This is a guest post by Steve Kosch, a former ABC and CNN anchor (that’s him on the left), and a globally recognized expert communication skills trainer. For 10 more awesome tips to help you “Nail It” in your next presentation, go to mediatrainingnetwork.com
If you’re looking to lead a cause or movement, spread your influence or do any kind of marketing online, you need to sharpen your communication skills and your presentation skills. These are similar but uniquely different.
In today’s online world, once people have heard of you, they turn to Google and instantly read about you or watch your videos. The materials you produce (your media) broadcast who you are.
What you say on podcasts, blog posts, and webinars are all media that reflect your presence, your brand. Some call it executive presence or charisma. This vibe quickly lets people experience your brand and decide if they like you. Everything you post must display your authenticity; because people can tell if you are faking it.
Communication skills become more important
Whether speaking publicly on stage, being interviewed by the media, or presenting webinars online, people will judge and categorize you. Perhaps it is the sheer volume of information and time for processing it, but people will either do one of three things in mere seconds of seeing or hearing you:
- They dismiss you and move on
- They register a positive first impression and will give you more time to prove them wrong
- In the best scenario, your executive presence immediately resonates with the audience, and they lean in and want more from you
Communication skills, along with presentation skills and executive presence, make all the difference. The good news is that excellent communication skills, presentation skills, and executive presence can all be learned.
Start with executive presence
Who are these men and women who display that “wow” factor called executive presence? For me, it’s Elon Musk of Tesla and Oprah. Steve Jobs (Apple) and Ted Turner (CNN) had it too.
To consistently look, act, and sound your best everywhere online, let’s start with executive presence. Entrepreneurs, authors, public speakers, and others can work to strengthen three areas to turn on that magnetic attraction that draws people to them. Those three qualities are:
I was fortunate enough to be a part of two media startups early in my career–The Weather Channel founded by the charismatic John Coleman and CNN founded by Ted Turner.
Observe the character, style, and substance of Ted Turner.
He was not a polished speaker but had the quality of relating to the average person, making them feel comfortable and willing to contribute ideas to make his dream a reality. His personality and his ability to connect to his staff were character traits that made him a successful leader.
He was known as the Mouth of the South–he would say things that even made me cringe at times–but he was authentic and real and just being Ted. His decisions were made quickly and made a big splash. His team would ask each other, “How are we going to do that?” But because our leader thought we could, we did. We all had a mission that was bigger than all of us.
Now let’s consider Oprah. We got to know her by watching television. She was genuine, authentic, caring, and asked questions of guests that we all wanted to know about. She was one of us. Her substance showed us her confidence, she was approachable with a big smile, and she shared compassion and empathy with her guests.
This was a consistent trait for her –she didn’t waffle on that. Oprah’s style was congruent with her values, what you saw on television was her in real life. She was the queen of daytime talk for years. We all waited to hear about her book of the month and her favorite things.
The 3 aspects of executive presence
We need executive presence so we can lead others, begin a movement, or build a business that we love and one that serves others. Let’s explore these three dimensions of what we call executive presence and how they help us to communicate with others.
Character is your foundation; it’s what you stand for. When your character is challenged and you do not firmly believe in it, you will fall for anything. Your character shows your values, morals, and temperament. You can’t vacillate or turn them on and off. During my communication skills training sessions, I tell leaders to act as if they are on stage; because people are watching what you say, act, and do.
Substance comes next. Do you know your stuff? Is your content meaningful and relevant to your audience? Do you reflect maturity, wisdom, and depth? If not, work on building your substance.
Style. I mentioned Ted Turner earlier. He had a strong southern accent but was consistent in all his actions. He didn’t pretend to be anyone else. He was consistent with his mannerisms, explosions, and colorful language. He proved to us on countless occasions that he was this larger than life charismatic, unconventional, and successful leader called Ted. Of course, your style will be all your own.
Communication skills spoken with your executive presence
Your executive presence speaks more loudly than anything you may ever say.
On a video podcast or a video webinar or conducting a training session with your tribe, show up on camera with a smile, composed and ready to engage with others collaboratively.
Dress the part. An astronaut, nurse, athlete dress with a uniform, dress consistently to your image or brand. (It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie.)
Engage with others through active listening. Lean slightly in, let the speaker finish, pause, and then follow up with a question or comment. Make sure you signal that you are listening to them by nodding, smiling.
Ask others for their opinions.
Lead the meeting with a purpose.
Be aware of the language you use.
Be mindful of your non-verbal body language. Looking downwards displays uncertainty, avoidance. An expressionless face, reads non-caring, scared, robotic.
You don’t know what you don’t know
Some personal brands, entrepreneurs, even CEO’s, initially resist professional presentation skills training because they think they’re smart enough just to wing it. That’s a significant mistake when it comes to making a great first impression, delivering a big speech, being a guest on a significant podcast, or doing a media interview.
Face it; no doubt, you’ll be interviewed on podcasts, conduct webinars, seminars, and keynotes, so you’ve got to be ready to broadcast your message the right way. When done correctly, you will spread your influence to many, many people, and grow your brand.
Record your speech or presentation and play it back so you can see what the audience sees. At some point, because you don’t know what to look for, you may need a professional communication skills trainer to fine-tune your presentation.
Communications skills training
Proper communication skills begin with the question of “What’s the big idea or message I want to communicate?”
Next comes the messaging. Who are you speaking to? What does the audience want to know about or problems they have that you can solve? Several key points I learned while presenting on television was to keep it short, get to the point, and always remember the audience is thinking, “What’s in it for me?”
In media interviews, speaking in colorful sound bites is the best way to communicate. Sound bites are short, catchy phrases that are memorable to the audience.
Presentations skills training
After you have identified the big idea, and have the messaging down, then the actual presentation happens. When we help clients with that, we put them on camera and review the video with them. We make corrections and the speaker practices again and again the presentation becomes comfortable, confident, and convincing — ready to nail any opportunity.
Several times a month, I am asked by journalists to give my opinion or to share best practice tips on communication/presentation skills training. I have many, but two come to mind, they are simple yet powerful if applied.
Tip #1: Become aware of your voice and body language
Look at yourself with a critical eye. The key is to remove or correct any mannerisms that could be a distraction from your message, things like a nervous tic, continually rubbing your nose, or flipping your hair out of your face.
A simple way to observe yourself is to stand in front of a large mirror as you practice your talk. You can also record yourself with a smartphone.
When playing the video back, perhaps you’ll also become aware of the words or filler words you use. Filler words are empty words such as, like, umm, ya know, ahh, know what I mean, that fill the silence as we think what to say next. Remove or minimize these from your vocabulary because they are unnecessary and weaken your executive presence.
Tip #2: Practice in front of a teenager
This second tip will cause you to laugh, but if you practice your talk in front of a teenager and they understand it, you are on track. If not, simplify and try again.
While all of these tips, suggestions, and teaching will be helpful online, they also apply to the offline world of old-fashioned face to face communication, speeches, and more. Becoming aware of yourself is the first step to changing your communication and presentation skills for the better. Watch and listen to yourself as others do.
Conduct all training, webinars, and podcasts with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish in each of these activities? Having a structure will keep you from wandering, and will keep you focused on your call to action. When this is done correctly, you’ll be serving your audience with valuable information, and sales will flow in as a result of your authenticity. If your goal isn’t sales, then engagement, learning, inspiration, and change.
What to do next
Practice these skills and techniques until you are satisfied that you have improved your executive presence, communication skills, and presentation skills.