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Presentations: Achieving Your Personal Best

We can learn much from the Olympians who are dominating our TV screens throughout August – particularly when it comes to presentation skills.

When questioned in the run up to an event, most are cautiously optimistic.

They’re naturally wary about predicting that they’ll be wearing a gold medal round their neck after they’ve performed.

But what they regularly talk about is aiming for a ‘personal best.’

In other words, better than they’ve ever performed before.

We need to take that attitude into presentations we make, whether with our team at work or pitching for business with clients.

However, the way to give ourselves the best opportunity of creating a personal best in our business presentations is to concentrate on three components of success:

  1. Great technique
  2. Sheer hard work
  3. Consistency of excellence

Let me explain.

Great technique

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A presentation – like an Olympic dive – has clear technical elements to it.

It must be well-structured, starting with what’s in it for the audience and ending with a call to action.

It must have entertaining content – usually vivid pictures painted by colourful words.

It must simplify things, so the audience feels engaged – or bought in to the argument.

Structuring a presentation that builds on positive language, vivid imagery and robust structure will create the right template for success.

Negative words should be replaced with positive alternatives.

Words that dilute the message – such as ‘hope’, ‘try’ and ‘do my best’ – should be replaced with ‘committed’, ‘determined’ and ‘my clear goal’.

Your pace, tone and body language must be in great shape.

Sheer hard work

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It’s too easy to suggest that people are just ‘naturally good presenters’.

Anyone I’ve met who appears that way has worked hard to make it look easy.

I had the privilege of co-presenting BBC Breakfast News with two of the best journalists who’ve ever read news in the UK – Sally Magnusson and the late Jill Dando.

Their ability to stay clear and calm when all around them was disintegrating was remarkable.

But they had both worked extremely hard to get to that point – just like the successful Olympians.

To win an Olympic gold in synchronised diving has taken years of dedication and sheer hard work.

best presentation courses glasgow scotland two female divers delhi 2000.

But that’s what Jack Laugher and Chris Mears were prepared to do to get to the pinnacle of their sport.

How much hard work goes into creating a great presentation?

Often preparation can be pushed to the week before or night before an important event.

If a would-be Olympian did that, they would surely fail.

It’s the desire to fine-tune our presentation skills and build our presentation around the audience – that constitutes the hard word required to succeed.

Consistency of excellence

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The most frequently-asked question by clients attending our presentation skills and media training courses, run mainly at our Glasgow studios, is this:

“How do I continue the improvement I’ve made today?”

Our answer is simple:

“Apply these techniques every day for the rest of your life.”

That’s normally met with a nervous laugh – but we’re being serious.

The reason our Olympians can produce personal bests and medal-winning performances is because they’re performing around these standards each day in training.

Laugher made that point when he admitted:

“That wasn’t our best score on that dive.  It could have been better – but I’ve got a gold medal.”

With a presentation, we need to have a rock-solid belief in our ability to perform so when it comes to the big occasion, we know we can deliver.

That’s why my wife and I delivered a 15-minute speech to 16,000 people in Las Vegas in April only having rehearsed it 12 times before in the days leading up to the event.

So when preparing to present, rehearse until you’re completely conversant with the material, the timing, the pace and the tone.

Finally: we’ll see many ambitions achieved and dreams dashed over the next few days in Rio.

But every single competitor must follow another rule if they are to come out on top.

Concentrate on the delivery

best presentation courses glasgow scotland olympic male diver.

It’s remarkable to watch sportsmen and women from all disciplines consistently performing under pressure.

But recently we’ve seen some fall at the last hurdle.

Britain’s Louis Smith in the gymnastics, Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten and the New Zealand rugby sevens team after defeat by Japan.

We often hear from clients about the pressure they experience when making a presentation – and how they stop thinking rationally and can be enveloped by fear.

That’s because they’re thinking about the occasion, rather than the delivery.

Quite simply, if we concentrate on the delivery – the occasion will take of itself.

Whether you’re making a presentation in your office, to a client or at a conference, or whether you’re bidding for Olympic gold.

Bill McFarlan is managing director of media training and presentation skills training firm Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can view his full profile here.

Photo credit: familymwr via / CC BY; Tobyotter via / CC BY; Cyclist blur Derek John Lee via / CC BY;  The U.S. Army via / CC BY; marcopako  via / CC BY-SA; via / CC BY




11th August 2016 Featured in: Blog By:

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