Jokes help. So does audience participation. The trick to making an effective presentation, says Alex Macris, chief of Themis Group, a Durham, N.C., holding company for gaming and media Web sites, is to keep your energy high and engage the crowd.
"As a CEO, it’s easy to just assume that when your lips are moving, people are paying attention," says Macris. "But every person attending a presentation is subconsciously wondering, 'why should I be paying attention?' "
Macris says he often presents to an audience that starts off disinterested in the topic of video games. So he gets funny. "A bit of self-deprecating humor can be very disarming," he attests. "It demonstrates confidence--not just to present--but to laugh at yourself in front of others." Macris also likes interactive activities like votes or shows of hands.
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CEOs say it's important to be well prepared. But they caution that too much rehearsing can result in a wooden delivery at the podium. The most important part of preparation: making sure you're ready for questions and comments from left field. Allow your presentation to flow from the set outline. The audience will feel engaged, and you all may even have a little fun.
Basil Williams, CEO of New York City investment management company Concordia Advisors, says that being prepared "to answer questions and address issues that aren't explicitly on the agenda is as important as what we say." Williams tries to meet with managers before presentations. This can give him a heads up as to what issues his investors might be concerned about.
Jamail Larkins, CEO of Ascension Aircraft in Augusta, Ga., agrees. "Knowledge is power--know your subject and you will be more confident," he says. A solid grasp of the information you're presenting will also allow you to rely less heavily on tools like note cards and PowerPoint. "PowerPoint is a tool, not a presentation," he cautions. "Do not read from the slides."
Mark Britton, CEO of Seattle lawyer search Web site Avvo.com, seconds the motion. "Whether the conversation is with employees, investors or a larger, less-familiar audience, their desire is uniform," says Britton. "They don’t want the automaton; they want the real you."
If you're well-rehearsed and up to date on what you're talking about, you will be able to impart your information smoothly, casually and with an element of personality and authority that your audience will appreciate.