Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Huntsman MBAA and Engineering Students Welcome “PowerSpeaker” Rick Gilbert

By Mike Tolman

One thing that engineers and business students have in common is the need for strong presentation and speaking skills. Whether you are pitching a business plan for a new start up or looking for funding for a new research project, engineers and managers must be able to speak up, to tell their story, and to get people to buy-in to their ideas. Rick Gilbert is the founder of PowerSpeaking, a company that that says it can help a person advance “up the corporate ladder by becoming a composed and influential spokesperson.” He is now on a national book tour promoting his new book, “Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations.”

Mike Tolman shares speaking tips that Rick Gilbert offered.
Gilbert spoke at USU recently about the importance of knowing how to make effective presentations to engineers and business people. “A presentation cannot make a career, but a presentation can undo a career,” he said.He went on to say that we need to be able to cut through the “fog” in a meeting and bring our objective into focus. “Executives,” he said, “are extremely bright, demanding, analytical, and are as smart as a whip.” 

In other words, executives will see through any holes in your presentation in a matter of minutes, or less. Understanding this fact and being aware of the primary motives for executives, such as their need to increase profitability and decrease costs, can help a presenter to cut to the bottom line, save the executive’s time, and get a proposal approved, he said. Gilbert suggested giving executives the conclusion of the proposal first.

 “They may tune you out and miss all of the details, but you never want them to miss the conclusion,” Gilbert said.

Mr. Gilbert went on to suggest that people need to be aware of how they deliver their message, not just the presenting the content they have prepared. He said that presenters must pay attention to facial expressions, eye directions, pauses for impact, one’s tone of voice, movement, and especially one’s body language and gestures. He noted that “high-power poses affect your hormones. Reducing cortisol levels by 25%,” the chemical that is triggered by stress. Additionally, Gilbert mentioned that “death by PowerPoint” is a real and significant threat to presentations. He talked about how important it was to not read information off of slides, but rather to use graphics, to tell stories, and to respect your audience’s scarce resource of time.

Mr. Gilbert’s last bit of advice was to “let loose.” When managing a room of executives, it is important to recognize that, at any moment, a presentation could be derailed by comments, difficult questions, or interruptions. To manage this situation, Gilbert suggested to think on one’s feet and to present like a jazz musician and not a classical pianist. 

Whether presenting to a board of executives or to a project funding panel, it is essential for students of business or engineering to understand their audience, get straight to the point, and communicate their needs, objectives, rationale, and proposals effectively and efficiently.
Pictured in their "Power Poses" (left to right) Mike Tolman, Holden Brown, Tucker Smith, Rick Gilbert, Kirsten Sims, Richard W. Anderson, Brekke Van Slyke, Romney Olsen, and Skot Neilson.

 “The best slide is no slide,” Gilbert said, “the best presentation is no presentation. What executives want is dialogue.”

1 comment:

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