Business presentations often fail due to a fatal lack of boldness, according to communications expert Granville N. Toogood of Darien, Conn., author of the articulate executive. Because entrepreneurs must constantly persuade, sell and lead, they of all people need to know the secrets of clarity and forcefulness. Toogood underlines the point with a startling statistic: Audiences typically decide whether someone is worth listening to within eight seconds after he opens his mouth. Business leaders are quick draw decision makers too. Toogood describes riding up an elevator with two CEO's of chemical companies who hadn't seen each other in years. By the time they reached the 30th floor, they'd agreed to merge their corporations.
In a world that moves fast, success belongs to the bold. When they speak of publicly, most people are timid. They cover a meandering list of subjects, as if afraid of leaving something out. The result is disconnected, defensive and dull. Instead, make every word and idea in your speech point to a single inspiring idea, says Toogood. A schematic diagram of your talk should be shaped like a rocket, with the overarching idea as the warhead, and each subject and its illustrative examples pointing to it.
When it comes to showing slides, insecurity tempts many to throw too much information onto a screen which confuses and bores audiences. Instead, restrict your graphics to a few powerful ideas. Make one point at a time. What is worth presenting as an image? A business change; growth; disaster; a vision of what’s possible.
When creating your slides, cut the visual clutter. Your task it to dramatize movement – so strip off as many words, numbers, borders and line wiggles as you can. Use thick, simple lines and bold sweeping arrows. The secret to persuading others to follow you is to exercise dramatically the courage to say exactly what you mean.