PRESENTATIONS: Know your Personalities, not your PowerPoint.

For this final installment in our professional development series, I’ve teamed up with Oden Design Director Katie Gwin Jenkins to bring you our shared marketing and creative perspective. Read about Katie’s most memorable presentation in her post.

At a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. - Jerry Seinfeld
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. Up on a stage, at a podium, in front of a class or our coworkers. It can definitely be a love/hate thing. But regardless of the emotions it conjures up, it’s an opportunity to enlighten, to incite change, to do some good.

Presentation tips and tricks are everywhere. Experts are spewing top 5s at us all the time. So often we sweat the presentation slides and forget that the audience is also looking and listening, and ultimately, seeking a human connection. And we all struggle when we see other presenters suffer needlessly. As a listener, it’s painful to sit through a rough presentation while nodding encouragingly in silent recognition of the speaker’s pain.

FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING. It's called glossophobia. It's often ranked the #1 fear people have. Up to 5% of the population experiences this fear each year.


It’s about you — the presenter — who you are as a person, and how you tell the story or sell the idea. You are a college professor, best friend, stand-up comic, motivational speaker, and rocket scientist all in one.

THAT’S A LOT OF PERSONALITIES. Let’s take one at a time.

THE COLLEGE PROFESSOR: You’re the expert; they’re learning from you.
Knowing your stuff is just the start. You’ve got to be the expert. Read, listen, inquire, network, observe. Hopefully this won’t be a challenge, because you should be passionate about your topic. If not, you’d better be ready to embrace it, because your audience will see through you. Confidence is huge. What makes you comfortable and confident will help you better communicate your message to your audience. All the typical tactics — speaker’s notes, presentation slides, the podium, teleprompter, lighting, wearing black turtlenecks — don’t really matter. What matters is what works for you and your audience. There’s no one magic strategy.

Also, be specific, not generic. Whether you’re presenting to a roomful of marketers at an organization’s local chapter meeting or to a conference room full of potential customers, speak to their real needs, challenges, and industry. You’re trying to help drive business and solve their problems. Being a philosophy teacher is great, but make sure you cover the Honors Business curriculum too.

THE BEST FRIEND: You’re trustworthy, empathetic, and real.
You really care about your audience. You’re there to be insightful and sensitive about their needs. So find meaningful, proactive ways to demonstrate those traits. Consider inviting your key contact to lunch. Chat about the topic. Don’t just swap emails. Really dig in to what value you can offer. Then you can speak with the right angle, focus, and tone for your topic. And your audience will get what they want from you — relevant research, big ideas, solutions, etc. It’s a two-way street.

Yes, you are the presenter. But keep in mind how you deliver your message. Consider the TED talks. No fancy stage, no overblown graphics. It’s one friend delivering one message from the depths of her soul … her area of expertise … her passion … to another friend.

THE STAND-UP COMIC: You’re energetic and entertaining.
The best presentations are both smart and entertaining — not always an easy task. Not all topics are inherently fun. But it’s your job to make them memorable. How? Here are a few ideas.

  • Open with something fun, engaging, timely, even off-topic. Think of it as a warm-up.
  • Interject quirky short stories, case studies, and quotes. Go personal if you’re comfortable with that. “When I explained this to my 11-year old, he simply made a face and then went back to playing video games.”
  • Use analogies to make the complex stuff relatable. Even serious topics can have similarities with something familar.
  • Welcome or even throw out questions to get a conversation going and lighten the mood. You can throw out your own: “I know that when I was researching this, I was thinking there is no way this could be true. What do you all think?”
  • Be real — maybe even a little self-deprecating. “I know this is a lot of information. Does anyone need a break? I certainly do!”

At the end of the presentation, your audience will appreciate all the effort you put in to being real, entertaining, and energetic. They’ll end up respecting AND liking you.

THE MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER: You’re passionate and encouraging.
You want to enlighten. Inspire change. Renew confidence. Because we work for a marketing agency, we’re often trying to gain buy-in from clients on new ideas or approaches to solving a business challenge. To achieve anything close to that, you have to be passionate about what you’re saying. Many times this happens at the end of a presentation. So after you’ve given them the meat, it’s now time to talk about the next steps or how to apply this new, brilliant information. You may be getting a little weary at this point, but stay focused. Slow down and breathe. Recap your main points, and then go into a brief conclusion about how all this information can affect tomorrow. Try to end with a sincere parting thought. You want everyone in your audience to believe in you and believe in themselves.

THE ROCKET SCIENTIST: At the end of the day, analyze your amazingness.
As the post-presentation vibe sets in, keep in mind it’s not really over when it’s over. Think of it as the beginning. An enlightenment. It’s the start toward the one thing you were looking to accomplish or change.

First take note of the response. Are you hosting a post-presentation podium party or are you hearing crickets? There’s nothing quite like that immediate buzz you feel when you know you’ve reached people. It’s the beginning of deeper relationships and more knowledge sharing — which is a global trend these days. Don’t forget to invite your audience to connect with you on LinkedIn and to follow you on Twitter. You may be a rocket scientist, but you’re also a social media whiz.

Next, analyze yourself. Be honest. How did you do? Did you connect with people? Critique your nuts and bolts: your content, delivery, pace, and your response to questions. And perhaps the most revealing question to ask: If the audience had the chance to hear you present again, would they jump at the chance? Or run for the hills?

TOGETHER: All these personalities are your mini-army of YOU. And all of them are on duty when you give a presentation. And when they all work together, the result can be outstanding!

My most memorable presentation.

  • THE SCENE: During my sophomore year in college (we’ll just say in the ’80s) in an 11:00 a.m. sales and marketing class with 100 hungry students.
  • THE ASSIGNMENT: Give a persuasive product pitch.
  • THE KICKER: Grades were primarily based on peer evaluations.
  • THE PRESENTATION: One thing led to another, and I found myself cooking chicken stir-fry in the auditorium for the entire class to pitch my product — a wok.
  • THE FEELING: It was completely exhilarating and something I was known for from then on out. I have to think sales of woks and stir-fry recipe books skyrocketed that year, at least on my campus.

See Katie’s post to get the scoop on her most memorable presentation.

Ginger Durbin

As Senior Account Director at Oden, I’m responsible for developing client relationships, establishing strategic direction, and overseeing projects for one of our key accounts. For me, the magic is connecting people with brands in relevant ways — to help drive their business or enhance their lives. I’m also a busy mom, a wanna-be pro dancer, an avid Craigslister, and a hopeless romantic.

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