When employees you mange give awful presentations, that is, in some ways, a reflection of your management skills, or lack thereof. If employees who report to you have to give presentations to quarterly or annual board of director meetings, what happens? Do directors pay close attention, ask insightful questions and then comment back to you about how much they learned from your employees’ presentations? Or is the time when your employees present filled with awkward silences, eye contact avoidance, email checking and doodling?
As a manager, there is one simple change you can make in your managing process that will dramatically improve the presentation quality of all your employees–and it will take zero extra time, effort or expense on the part of you, the manager.
Currently, what most managers do to exert quality control over the presentations of their employees is to ask for the slide deck to be sent in advance for approval. This isn’t a complete waste of time, because errors and omissions can be caught and sent back for correction. But it is almost a complete waste of time because slides aren’t a presentation. A presentation is actually a human being standing (or sitting) and talking to other people, ideally in a way that is understandable and memorable. Merely looking at a slide deck in advance will NEVER tell you if a presentation will be effective or not.
So what is the public speaking magic bullet for managers? Simply send out the following directive and then enforce it:
Starting January 1, 2015, we will begin a new due diligence process for all future presentations, speeches, PowerPoint presentations, briefings and talks. The good news is that henceforth, you will no longer be required to send your PowerPoint slides to me in advance for approval.
What I am requiring you to do is to send me a practice video of yourself delivering your presentation, at least 24 hours in advance of when the presentation is to be delivered to the real audience. Don’t worry about video/lighting/backdrop quality. You can use a video camera from any laptop, ipad or cell phone.
Do not send me a video of your presentation until you are happy with the style and substance of the presentation and you are personally convinced that you are communicating the ideas of your presentation in the best possible manner. If, after looking at a video of your presentation, you find your speech incredibly dull and boring and you can’t stand watching it, then please assume that is exactly how everyone in a real audience would react. Change/improve your speech and record it again. Do as many times as needed until you are satisfied with it and you are convinced your audience will be satisfied. Then, send me the video file for final review.
Please realize that this is now the official policy of our organization for every speech or presentation. There will be no exceptions made. If you claim that you didn’t have time to do one practice delivery on video, then you no longer have time to do the speech. The speech will be canceled, but never the video practice.
Furthermore, I will practice what I preach. I will be posting a practice video of my own speeches on our in-house intranet at least 24 hours before I deliver any presentation and I will gladly review any comments and critiques you send me.
If you send this memo to your employees, I guarantee the following will happen:
- Many if not most employees will hate this new policy.
- If enforced, the most common reaction employees will have after watching themselves speak is that they are doing a boring data dump and they would fall asleep if forced to watch their own speech.
- After realizing how awful their own presentations are, employees will make their speeches less boring and dramatically more interesting, just to avoid the pain/shame of watching themselves on video giving horrible presentations.
- Initially, employees will find they are spending more time on their speech preparation.
- After a few months, employees will find that they are spending even less time on their speech preparation than they did in the past, and they are getting much better reactions and feedback from audiences. The new process turns out to be a huge time-saver.
- After 6 months, the reputation of your employees, inside and outside of your organization, will have improved dramatically. You as a manager will earn a reputation as a brilliant motivator and creator of strong communications.
- Over time, the process of practicing a speech and reviewing it on video will be seen as normal and as obligatory as using spell-check on emails before sending a document to clients. Your employees will have a permanent set of habits and skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.
If you would like help in changing the communication culture of your organization, then please call me to discuss, TJ Walker 212.764.4955