Presenting to Suits


This week the chapter is about being better at presenting to business people. The business world is a lot different than the geek world. Presenting may come naturally to a business person, but it usually is not that simple for a geek. Steve Jobs may very well have been the best when it came to a geek presenting to business people. He was undeniably a geek, and whether you are a fan of Apple or not it is hard to deny the man’s ability to present new products to everyone. I even found an article on Entrepreneur giving people tips on how to present like Steve Jobs. I really like the tips that the article gives, and I think that it would be a good read for everyone that deals with both geeks and business people.

My personal experience with presenting is not terrible, but it definitely does not come naturally. In high school, I could give long speeches and presentations no problem, but that was because it was a competition between me and my even geekier best friend to see who could give the longer speech. Our goal was always to take up an entire class period with a speech, but still manage a great grade. It was a lot of fun, but in the real world it will never be that way. I never do as well when I need to take a presentation seriously no matter how prepared I am. The book has five-steps for us to feel more empowered when speaking or presenting in a professional setting. Those steps are:

  1. Call them suits
  2. Use lots of infographics


Just kidding. These are the real steps:

  • Clarify your goal

Before we even begin preparing a presentation, we need to think carefully about what problem you intend to solve with the presentation. It is so important that you know the purpose of the presentation that the book suggest that you postpone until you can clearly state want you are trying to accomplish.  The four common purposes of a presentation are to influence decisions, manage expectation and share status, leverage opportunities, and leverage technology. Starting by determining the problem you are trying to solve will help you to decide what to say and how you want to organize it.

  • Get into their heads

What does your audience need in order to make the change that you want? The three questions you  should are yourself are; what is their starting point, what do they need to know, and what do they need to feel? To find these answers, you need to ask think about even more questions in order to get into the heads of the audience. Are they missing any information that you have? If you are presenting to business people, they likely are not as experienced with some of the technical things you might be talking about. Do they need to know all of the technical stuff anyway? How will this information make them feel, and is that a good thing? These are the kinds of things you need to think about when trying to get into the heads of your audience.

  • Craft a transformation (write it)

This is the last part of preparing for the presentation. Make sure that your information is easy to understand. Use all of the things you learned about making a good powerpoint in college. If you never really learned, get online and find tips for making a good professional powerpoint. Also, make sure that you have emotion and stories in the presentation. Just because you think in binary and shoot straight to the point does not mean that the suits in the crowd will. They need that gross fluffy stuff, so just give it to them.

  • Present, connect, and resonate

Connect with your audience. Our book also thinks that Steve Jobs was a master at this. I promise I did not read that part before typing the first paragraph. Anyway, the book suggests that you watch a video of him presenting a new product. The excitement and anticipation in the room is incredible. He really was a master at engaging his audience. There are four tips for connecting to your audience better. Say it loud, let it show, diffuse nervous energy, and pause and look. Now go watch a video of the master.

  • Conclude with a call to action

Challenge the audience to make the change that you want them to make. Do not just stop talking and hope they got the message. Give them a call to action so there is no mistaking what you want them to do. My call to action for you is to take this stuff seriously. Next time you give a presentation, go through these steps and see how much you can improve.

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