Lead with Persuasion through Presentation Skills

Anil Philip, President & Board Member, Xavier Institute Of Management and Entrepreneurship

Leadership is a universal concept that extends across industries, professions, and daily life. At its heart, leadership is about guiding and influencing others toward a shared goal, regardless of one’s position within an organization. A crucial element in achieving this is effective communication, and as leaders progress in their roles, presentation skills become an indispensable tool in their toolkit.

Presentations are not an innate talent; they are skills that are acquired through learning and practice. For those grappling with glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, it’s important to recognize that anxiety is natural. Engaging in activities to release nervousness and build confidence can make a significant difference. It could be something as basic as tongue twisters that help you be present in the moment. You are never nervous when conversing with your friend – think of presentations as one such conversation with multiple people.

Effective presentations centre not only on what you say but how you say it. Several factors converge to make a good presenter, such as body language, which includes gestures and making use of the full range of voice.

Shedding light on the power of nonverbal cues, researcher Albert Mehrabian introduced the 55-38-7 rule, revealing that communication is a compound of 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words. Mehrabian’s theory may be questionable, but the significance of body language and how the word is spoken in communication cannot be debated.

Actions indeed speak louder than words. Body language, such as maintaining eye contact, establishes rapport with the audience, making the interaction engaging and conversational. Research reveals that gestures significantly impact the success of TED talks, with higher-viewed videos averaging 465 gestures compared to 272 gestures in lesser-viewed ones. So, when you say number 3, use a gesture to reinforce it.

How words are spoken, including speed of speaking, can significantly help with the listening. Average speech speed typically is around 120 words per minute. Higher speed can help create urgency and lower speed can stress on importance. And remember the power of pause – strategic use of pause can create anticipation in the audience.

In addition to personal delivery, visual aids are essential in enhancing a presentation. It is good to be guided by Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 golden rule that emphasizes minimalism, advocating for 10 slides, a 20-minute duration, and a minimum font size of 30. Interestingly, Steve Jobs, known for his iconic Apple presentations, once used a font size of 182, displaying just one word and a complimenting image on a slide - a powerful reminder that simplicity can speak volumes. 

Good presenters are also good storytellers, knowing that a well-told story has the power to persuade and captivate. Storytelling, an effective mode of communication since ancient times, has shaped cultures, nations, and religions. Effective leadership communication does not require the stature of historical figures like Nelson Mandela or media moguls like Oprah Winfrey; instead, it is about understanding and connecting with your audience through a simple story.

To be successful at workplace you need to influence & persuade which may call for frequent presentations. Acknowledging this XIME invests in building these skills in its students by offering a credit course that includes practical training, group discussions, and real-world simulations. 

In the words of James Humes, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” In these words, we find a timeless reminder that effective leadership is intricately tied to the ability to communicate with clarity, influence, and purpose.

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