create for your clients, shareholders and stakeholders. STRATEGIC THINKING We help you establish and grow earned trust by engaging with your audiences. Strategic Thinking specializes in tailored communication solutions to meet steep challenges. Tell us about your challenges. Our experience and partnerships together with our flexible approach allow us to tackle critical projects—so you can meet your key objectives.

MARK T. MEALEY, STRATEGIC THINKING MARK@STRATEGICTHINKING.CA

403.605.4095

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Some recent Strategic Thinking projects that achieved missioncritical objectives for our clients.

Natural Gas industy whitepaper that is changing the way industry leaders think about accomplishing major facility projects. Highly rated, provocative expert presentation package at a prominent natural gas industry conference. Deliverables included speech coaching, editing, and Powerpoint production. Comprehensive corporate resume for an international oil and gas engineering and fabrication company. Effective statement of the corporate value proposition. Profiles of five business units, including case studies and major project profiles. Exceeded expectations and met their schedule: 9 weeks from sanction to delivery of English version. Project management of Russian and Chinese versions. Global Petroleum Show tradeshow package for a 600 ft2 display. Included delivery of 7 video presentations, print materials, and all graphic displays on a super-tight schedule. Company recognition: this was the best, most effective tradeshow they had ever done. Complete website re-do. Delivered a complete re-write of the website for a small, rapidly growing designer and fabricator of oil and gas processing facilities, meeting the objective of projecting brand quality to match the achievements and capabilities of the company. Comprehensive overhaul of the marketing packages for a sales organization. Client evaluation: “These marketing materials are easily equal or better than those of our best compeitors.”


The Art of the Killer Presentation