Presentations: Impromptu and Prepared

In June of this year,   I became president of a local membership organization that is primarily social.  I’ve been a member for 12 years and a board member for 8 or 9 years.  I find the experience to be very gratifying.  I’ve made friends.  I’ve continued to develop and refine leadership skills.  I am fortunate to preside over a board that is comprised of top drawer members who are committed to the organization and who work diligently to develop strategies and plans that will sustain the organization over the short- and long-term.  I do whatever I can to create conditions that enable board and committee members to do their best work and then get out of the way and let them do it.

To become an organization leader is to become its public face and unifying symbol to its members.  Public speaking is part of the job.  It is often necessary to offer words of inspiration and encouragement and verbally demonstrate that you embody the vision,  mission and values of the organization.  There are impromptu speaking  “opportunities”  that arise when you are half way through a second glass of wine and surprise! someone asks you to say a few words.  How do you successfully make an unrehearsed speech and manage to sound reasonably eloquent (and sober)?

There are also impromptu speaking opportunities that are professional in nature,  where one must speak ex tempore about business.  These speaking obligations are unscheduled but they are not completely unexpected,  since one attends certain events with the desire to meet and greet peers and prospects and talk business.  Finally,  there are scheduled speaking opportunities,  when one presents information to prospective clients.  Three types of speaking opportunities:  how can you stand and successfully deliver?

I.  Let’s start with the easiest,  the business meet and greet.  This is where your elevator speech is delivered.   You must decide which version you will roll out.   Are you being introduced to someone and asked what you do?  Keep your elevator speech conversational and limited to what the business provides,  your role or title and the name of the organization.  If someone asks what you do while in conversation,  give a vague but accurate description of the outcomes or benefits of the service you provide or products you sell.  Formulate a sentence that describes the business function and your role,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  In either scenario,  provide more information only if the person seeks more information.  Make the encounter a dialogue by asking questions of your own,  to establish whether this individual has a need for your products and services,  or is just making conversation.

2.  Twice,  I have been unexpectedly asked to address members of the organization for which I serve as president and twice I did a good job.  How did I do it?  Primarily,  I was fortunate to have a very good set-up introduction and I was smart enough to listen and pick out a phrase on which I could launch a quick little speech.  In the first,  I found a good tag line that I still occasionally use.  In the second,  I was able to find a theme and spin it into a good three-minute talk.  The moral of the story is,  a leader must anticipate public speaking obligations.  Keep your antennae tuned for anecdotes or observations made by organization members or others that can be used to develop an inspirational mini-speech.

3.  I pass along to you my interpretation of a Power Point presentation template developed by Bahar Martonosi of Princeton University.  You may find this template useful when auditioning for a prospective client or delivering a report of findings during a consulting assignment:

Your name and business name   (1 slide)

Project outline: work that the prospect would like performed   (1 slide)

Rationale: why is the project or problem important to the organization    ( 1 – 2 slides)

History: what has been done before   (0- 2 slides)

Method: your firm’s approach to the project or problem   (1 – 3 slides)

Results: this is the body of the talk.  Present the key results and findings. Do not present all results or findings.  (2 – 6 slides)

Summary:   (1 – 2 slides)

Back-up:  prepare slides that answer expected questions   (1 – 3 slides)

Keep things simple and focus on a few key points.

Repeat the key insights.

Know your audience and adjust the presentation as needed.

The post-presentation informal Q & A is very important.

Make eye contact,  be approachable and it’s OK to smile  (but this is business, not social, so know your role).

Make your audience want to learn more.

Thanks for reading,



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