Like it or not, presentation skills are a critical part of our role

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Seven months ago my husband had a pretty decent motorbike accident. What could be decent about a motorbike accident you may well ask? Well, he didn’t lose his life, nor did he sustain brain or spinal damage. On the other hand, all the medical staff who’ve looked at the x-rays over the past seven months have gasped in admiration at the degree and intensity of the tibia and fibula breaks. I think it would be fair to say that this is not an area of life in which we’d ever hoped for recognition, but hey, we’ll take our infamy where we can!

The prognoses from our orthopaedic surgeon have continually shifted over this period with a clear trend towards pushing out the ETW (‘estimated time ‘til walking’), until we finally decided after 5 months, that perhaps it was time for a second opinion. Now here’s the interesting thing. The second surgeon gave us virtually no new information, nothing that contradicted what the first surgeon had suggested, did not undermine his opinions or ever-extending predictions of recovery in any way, but we will probably switch over to him as our future consulting surgeon anyway. Why? Because his communication is clearer, warmer and more genuine. In short, because he’s more user-friendly he is now the winner of our business, albeit he probably doesn’t need or want it!

From friends who’ve been through medical school, my understanding is that very little time is devoted to the issue of ‘bedside manner’ or communication which probably comes as no surprise to any of us and is also as it should be to some reasonable degree. Frankly, I’d rather go to a doctor who knows what they’re doing with my body and doesn’t communicate brilliantly than someone who talks a good game but doesn’t have the basic competence required. Having said that, in a perfect world probably most of us would love both – competence AND approachability; capability AND clarity.

And if we extrapolate that out, the reality is that these same preferences and challenges face most of us, whether we feel that that’s what we signed up for when we chose our career path or not. The bottom line is this:

a)      We are communicating and presenting our ideas, recommendations, suggestions and solutions all day every day. When I ask a group how much of their life is spent in communication with others, including writing and reading emails and documents (sending and receiving communication), speaking to others in 1-on-1 casual ‘water-cooler’ conversations as well as organised small meetings and larger presentations, the answer is typically in the vicinity of 50-80%. That figure varies according to the industry and organisation, but I’m surprised at how little considering I’ve asked roughly 11,500 people over the past 23 years the same question.

b)      A large part of our success is contingent on our effectiveness in doing so in a way that is both credible AND genuine. Our colleagues, direct reports, managers, customers and suppliers, like us, all prefer to deal with someone who has the capacity to do the job as well as the ability to communicate their ideas in a way that is palatable and persuasive.

Studies into the necessity for Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for which communication is clearly core, show overwhelming evidence for the fact that the higher a person's EQ, the more likely they are to perform well. TalentSmart states, “Of all the people we've studied at work, we've found that 90 percent of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence…. just 20 percent of bottom performers are high in EI”. Focusing on communications in particular, the Carnegie Institute of Technology found that "85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge."

Anecdotally, many of our leaders agree. Here are just a couple of quotes out of literally hundreds we could choose from:

  • “Communication makes the world go ‘round. It facilitates human connections and allows us to learn, grow and progress. It’s not just about speaking or reading, but understanding what is being said – and in some cases, what is not being said. Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.” Richard Branson, business magnate, investor and philanthropist
  • “Without good communication skills, you won’t be able to convince people to follow you even though you see over the mountain and they don’t.” Warren Buffett, business magnate, investor and philanthropist

c)       Finally, I think it would be fair to say that very few degrees or certificates include much in the way of training or support for this pretty critical part of our careers. This is tough to find specific data on, so again I need to rely on my informal surveys. Certainly, here the variance is wider than the ‘amount of time spent communicating in my role’ as we talked about in point (a) above, depending whether you’ve studied less overtly communications related degrees such as engineering, medicine or a trade versus a more obviously communications-related career such as law or marketing. Having said that, there is still often a gap between emphasis and effort in training versus real-life, on the job requirements.

For what it’s worth and by way of example, my husband’s business partner, a fellow electrician, just dropped in, interrupting my writing, and he tells me that about 40% of his time is spent communicating with clients and suppliers while at a push you could consider that 10% of his studies were devoted to considering such things and even then, it was indirectly.

You could argue of course that we have a head start in our communication and it needs less focus in our studies because the vast majority of us can talk, listen, read, write and comprehend. On the flipside however, you could equally argue that most of us haven’t learnt these skills from experts and we’re relying on our intuition and habits to get us by. That’s fine as far as it goes, but is it enough to achieve us the success we seek in influencing others and becoming a leader in our chosen field?

In light of the challenge above, I spend my life working with people who recognise that presenting has become a core part of their role as they’ve climbed the corporate ladder or as they head out into their long-dreamed-of personal business, but who feel ill-equipped to do so confidently and effectively. These are good, warm, likable people with great knowledge, skills, expertise and experience but whose ideas aren’t always heard because they aren’t conveyed with the conviction, power and simplicity required to move their ‘audiences’ to action.

This breaks my heart but it’s also a call to action because what it means is that people who are willing and able to speak up are more likely to have their ideas acted upon, regardless of the quality of those ideas, while those with often better solutions, aren’t always listened to. The onus is therefore on each of us, no matter what role or what level in the organisation, to take our presentations and communications seriously and to skill ourselves up, to ensure the very best ideas are spread and implemented in a way that moves the whole organisation, or world, forward.

  • Want to get this learning across to your team?  Why not hire f2f to deliver it?  Contact us to get a quote today.
Post has no comments.
Post a Comment
Captcha Image


RSS Subscribe to RSS feed

Quoting me?
You're welcome to quote up to 100 words from my blog so long as you link back to me, and credit me properly. If' you'd like to quote more, please contact me for permission. You'll almost certainly get it. 
Thanks, Carolyn

Recent Posts



What our clients say...

Business Development Manager

I now feel less nervous about the concept of presenting generally and more in control of the process

Category Manager
General Mills

Carolyn not only presented useful information but demonstrated what she taught

Category Manager

I had a fantastic experience, thank you Carolyn. I'm now more inspired to face challenges.

Customer Service Officer
First State Super

Very productive and empowering experience

Victorian Auditor General's Office

Very interactive and practical, not only for presenting, but also for reporting structures

Victoria Auditor General's Office

Fantastic, approachable, fun and really helpful

Treasury Corporation Victoria

Excellent. Good mixture of theory and practice. One of the best courses I have ever experienced

Finance Operations Manager

Loved It. I have left with tools I can use tomorrow to improve all my meetings and presentations.

Finance Operations Manager

Loved It. I have left with tools I can use tomorrow to improve all my meetings and presentations.

General Manager

“Until I met Carolyn and listened to her audio course, I thought that to be a good presenter, I needed to morph into a different person. Carolyn helped me realise that being true to my unique style and personality is my greatest asset when presenting. She provides really useful tools and techniques that helped me develop my very own formula for presentation success”

General Manager

It is all about outcomes for F2F and this is what I most appreciated as a participant in the Influencing Skills training - they always had my growth as a leader in mind, and I was kept honest through follow up work to ensure my learning was put into practice.

General Manager Business Operations
IAG (Insurance Australia Group)

Carolyn was excellent. Great anecdotes, great pace, very engaging

General Manager Marketing

Fantastic depth of knowledge and ability to demonstrate technology

HR Director
adidas Australia

Each year we ask F2F back to deliver training at adidas because they are organised, know their stuff and get results. The execution is seamless and their exceptional ability as trainers, unquestionable.

International Market Research Firm

Carolyn was helpful, respectful, empathetic and humorous€ a consummate presenter. Thank you

Logistics Manager
Mainfreight Logistics

Interesting, relevant, motivating, enlightening and fast moving

National Business Manager

Very relevant, logical, useful information. Immediately applicable in the workplace.

Operations Manager
IAG Limited

Not only have I personally seen the skills of my team improve, their feedback suggests unanimously that the programs were well organised, professional, challenging and stimulating. They felt in short they had indeed developed their skills.


Excellent! Very knowledgable and experienced and it shows.

Regulatory analyst
Essential Services Commission

Lots of great tips. Lots of references to other resources. A terrific framework for planning presentations. A very worthwhile use of my time

Regulatory Consultant
Essential Services Commission

I can use everything that we covered in the session immediately in all of my work - highly relevant! It will save me heaps of time and help me focus on a clear message that connects with the reader.

Sales analyst

This training provided the structure and knowledge I was looking for. My role often requires me to persuade people. This provided me with the tools to do so.

Sales Development Manager

A wealth of information and very supportive in delivery

Senior Associate

Apart from presentations, these skills will be useful for ordering my thoughts in arguments for meetings and preparing written advice

Senior Associate

Very engaging and practical.  Planning was always hard and time consuming for me.  The skills learnt will definitely solve that.

Telstra Media/Entertainment

Fantastic – feeling very empowered now. Looking forward to my next presentation.

Telstra Relationship Marketing

The best presentation skills I’ve done and in fact among the best training I’ve done.  I used the planning format straight away and it worked.  Fantastic course.