I have many clients who struggle with the job requirement of giving someone else’s presentation. In some cases, it is a capabilities presentation to a potential new client. In other cases, it is a product/service presentation that has been “compliance-approved.” In other situations, clients have to give a senior management or board update that someone else has put together. You, as the presenter, get to be the talking head and slide-advancing presenter, but none of you is in the presentation. It’s all canned content, created by someone else. It bores the pants off of the presenter, not to mention the audience. What can you do about a situation like this? The answer is “make it your own.”
Six ways to personalize a canned corporate presentation
While the core “guts” of the presentation may already be fixed, there are several things you can (and must) do to make this presentation engaging for you and your audience.
- Craft your own opening remarks. Before you move into your corporate-approved slide deck, why not open the presentation with a story of your choosing? Make sure the story that you choose is relevant to the audience and the presentation topic. And of course, shape your story so that it is short, but makes a compelling point and is engaging to listen to. I also recommend that you start “naked”, that is, do not show any PowerPoint slides until after you give your opening remarks.
- Sprinkle your favorite quotes. Verbally sprinkle a few of your favorite quotes throughout the canned presentation. You don’t need PowerPoint slides to do this.
- Do your due diligence on your audience. Rather than spending all your preparation time memorizing someone else’s presentation slides, why not spend some time researching and studying your audience. The more you know about them, the more you will be able to tailor the presentation experience to their needs. Don’t lecture to them or drone on with your pre-approved slide deck, but rather, make your audience the hero of your presentation. That’s what Nancy Duarte recommends that we do!
- Master the Q&A session. Your professionalism can really shine in the way that you handle the Q&A session of the presentation. There’s no hiding behind a corporate PowerPoint deck during this part of the presentation. Decide how and when you will take questions. Anticipate challenging or difficult questions, and know how you will respond (without getting defensive). Build your skill set in facilitating discussions, and you will make the presentation your own!
- Select your own closing remarks. Similar to the opening, you decide how you want to close your presentation. Your closing remarks do not have to be boring or corporately prescribed. Download this free workbook FINISH STRONG which provides video examples of thirteen different presentation closing techniques. Own the ending. As the presenter, you get the last word.
- Personalize your follow up. Think about how you, as the presenter, would like to follow up with your audience. Your organization may have a prescribed way of doing this, so that they capture the leads, etc. But you, as the presenter, have the right to reach out to key members of the audience to thank them for attending, and to invite them to stay connected with you. Why not send them a LinkedIn invitation or engage on other social media. HINT: have pictures taken during your presentation, and send the images to key members of your audience after the presentation.This personal touch is often appreciated.
Beware of plagiarism in your presentations
Your presentation or speech may have been created by someone else, but that doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility of the content. This was most recently exemplified by Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate during the Republican National Convention in Ohio. She was strongly criticized after she used parts of Michelle Obama’s speech from 2008. The delivery and vocal intonation were almost identical, as if an actor was reading lines from a play. This situation inspired me to write a post on LinkedIn entitled, Lessons Learned from First Lady Speeches. No matter what your political persuasion, we can all learn valuable lessons on public speaking and presentation from this recent experience.
- If you haven’t seen this NBC side-by-side video comparison, take a look and judge for yourself.
This very public discussion prompted me to engage in a conversation with a professional freelance journalist, Johanna Rojas. Here’s her professional opinion on the topic of plagiarism and public speaking:
If you are using existing ideas and concepts…
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “There are no new ideas, only recycled old ideas.” I have no idea who said this originally, but the concept is compelling. I found the quote below from Mark Twain, who perhaps expressed this idea more elegantly, but the concept is the same. If you intend to share a perennial, age-old idea or concept in your next presentation, then do the creative and reflective work necessary to put your spin on the idea. At the very least, let your audience know that you believe in the value of this “old idea,” and how it has worked in your life/business/career. Don’t try to pass it off as original thought, when it’s not.
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”-– Mark Twain, Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
In summary, as a professional you will be called upon to deliver other people’s presentations from time to time. I want you to embrace this presentation challenge and find a way of bringing some of you into the presentation experience. You can still accomplish the communication goals set out by your organization while being yourself. Take charge of every presentation you deliver by challenging the ways it has been done before!
For more presentation coaching tips, get my new book, Stop Global Boring.