Presenting? Ask this question

Oh dear! I have again sat through two tedious, colourless presentations by senior people who should know better. They may well have had an interesting message – there may well have been a compelling reason for me to take note and further action – I did neither. And I have to wonder how many other people in the room did or how many, like me, were just waiting to get to the coffee and shortbread.

My heart sinks when people begin by telling me “how I got involved with this project”, or “a bit about my experience in this field”, or even “the outcomes of the work we’ve done to date”.

I’m a typically self-centred business person, with little time to spare and thousands of data competing for my attention. Guess what I want to know, first, foremost and last when you sit me in front of a big screen and a presenter?

What’s in it for me?

That’s right folks. Whether you’re seeking to inform, inspire or just entertain, first put yourself in the seat of your audience and answer that question.

When you can answer that, it’s worth your while to speak, and it’s worth ourSpeaker while to listen to you. Make an impact with a great opener, and stick to the point. If the outcomes really matter, your background, or how you got involved are adding to the message, use them. Otherwise focus on your audience’s wants and needs and leave them out.

Have a strong beginning – start as you mean to go on. Some great openers for presentations are:

“Imagine cutting your monthly costs by 50%. Here’s how”

“Get access to some of the best business minds in the world – for nothing”

“I’m going to tell you how you can change the world you live in for the better”

Be bold. Make an impact. As a presenter, it’s what you’re there for.


Coaching for managers – what it is, and is not

Recently, I’ve been involved in helping a group of twelve experienced managers from a large financial institution to develop their coaching skills. We delivered a blend of interactive workshops, one to one telephone coaching, and support for the managers to develop their own coaching relationships with team members in between learning sessions.

Many organisations are now looking at coaching as a tool for empowering and motivating their teams and it is true that, done properly, coaching can be a powerful tool in encouraging responsibility, Picture in frameimproving individual performance, and freeing up managers’ time. It isn’t hard to see how organisations can use coaching to become more competitive, more profitable and better able to build long-lasting relationships with customers.

What may be more difficult to take in, though, is that coaching is not just another way of ensuring that people do what you want them to. While coaching can produce sustainable behaviour change in any environment, it provides a challenge for some managers – and some organisations – because it requires a new and different mindset. For example:

  • Coaching must be based on a relationship of mutual respect and trust; it only works if both parties want it to
  • Coaching is distinct from training, managing or mentoring
  • Coaching is about helping another person to learn; it promotes his or her sense of self-worth through the use of questioning, listening, challenging and agreeing the way forward
  • Coaching allows a person to improve performance using his or her own natural abilities.

Eight key skills underpin effective coaching; while we can train in these skills, the only way to embed them is by practising them in different situations. They are generally agreed to be:

  1. Self-awareness leading to flexibility in your own behaviour
  2. Effective preparation in developing your skills, and delivering coaching sessions
  3. Building genuine rapport with the person that you are intending to coach
  4. Questioning from a position of curiosity, without anticipating the answers
  5. Challenging in a way that is both assertive and supportive
  6. Listening at a level which allows you to understand the real concerns
  7. Observing and providing balanced and objective feedback
  8. Empowering the person to take forward actions.

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