In a presentation to Drake’s Next Top Entrepreneur participants, Andy Drish provided tips for successful presentations and elevator pitches. Drish, a 2007 Drake marketing and psychology graduate and previous Drake’s Next Top Entrepreneur Competition finalist, is currently part of a ‘Leadership Development Rotation Program’ at a Fortune 250 financial service company. He has helped launch various new programs and technologies, including an iGoogle gadget and a text messaging service. Andy focuses on social media to increase productivity and works on internet marketing in his spare time.
Andy’s experience with presentations began during his first year at Drake in a course entitled “Presenting to Win.” This course focused on presentations in the business environment, and discussed topics such as interview skills and resume development. Following his positive experience, Drish went on to spend the next two years developing experiences to assist others in making presentations of this nature.
Andy discussed the risk of over-preparing, the importance of introductions, and how to make a memorable impression.
Over- Preparing for Presentations
Drish has observed that one of the main challenges presenters have is over- preparation. A person may spend three to four hours on a presentation that only lasts three minutes. As a result, he or she ends up memorizing the whole speech. Drish points out that when people type up a presentation word for word, they end up sounding like a robot during their presentation, just reciting words that they memorized. Deviations from the prepared presentation could lead to increased anxiety, causing a negative spiral approach for the duration of the presentation.
How to avoid this problem? Don’t memorize your entire presentation. It is better that the presentation appears as a conversation between the presenter and the audience. Drish suggests preparing for presentations by using a bulleted list of the topics to be covered. This allows for a flow through the important points and the presenter is not at risk of forgetting a sentence or losing the place in the presentation if it were to be all written out.
Power of Introductions
The most important part of a presentation is the introduction—it provides the opportunity to solidify the attention of the audience and their buy-in to its take home points. For three minute presentations, such as the one for the Next Top Entrepreneur Competition, Drish recommends not having a long introduction. One would end up wasting too much time on the introduction and not be able to finish the rest of their presentation.
There are five ways to start an effective introduction: statistics, quotes, humor, audience participation, and stories. Statistics and quotes both work well because they get the minds of the audience thinking. When it comes to audience participation, the audience tends to perk up and pay attention because they do not want to be called on, especially if they have not been paying attention. The best type of humor is to make fun of yourself; otherwise you run the risk of alienating people in the audience if you start your presentation by making fun of someone or something. Humor can be hit or miss, so if you are going to use humor in your presentation, Drish recommends practicing the joke on a variety of people before the presentation.
One of the most effective ways of beginning a presentation is to start off with a story. Stories work well for several reasons. Typically, presenters are the most nervous at the start of their speech. While you are telling a story you are more animated and engaged in what you are talking about because it is something that you have already lived through, decreasing anxiety and creating more of the conversation atmosphere. It is also easier to tell a story because you are recalling a memory of something you have experienced, and is much easier to remember than rattling off quotes or statistics.
An experience that Andy has used with students and conference attendees is the “The Hot Seat.” The purpose of the game was to simulate the feeling of being in an interview. In this simulation, students were asked some of the most common interview questions such as “what is your biggest accomplishment in personal or professional career?”
When telling stories in a presentation or interview Drish recommends the STAR format. STAR stands for Situation, Thought process, Action and Result. This format works especially well for people who have a tendency to tell long-winded or confusing stories. With the STAR format, you follow four chronologic points. The STAR format works well during interviews when you are asked some typical questions such as “tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker” or “tell me about a time where you had to overcome and obstacle.” STAR helps presenters tell the story while maintaining focus, and helps him or her progress through the presentation, which is beneficial more than ever in short presentations.
How to Make a Memorable Impression
Three minutes is not a long time to make a memorable impression, so you want to do everything you can in that short amount of time to make a great impression. Drish pointed out a couple of aspects of the presentation to focus on in order to make that unforgettable impression. First, it is important to focus on the big picture of the presentation. Details and specifics are good, but you only have a short amount of time so you want the audience/judges to have a good idea of the main topic and overall picture. Second, it is crucial to be excited and passionate. These types of feelings are contagious and your audience or judges may catch on to the feeling.
One last piece of advice that Drish offered was to get out into the community and ask for help. Not only does this add to your presentation, but it will also benefit you later in life if you are looking for future contacts.