I spend more time speaking or presenting in my role at Apptegy than in any past role I’ve had. As a result, I have improved my presentation skills. My practice has come through thousands of interviews, 30+ onboarding classes of new hires, and other meetings and events.
Now, I am working to use my daily speaking opportunities to more intentionally improve in 3 key areas:
The Pyramid Principle is a technique developed by Barbara Minto while at McKinsey. Since then it’s become the defacto way of presenting an idea for every consulting firm. I am practicing it in a basic form: say the answer/conclusion first and then support it (not the other way around).
By stating the answer first my audience does not need to wonder where I’m going with my thinking and, if they agree at the outset, I may not need to deliver all of my supporting reasoning, logic, or data.
I’ve done this naturally over the years, but it was reinforced recently by someone I respect. When delivering information doing so in couplets or groups of three. It forces you to decide what information is most important and makes it easier for your audience to remember. Basic, but important.
Effective speaking often includes not speaking. Asking yourself question, “Is it worth it?” is simple, but not easy. It a helpful way to hold back from speaking even when it’s difficult.
Similar to the point above, saying thank you is a tactic that is simple but not easy. After someone gives a compliment, shares feedback, or gives criticism, I will say “thank you.” It forces me to be more accepting and less defensive.
The difference here is focused on comfortability and confidence with silence after making a statement.
Most important for me, is using silence as a tool to let the other person start or keep talking. I count on my fingers (hidden from view on a Zoom call) to practice this. Already I’ve noticed as a result of this that others share more information and ask questions they otherwise would not have. In larger groups, it makes it easier for other to join the conversation.
For as long as I can remember, in casual conversations I use the words “so” and “right?” after a monologue or sentence. This may be the hardest area to work on because it’s small, innocent, and, to others, not as noticeable. I’m confident that the other 4 areas of improvement will help me succeed in this area.
It’s easy to add “very” and other adverbs that are intended to emphasize the point. (The most misused form of this is when people say “literally” but mean anything but that.) It is also tempting to say, “I’m 100% confident” vs. “I’m confident.” I am working on being more intentional in my presentation that compensating with additional words.
I have struggled with adding “I think” before most statements. Removing these statements adds confidence to both speaker and listener. There may be a risk of appearing over-confident, but it depends largely on the discussion on audience.
I think we should develop a new product to capture market share.
We should develop a new product to capture market share.
When practiced and combined, I expect these improvements to deliver powerful statements in my speech. Powerful because every word is aimed towards the same thing and has earned its place. Statement because it is just as short and as long as it needs to be.