Article Contributed by Kevin Ryan, an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International.


When you want more performance from your car, you put in a fuel additive, when you need a boost to get through the day, you take an energy drink; but is there a high-performance additive you can apply when your career needs a lift?  There is – they are called business presentation skills – and they work at every stage of your career.  Here’s the proof that gaining skills in this area can mean the difference between success and failure.


At the Start


Any effective business presentation skills training will cover the question and answer session (Q&A) because it is often the most important part.  When presenting – whether it is to colleagues, staff, management, clients or other stakeholders – a successful outcome will depend more on your responses to their questions than your prepared speech.  You create instant credibility when you spontaneously provide a confident, well-structured answer that shows your deeper knowledge and understanding of a topic.  And, with training and practice, anyone can do this!


Generally, you career starts with an interview – which is nothing more than a Q&A session to a very small audience.  The questions are predictable because they are based on the key selection criteria.  Applying the principle of prepared spontaneity means you can prepare for the interview and show the ‘best you’ with great answers.  In contrast, your competitors will mumble their way through rambling, waffling responses, only thinking of the right thing to say in the MRT on the way home.

These skills don’t just affect your chances of winning the job; they also impact your remuneration.  Recent research in Australia showed that graduates with good presentation skills attracted 16% higher income on their first position.


Grabbing the Opportunities


When opportunities arise, they are most likely to be offered to those who are visible, willing and capable.  Grabbing every chance to present in your business – whether internally or externally – keeps you front-of-mind for management. And making the effort to prepare your presentation shows you are willing and capable.

The leadership team at a top accountancy firm were asked by a leading seminar company to conduct their monthly webinar.  These events are highly-regarded in the financial services industry so opportunities like this are prized.  The team consisted of a partner and senior executive – both vastly experienced – and a much younger executive who had joined the firm less than a year ago.  Leading up to the webinar the two older members often mocked the younger executive who was spending every spare moment preparing material.  “You don’t need to do that,” they said. “We’re just going to wing it.”


The webinar was massively successful, achieving the highest number of registrants ever and, remarkably, a 0% drop-out rate.  The seminar company approached the young executive for a meeting to plan a future webinar.  When she suggested bringing the senior executive and partner, they responded with, “Don’t bother, we just want you.”


At the Highest Level

Increasingly, in the search for a CEO, the recruitment company or HR department narrow the candidates down to a short list.  They are then asked to do a formal presentation to the Board or leadership team (with Q&A of course!). 

Those in senior management who find themselves playing leadership roles will often recognise that their effectiveness is compromised by their lack of ability to confidently persuade and inspire their staff through turbulent changing times.  So, even at this level, presentation skills are crucial.


Improving their presentation skills is on many business people’s ‘To Do’ list.  Unfortunately, it is often way down the list in the ‘Must Get Around to Sometime’ category   Then, when opportunities to shine present themselves, their performance is lacklustre.  If they prioritised these skills up their list their career would receive the performance additive it needs. 


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