What Does a “Good” Presentation Look Like?

I gave an interview for a magazine on meetings for the financial service industry. They had asked for answers to their questions to be emailed.  I knew this could be valuable to so many more people.  Here is what I shared.  Hope you can use some of the strategies.

Jess Todtfeld teaches financial service professionals how to become compelling, memorable presenters, without adding more time to the preparation.  It’s about shifting what you do.  Jess has been a TV reporter, host, producer… As a speaker, he holds the CSP designation (Certified Speaking Professional) held by less than 1% of professional speakers in the world.  He also holds a Guinness Record in a speaking category … giving the most interviews in 24 hours (112 different radio stations.)



Initial thoughts:

Insurance and financial professionals CAN make their presentations more interesting, more compelling and more memorable.  They just have to forget most of what they’ve learned about presentations.  (Standing behind a lectern, reading to people from a PowerPoint, lecturing.)  Instead, get out from behind the lectern.  Engage the audience.  Make it a conversation. Tell stories.  Only put on screen what enhances or illustrated what you are saying.  Talk to them face-to-face like you would in a one-on-one meeting.


Answers to your questions:

1. How has the concept of ‘presentations’ evolved over the last decade or so? How are today’s presentations typically different from those of the past?


The word presentations makes this type of speaking feel very formal. When it comes down to it, this is not public speaking it is “business speaking“. That is when it matters for your livelihood or something bigger than you.


Presentations started out as a formal speech.  Then in 1987 Microsoft release a program called PowerPoint.  You could follow their template, put your information in a bullet list and read to people.  Unfortunately that is boring.  Also, it has lasted for just over 30 years. (Luckily companies bring me in to help fix this broken equation.)


Over the last decade, the biggest change has been technology. Many financial service/insurance professionals use an iPad or similar device to show data. It’s important to not fall into the same trap that people do with PowerPoint. That is, that they use it as a crutch or even worse… A sleep aid. Any of the technology peripherals should be used to enhance and support what we’re saying. Unfortunately, people use it as a lazy person’s Teleprompter.


There are some principles that always stand The test of time:

-Be interesting

-Be relevant

-Listen to your client or prospect or the audience

-Find their frustrations, concerns, and challenges.

-Craft specific stories and examples that show how you solve similar problems with other clients.


2. What are some key presentation skills that professionals (keep in mind meeting planners) have? What do you define as good presentation skills?


Good news! Meeting planners are in the relationship business. They already have the skill of figuring out different personalities, reading between the lines, listening and figuring out how people will act. These are some important presentation skills (and life skills) that plenty of professionals are not great at.  The trick is to still be you when you are in presentation mode.  This just takes practice and wrapping your head around that idea.


And… we can always become better. Here are a few quick strategies:


Open with fire – every time you are presenting, whether it is 1 to 1, or one to many, you need to open with fire. That means open with something that makes your audience feel like this is going to be very important and worth paying attention to. This might be a surprising fact, a big problem that needs to be dealt with, or something that you’ve found this person really is concerned with.


Use stories and examples.  The magic phrase is “For Example.”  This works far better than reading bullet points and providing a “data dump.” Data dumps are not memorable.  Stories are visual and therefore memorable.  If people remember you, they are more likely to act on what you say.


Interactivity.  People want to feel involved and valued. This gives your audience a voice.  Ask them questions. Include them.  They will appreciate that you are putting them first.




3. What are some common mistakes professionals make as it relates to developing their presentation skills?


Common mistakes:

Not realizing what the presentation feels like for people on the receiving end. This is where video recording during practice really helps. Many times clients of mine, after watching the playback, realize that they are droning on about topics they shouldn’t be. Sometimes they realize they are talking about themselves more than they should be. Sometimes they spot themselves going off topic. This is all valuable information and better when there is an opportunity to course correct.


Talking about yourself too much is another common mistake.  Talk about the audience’s favorite subject …. THEM!  It’s always about the what’s in it for them.


If we are talking about being on stage, standing behind the lectern is deadly. It is just plain boring. Anytime we can get a speaker to move around, get closer to the audience, look at the audience, interact with the audience… The presentation will be better and more interesting. That, is really what people want… More than fancy PowerPoint graphics.


The fixes …

“Stories are the currency of life“

Before a presentation, think about short story as you can tell that really highlight your point/make you look great. Every story should have characters, setting, dialogue, and a problem.


Practice. If the first time you give a presentation is the first time you’ve actually spoken your presentation, then it is your first draft. Our first draft of anything is never perfect. Practice at least one time. Ideally, you will record it on video using your phone or any other easy device. This way you can see what it looks and sounds like. While this might sound painful to some people, it actually gives a chance to get outside of your own body and see what others are seeing and hearing. This is incredibly valuable information. Just doing this once will help create a good deal of positive change.


Shortcut to the fixes – If you want you or your team to get better, faster, working with a presentation coach.



4. What are the best ways to develop excellent presentation skills and what does a good presentation look like?


-Decide that this is important.  If you don’t want it, you’ll never change.

-Watch a video recording of yourself.  If you are willing to have other people see you present, you need to be willing to watch yourself.  This will shine a light on some things you need to change.  It will also show you some things you are doing well.  A good coach will get you to build on what is working and let go of what doesn’t work.

-Developing any skill is an ongoing approach.  That means looking for opportunities to grow and try out new techniques.  This is a worthwhile task because it leads to more confidence, job promotions, and in sales presentations …. more sales!


What does a good presentation look like?

To answer this we have to look at it not from our perspective but from our audience’s perspective.  What would make it a win for them?  What do they need to take away?  What is the right amount of time … for them?!  Does it address their problems? Does it give actionable next steps?


Instead we often create something that makes it easier for us.  We follow a template, lecture, read off notes, hold off on questions … and turn people off.


5. How should professionals continue to hone their presentation skills even after they feel like they’ve developed solid presentation strategies?


-Making a decision to be a better communicator will impact every area of your life.  When I speak at conferences, I say half joking… that these skills are the Secret to Power and Influence.  People need to realize that influence is important at work, with colleagues, clients, and even family.


-You can read books on the topic or join a Toastmasters group where you’ll get to practice for a few minutes a month. This is a slower approach but taking steps is important.


-If you want to take a big leap, even faster, bring in a presentation trainer who can guide you through creating smarter, better, more effective presentations.  The results mean not wasting people’s time in long meetings (or on a conference stage.) It means helping more people, becoming more interesting and memorable.  Sales teams understand that this can help lead to more sales.


Want to download 21 Ways to Create Powerful Presentations?

Just visit:  SpeakToClose.com and scroll to the bottom.