Business leaders can learn a lot from politicians when it comes to presenting in front of an audience. Here’s five tips on how MPs pitch to help you put your point across.
(1) Don’t worry about the fact you’re nervous
Theresa May decided to break with tradition at the Tory conference in Birmingham by speaking at the start of the conference, and this strategy meant she was able to make her feelings known on key issues from the start of the week. The decision was, no doubt, down to political pressures. Successful politicians look calm and assured on the stage but to quote Mark Twain, “There are two types of speaker in the world: the nervous and the liars.”
Anxiety can affect us all, so try and reflect that energy into excitement. The passion of politicians during their speech is a form of energy that can drive people onto your side. Take a deep breath, try not to rush your lines and grab the audience’s attention.
(2) Talk to the audience, not the back of the room
Politicians understand the importance of engaging the audience. There have been some bad tips handed out in the past about picking some point in the distance and delivering to that. Although this will stop you talking to the floor or staring at your notes, it also means you’ll come across as distant. When you’re selling, you need to talk to your audience directly. You’re creating a conversation, so make eye contact with one person in the audience for a few seconds before moving on to someone else and doing the same; speaking deliberately to audience members will enhance your credibility.
(3) Don’t be scared to use your hands
MPs are experts in pointing things out without looking aggressive. A lot of presenters struggle with how to use their hands. Study how politicians use their arms when speaking without waving them around. It’s an important element as showing your hands is a strong way of creating trust. Our minds see them as an indicator of truth. If somebody has their palms open this is a trusting and open position and people are more likely to agree with you.
(4) Solve a problem
Too often in a presentation you can get bogged down in the detail of what your product can do. Politicians connect with their audiences by offering policies that solve problems and make people feel better about it. When crafting your presentation, ensure what you say is focused on the needs of the customer. If you focus on the pain points of the customer and how you can help them, you can get their focus and then keep them with you throughout the talk.
(5) Remember you don’t have to be a natural speaker or extrovert to engage your audience
Politicians can be charismatic, but not all of them are great orators. Everybody has to start somewhere and the fact you might not be a natural storyteller isn’t as important as the fact that you have a good story to tell. Anybody can perform on the stage and you don’t have to be an extrovert to do it. An MP can come from a variety of different backgrounds so don’t feel that you, as somebody who runs a business, necessarily needs to fulfil a certain personality type. You can craft your message, deliver it and then step away confidently. The most important element of all this is to ensure that you can be trusted.
Lyndon Nicholson is client services director at presentation specialists Buffalo 7.
A poor PowerPoint presentation runs the risk of leaving your audience bored stiff – so, given you’ll inevitably require use of the Microsoft programme at some stage, we’ve got four quick and easy steps that can pimp your showcase in a way that will keep your crowd engaged.
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