Sunday, January 22, 2012

On presentation skills

Somebody attracted my attention today that ACM  Membernet Europe in its last issue,  has written about me in the section "feature ACM European distinguished speaker".     In fact, several months ago somebody from ACM approached me to ask what is the meaning for me of being recognized as ACM Distinguished Speaker, 
The truth is that I intended to use this program to tour some exotic places in the universe, but did not have time yet to pursue it,  thus I answered that my action after this recognition is to coach and mentor young people about presentation skills.  Indeed I have added to courses and seminars I am teaching a pitch about presentations (I am a fan of Steve Jobs' style of presentation), while this is a "soft skill", it is very important in today's world, as the picture above shows - sometimes more than what you say.   In Israel we have a tendency to underestimate it, and believe that good content will sell itself,  this is also true on product packaging.   While some people are naturally good presenters, presentation skills is something that can be learned, and it is very rewarding to see young people catching quickly and producing great presentations (last week a students in a seminar I supervise did very creative presentations).  


Rainer von Ammon said...

We know this speaker's impact diagram since decades already actually, even since the time of transparencies in the seventies ff.

Actually it depends very much on the situation and kind of audience: purpose, keynote presentation (what is normally not the situation what our students would do later on), size, room/hall, scientific or marketing presentation and so on. What is true for the one audience is often a K.O. criterion for the other audience. Even the usage of Powerpoint slides is sometimes not wanted anymore, especially if you teach, since a lot of years already. Because you overload student brains and their information processing with much too much information in much too short time.

I worked as a story teller or presales guy for a consultancy or for BEA some time ago and I remember some typical difficult situations that was actually the failure of the sales account manager whom you have typically to accompany: some of them have not really prepared or organized the right audience (what is the first important challenge), and then we were faced with a heterogenous audience, e.g. a department chief and some management guys who are normally not interested in techniques and details - together with technical guys who are actually developing and programming the stuff later on and who really want to know how it works - they are normally quickly pissed off when you start with a nice powerpoint marketing presentation and would immediatly asleep or - if there is no manager in the room - they would interrupt you and react aggressively not to steal their time. But when you switch to details and try to draw nice diagrams or similar on a flip chart if there is any, suddenly the manager would interrupt you and say good buy "Please call me if these details are over". But the management is normally what your sales colleague is interested in because the management decides about the budget. But the management can normally not make a decision as long as the technical "indians" would not confirm that the solution would work. So, we have always a lot of presentations and a long sales cycle, often longer than a year or even more and depending on the company the sales colleague would not survive perhaps because he has to commit his sales pipeline every quarter and not to reach the commitment, will kick him out.

Means: to sell is a hard job actually, I have attended nice trainings which I always loved, like Target Account Selling or so. Such trainings and wisdom of life should be trained on our universities and the students would surely love it, if you do it right and of course not via ppt slides:-) What a normal U professor cannot teach because s/he has normally never sold anything, except her/himself what works very differently:-) Actually they became professors because they never wanted to sell a vacuum cleaner. What was the primary job of Steve Jobs. (Though there are exceptions of course.) If you remember one of the first presentations of Steve when he symbolically "killed" IBM, such an aggressive style might be a cultural problem what might be a K.O criterion e.g. in Europe or another country. Or to use sexual jokes - verrrryyyy dangerous!! We remember a country manager who was fired the next day after a harmless presentation based on a Nokia slide with a nearly naked girl dressed only with a phone cable - where he told American female colleagues that he would always be reachable. We would have to show the different situations and purposes to give presentations or something else.

I just have some time because I'm waiting for a decision who would take the coordinator role for our project proposal which I cannot take as a Small Cat, so we could discuss a bit more about presentations and speaker's impact...... perhaps at a preassessment meeting with the EC: how to present a project proposal?

George Torok said...

Hi Opher,

Congratulations on your blog.

I agree that public speaking and presenting are more about skill development than natural talent.

I would suggest that naturally talented speakers are limited by their talent while untalented speakers are unlimited by the skills they can develop.

I am a professional speaker who speaks internationally and coaches executives to speak. Yet I was a shy and untalented speaker at one time.

George Torok
The Speech Coach for Executives