The book How to Win Friends and Influence People introduced me to the legend of Dale Carnegie. I was fortunate enough to attend a second classroom training from Dale Carnegie India Training – this time on making High Impact Presentations. It was a two day program. Having attended many soft skills training in the last ten years, I was little skeptical on the benefits of attending it ; but I wasn’t disappointed. It was an engaging and revealing two days of interaction. I am sure each of the twenty participants had some good takeaways out of it. Since it was a company organized training, all of us knew each other, the challenges we may have etc.; that made me think if it was an open training with unknown fellow participants, the learning taken out may have been a bit better.
High Impact Presentations training by Dale Carnegie is a two day program, in my case there were two facilitators as well. Day 1 was concentrated more on ice breaking, setting up a baseline for each of to compare against, body language, importance of structure, and a bit on group presentations. Day 2 started building on the concepts of Day 1 and focused more on aspects like use of analogies, how to open and close, expressions, and finally doing a review presentation including all the things we learned. The uniqueness of this training was the number opportunities each of the participants got to present, and get it reviewed by both the facilitators and fellow participants.
In total, including group presentations, we would have made around five presentations over the two days, recorded them and got reviewed. Here is a quick takeaway notes from these two days. The fulcrum of the entire training was around three pillars — Structure, Content and Delivery. Focusing on each of these pillars is important. Getting each of these correct ensures a great delivery of the presentation. These may sound text-bookish; believe me, these when put to action during the two days were showing amazing improvements in the presentations and presenters we saw.
How to effectively plan your presentations?
Planning the presentations is as important as delivering the presentations. Before you even start to put together the presentations, one need to understand the audience, their level of understanding about the topic and the purpose of the presentation. For example, the way you structure the presentation will be entirely different if it is a motivational presentation as compared to a technical presentation. Another rule of thumb is to have few key takeaways and messages you want the audience to imbibe in. One of the important takeaways for me (which was re-iterated) is setting the agenda. Most of the effective presentations starts with setting the context, and setting the agenda and expectations in a black board. This not only gives the presenter a pathway; but also to establish a joint ownership of content with the audience. This also helps to keep interest levels and earn respect with the audience. From a delivery stand point of view, utilizing visual aids enhances the credibility of the presenter.
How to effectively structure your presentations?
This is an important section where I learnt a lot. Having an impactful opening is important for any good presentations. This can be done using analogies, asking questions, stating startling facts, compliments or dramatization. This is important to keep the interest level of audience intact as well as keep them engaged. While delivering the meat of the content, it’s always good to simplify things, use examples, and facts to simplify the message. Finally the closing should be as crisp as the opening. It should be simple yet powerful. It’s always good to close your presentation with a lead to action (for example asking for a follow up meeting, or ideas from audience on how they are going to implement the ideas or even asking volunteers to brief their learning). This goes back to the planning stage of understanding what’s the goal of the presentation – is it to persuade, is it inform or is it to share knowledge.
How to engage with the audience?
Preparation is only a part; delivery may be another…but engaging with the audience result in an effective presentation. This starts with building rapport with the audience before even starting the presentation, acknowledging knowledge and comments of audience and body language. Body language doesn’t end at the way you stand – it has a very important role in building an impression, enabling the audience to listen and use of expressions to assert the ideas. From a content perspective two things aid to engaging effectively with your audience – knowing thoroughly and beyond the scope of the presentation and being able to relate to audience, and simplify things depending on their receptiveness. Active listening is another important pillar to engage with audience. Finally, all presenters want the audience to take some action – be it apply whatever they learnt or purchase something. Dale Carnegie has put forth a ‘magic formula’ to help us achieve this. As per this, spend the final 90 seconds thrusting on the incident/experience/evidence for 80 seconds; 5 seconds on an action you want the audience to take and the last 5 seconds on emphasizing the positive benefit she can take out the action.
Let me close the post by mentioning about another key learning I had from the training on handling pressure situations or tough questions. If you are asked a tough question, it’s always better to take a pause, paraphrase the question asked taking out any negativity, acknowledge the question and respond from a positive angle. Here is a quick repository on various techniques to handle objections. I think one shortcoming I saw in the training was not having a focus on your weaknesses. This is more due to the fact that Dale Carnegie Training content believes in enhancing your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Overall, a very good training and I recommend it if you can afford to attend one!