Presentation Skills Case Study

Situation

Even high-potential leaders can struggle to present to large groups or lead interdepartmental meetings. These leaders may have some type of fear that inhibits them from being their best self in these situations, be overly shy, or may fail to tailor their message to their audience. Many people with poor presentation skills are also very disorganized.

Impact if Unresolved

People outside of these leaders’ direct area are likely to only experience them during presentations or in interdepartmental meetings. By faltering in these situations, the credibility and effectiveness of these leaders is likely to suffer, and their perceived value to the organization is likely to fall short of their actual value. Career growth and access to available opportunities will also be significantly slowed as only their direct line of management will understand how much they contribute to the organization. These leaders are likely to eventually feel unfulfilled at work and are likely to end up leaving the organization, where they will encounter similar roadblocks. Turnover costs will range between 90% and 200% of the person’s salary for recruiting, training, and lost productivity costs.

Options For Improvement

There are a variety of ways people can improve their public speaking. Practicing and seeking internal training, external training, and self-help groups are all options that might help these leaders improve some of their technical presentation skills. However, these methods are akin to a doctor treating symptoms. As long as the individual can control the environment, things might be better, but the minute that something does not go according to plan (like being asked a tough question), the core issue will resurface and the struggle continues. There are many tools that the person could use for incremental improvement, such as:

  • Presentation checklists
  • Rehearsals with a non-involved third party
  • Visualization exercises for conquering stage fright
  • Advanced preparation of answers to likely questions

Coaching

A coach can dig deeper to help these leaders find new self-awareness about their fear and coping mechanisms that allow for real-time adjustments. Shadow coaching will also help these real-time adjustments. A coach will also focus on processes of reflection, self-diagnosis, and course correction for any future self-improvement. Leveraging 360° feedback, a coach will help you see how past messages might have missed their audience and how to prepare for different audiences in the future. Recording rehearsals and critiquing with the coach can get a lot of the nervousness out of the way before the actual event. The coach can help you use a visual symbol to help when you’re feeling like you’re losing control of the meeting.

Coaching Anecdote

Our firm worked with a newly promoted head of marketing at a midsize company. She is highly regarded by her direct manager and peers. She is driven, smart, and caring. Despite this, she felt friction every time she met with the CEO or an international business unit. During the engagement, we used a personality assessment, 360° feedback, and reflection to thoroughly understand her mindset and these situations. We mapped her emotional reaction from walking into the room until walking out the door to see what changed in her effectiveness and when.

In certain situations, she was great at presenting or running meetings. However, we learned that as the youngest member of management, she felt as though she did not have enough experience to be credible when presenting to the CEO or to the International team. To combat that, she was “building” her case in every presentation or meeting that put on display the research and logic that she used to make all her decisions. She was scripting her presentations and trying to plan for every possible question that she might face, and that was proving to be an impossible task.

The international business unit was trying to create a new market for the company, and they were focused on ideating to make that happen. Her preparation and logic were causing her to be close-minded to their ideas. She was immediately expressing why their ideas were not feasible, so they weren’t making any progress.

After garnering some self-awareness through coaching, she worked on overcoming her own insecurities. We created ways that she could feel authentic but also meet the other party on their terms. She started creating 10-minute Executive Summaries for the CEO and then open the meeting for him to ask questions. She still did all of her research and prepared her logic, she just moved it to the appendix and referenced that information when answering the CEO’s questions. With the international business unit, she spent some time embracing the ideas and attempting to help them figure out how to do as much as possible within the confines of what she knew was feasible based on her preparation. She was prepared but speaking to the other parties in a communication style more centered on their personalities.

The individual made technical improvements in her approach by arranging things in a way that worked for her audience. But the lasting impression from the coaching engagement for her was realizing that as a new member of management, she was trying to overcompensate in every interaction with senior leaders. She is now able to move forward and reflect when situations do not go as planned. She is able to adjust to any situation. This will have a lasting impression on her career.