Presenting With Gusto

Last week I gave a presentation, for a distribution company, to about 35 of its dealer-customers. There was a limited amount of time so we compressed entirely too much material into a 75 minute presentation (a normal problem I seem to have). When the presentation was over, a number of the attendees complimented me on my enthusiasm and how passionate I seemed to be about the subjects covered. It made me remember a key to giving any presentation is the GUSTO with which it is delivered.

GUSTO is more than enthusiasm though…GUSTO, in my mind, also stands for: Genuine, Unconventional, Specific, Timely and Orchestrated. It is a set of ground rules I try to live by whenever I have to make a presentation to a group.

“Genuine” only works when you have a really good understanding of the audience. I try to learn as much about my audience as possible in advance (average age, experiences, personalities, are they business owners or sales persons, etc.). Then, if I can “put myself in their shoes” and approach the subject matter from a position that I know they understand and appreciate my communication and connection is much stronger. It seems much more genuine to them if the subject is approached from their perspective and with their goals in mind. Whenever possible, I try to use real-life examples to show relevance.

“Unconventional” is about doing something unexpected and unusual in the opening of the presentation, something that delivers the “hook” and immediately wows the audience or has them waiting to see what comes next. In this particular case, I was following a series of technical speakers, all of whom had important information that the audience had asked for but all of them were a bit bland and boring. I am sure that I was expected to open (like all of the other speakers” with, “hello, my name is …” but I had quickly arranged a set of stereo speakers and opened with a 95 second video accompanied by powerful and up-tempo music. The video was very unusual and definitely focused on creativity and unique, remarkable and contemporary change in the world around us. It also showed contrasts through a series of powerful “old VS new” images and suggested to the audience that it was time to develop some “new” in their processes and proposals to consumers. When the video was finished, and my Power Point presentation began, the first slide was proposing an answer to the last question in the video, “Are you ready?” The first slide said, “Let’s Get Ready!”

“Specific” is what happened next. I immediately walked into the audience and began asking questions of individual attendees. The questions were making sure that all of the audience were drawn into the presentation and had become a part of it. I was also making sure we had established a common ground and were all beginning this conversation from the same place. Because one of the video focuses had been on “old VS new”, the initial targets of questions were folks who appeared to have been in the industry for awhile. So the questions were about remembering where the industry had come from and how things had changed in the past. We were finding some common ground so that we all realized that just as there had been a lot of changes in the past we now needed to change again to accommodate a whole new group of consumers. We were getting ourselves into a mind set with reference to three areas of change needed for the future, changes in the approach to new business, changes in the process of acquiring new business and changes to the product to accommodate the needs of a new generation of buyers. Getting the audience to participate is critical when we remember one of the tenets of education; adults retain a very small portion of what they “hear”, a slightly larger portion of what they “see” but 90% of what they “do”. Now they were all involved.

“Timely” in this case, was about making sure the audience could see the need for a new and contemporary way of doing business. “Timely” was about presenting statistics and examples to show a new generation of consumers (in their industry) were much more sophisticated in their methods of learning and information-gathering then previous generations. Sometimes the audience needs to be shown that change is necessary and that perhaps the consumer has passed us by. I never shared any of my own qualifications until this time in my presentation.

“Orchestrated” is about making sure that everything goes smoothly and all the elements of my presentation blend with each other. It all has to look really “easy and smooth” to be effective. Some of this is common sense. I always come in early (the day before, in last week’s case) to check the venue and make sure my equipment is compatible with the AV equipment I am using. I make sure the seating arrangement works for my presentation. I make sure that if I have handouts, they will be striking, colorful and professional-looking. Does the hand-out tie to the slide presentation in look, color and feel? If I am going to ask the group to participate in an exercise (I try to do this as much as possible) I make sure they have pens or pencils and everything they need to be participants. And very much, I rehearse, rehearse and rehearse…to make sure I can make all of my points in the time I have allotted to me.

Making a successful presentation that really creates change is about a lot more than being a dynamic and powerful speaker it is about doing a presentation with GUSTO.