Readers told me that they valued the column’s advice for getting on the speaker circuit. However, many wanted to learn more about how to make each presentation a success. I recently heard an excellent talk by Rick Davidson, CIO of Manpower. I asked him to share some of his best practices for on-stage success.
“Think of your presentation as a story,” says Davidson. “Give it a beginning, a middle and an end.” The beginning is the hook, “the part of the talk that ignites the audience’s initial interest in the topic.” Davidson says the middle is where you allow listeners to relate the topic to themselves and provide them with opportunities to consider what it means to them. The end is a call to action: What am I—or we—going to do about the situation?
As a CIO speaking to a non-CIO audience who will not immediately relate to your experiences, you need to demonstrate that you understand their perspective.
“I spoke to people who work in project management offices and talked about their roles as ’speed bumps on the road to chaos,’” says Davidson. “They decided that I understood them and agreed to listen to me, even though I’m in a different professional role.”
Creating an emotional reaction in your listeners—telling a personal story or funny anecdote—will establish a connection with the audience and keep them engaged, says Davidson. In the talk that I heard, Davidson told a story about how when his father retired, his mother made his father stay in the garage all day so as not to disrupt her domestic space. (This gave me a wonderful idea for my husband’s retirement one day.)
Davidson’s final advice? “Avoid too many messages,” he says. “If you overload your listeners, they won’t retain anything. Sometimes, all your audience will remember is a picture or a single message. What are the two or three points you want them to take away? If they walk out with those, you’re successful.”
Martha Heller is managing director of the IT Leadership Practice at the Z Resource Group, an executive recruiting firm is based in Boston. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.