Starting & Ending Assertively: Overview
Whenever you present you put yourself in a position of leadership, ideally as a confident and positive leader. It’s your job to guide your audience through your presentation in a gentle, assertive way so that people can follow your story and, hopefully, agree with it. In fact, the only difference between a presentation and a normal conversation is that you’re in control of the conversation throughout. Hence the need for leadership and the importance of getting control immediately and finishing on a memorable high note. Starting & ending assertively is an essential presentation skill.
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Starting Your Presentation Assertively
It’s a truism but first impressions really do matter and no more so when applied to the presentation medium. If you lose that essential control within the first minute then you’ll be on the back foot right immediately and the chances are you’ll never win it back. Your presentation will never fulfil its potential.
Here’s a checklist of essential elements that should do the job for you. I’m not proposing that you follow a script, (heaven’s no), but I am suggesting that if you do get the first minute or so of your presentation absolutely right then three good things happen.
1) You establish leadership of the room
2) You set your audience at ease as they now know what they’re in for
3) Any nerves you may have will start to fade away as you get into the rhythm of your funky thang
Here are my suggestions on how to crack starting assertively.
- Be super polite by reminding people who you are, what you do etc. and then thank people for attending:
“Morning everyone, I’m Fred Brown and I’m the MD of Acme Software. Thanks for sparing me your time today, I do appreciate it.”
- Let people know what your presentation is about and why it’s a benefit to the audience. This is your attention grabbing headline statement and it should be short and punchy. Now your audience knows what your presentation is all about, (in my experience half the people attending presentation only have a hazy idea of your topic and some don’t have a clue):
“The purpose of this meeting is to see how we can significantly improve the performance of your Acme accounts applications, saving you time and money.”
- Manage the protocol of the meeting so your audience knows what is expected of them. This usually breaks down into three elements, timings, questions and notes so it’s a good idea to tell your audience:
a) How long the presentation is likely to last, (generally the shorter the better)
b) How your propose to manage questions, (with smaller audiences I recommend you encourage questions at any time if you want a lively, inclusive session)
c) Does the audience need to take notes or have you thoughtfully prepared some leave- behind material for everyone?
“The presentation itself wont take more than 15 minutes and please ask me questions at any time, I’ll do my best to answer them properly. I’ve prepared a document that goes into everything we’re going to cover in far greater detail than we’ve got time for now so I’ll let you have it when we finish. Is everyone happy with that?”
- Finally just guide your audience through your agenda, making sure that you don’t over-present it.
“Here’s today’s agenda and it should deal with everything we need to discuss this morning.”
- Alternatively you can use your agenda as a double whammy by describing the agenda and the protocol in one hit.
“I’ve put together a short agenda which should only take about 15 minutes to run through and covers off everything we need to discuss this morning. Please ask me questions whenever you like and there’s no need to take notes as I have a detailed document to leave you with.”
Ending Your Presentation Assertively
Ending your presentation assertively is harder than starting. Why? Because when you start nothing much has happened. However, when you finish you need to summarise all the action points that have arisen during the presentation and if you’ve done a good job then the chances are that there are quite a number that will need to be mentioned.
Here’s my guide to ending your presentation.
- Remind your audience of the essential points that you want everyone to remember. I call these ‘taxi points’. Try to imagine that your audience leap into a taxi and speed away. What do you want them to discuss about your presentation? These are your taxi points and there shouldn’t be too many of them, (three is optimum), they should all contain powerful benefits and they should all link back to your opening headline statement.
“I’d like to summarise by just reminding you that the installation of the Acme upgrade will result in a 50% improvement in speed of response, a cost saving of 10% in year one, rising to 15%+ in year two and that the whole thing can be up and running within a fortnight of now.”
- Next, ask for any further questions and answer them. Then, and I’m assuming that your audience numbers don’t exceed twenty people, ask them for their reactions to the presentation they’ve just seen. This is super-sized mega important because if you don’t ask then you’re wont know where you stand. Ask and the chances are you’ll get valuable feedback that will help you achieve your goals.
“That’s enough from me for the moment but before we pack up do you have any more questions for me? Manage those questions and then say something like, ‘I’d be grateful for your initial thoughts based on the ideas we’ve just discussed.”
- Now’s time to talk about next steps, the steps that need to be taken to get the outcome you want. This is likely to involve a mix of audience members and yourself having to do stuff.
“So, let me give you a call, Peter, tomorrow to see if you can locate that research you mentioned, and Julia, you kindly volunteered to chase Kevin when he gets back from his holidays. As discussed, I’ll get back to you with revised costings and you’ll all have that by the weekend.”
- The final stage is critical. You have a choice. Most people say something like, “well, that concludes today’s presentation and thanks again for your time and interest” and there’s nothing wrong with that although it is a touch bland. Alternatively, if you think that what you’ve just presented is of genuine value to your audience then now’s the time to say so. Get passionate, show a real pride in your subject and demonstrate that you are completely committed to your ideas and your audience.
“Thank you so much for your time and your input. I’d just like to say that I am immensely proud of the ideas we’ve just examined as I think they will work very hard for you. You have my word that I will do everything in my power to make them happen. I commend them to you.”
A powerful upbeat ending like this gives you gravitas, presence and differentiates you from the usual ‘”that concludes today’s presentation” style. It will also seriously improve your chances of getting what you want. Then it’s just a matter of doling out any documents you have, more sincere thanks and then following up on all of those action points. Follow ups should be done quickly to maintain momentum.
Start assertively to gain that controlling leadership and end on that passionate call to action. First and last impressions are essential to a successful presentation and I’m confident that these suggestions will work for you.
If you want a second opinion then please feel free to contact me via Presentation Doctor.
That’s all I need to say about on starting & ending your presentation assertively but you if have any comments or additional ideas then please let me know.