In the June edition of Harvard Business Review one of the most popular articles is the excellent How to give a Killer Presentation. It is written by TED curator, Chris Anderson who describes the process developed, in over 30 years of TALKS, for helping inexperienced presenters “frame, practice and deliver talks that people enjoy watching….cycles of devising (and revising) a script, repeated rehearsals, and plenty of fine tuning.”
On the basis of this experience, he is convinced that “giving a good talk is highly coachable. In a matter of hours a speaker’s content and delivery can be transformed from muddled to mesmerising.,.and that the lessons learned are surely useful to other presenters,including anyone pitching”. He is right and the article is a must-read guide to creating the killer pitch.
Frame Your Story
There are differences, of course, between a talk where your audience is judging you as a speaker-engaging, entertaining, thought provoking -and a pitch, where your audience is judging you as a team in direct competition with other teams. In both cases however it is the emotional response that counts and his most valuable lesson is all to do with how you frame your story.
“There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about. Conceptualising and framing what you want to say is the most vital part of a presentation. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it, and convincing the audience members that they should too”.
In more mundane pitch speak, this is the ‘tell’em what you are gonna tell’em’ phase of the presentation. It is potentially the most telling,and compelling part of your argument told when your audience is most alert and most receptive to the well framed promise you are making. Think like the chess masters who plot the killer opening to gain early advantage. Capturing the emotional high ground at the outset will raise the level of engagement throughout.
This is where story telling scores. “Many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. The speaker starts out by presenting a problem and then describes the search for a solution.” In the pitch, as in the talk, bring things to life with examples. Lots of them.
Plan an opening salvo! “Ideas and stories fascinate us. (Organisations bore us-they’re much harder to relate to. Business people especially take note: Don’t boast about your company; rather tell us about the problem you’re solving)”.
“If a talk fails. it’s almost always because the speaker didn’t frame it correctly, misjudged the audience’s level of interest, or neglected to tell a story.”