Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Presentation Skills. . . Being a Chameleon

To be a success at presentations, you have to be a chameleon of sorts. A chameleon is distinctive, highly-specialized, and adaptive to the environment. While some of my skill with successful presentations is intuitive, much of it has evolved from my background.

From the get-go, I wanted to be a journalist. I studied it, lived and breathed it. I began at a small news station outside of Oregon as an anchor until I moved on to WFLD Fox Chicago's morning show and gained experience in field and in-house production. But the urge to return to my roots got the better of me, and I moved back to Los Angeles to work in a production capacity at KTTV Fox LA. In addition to that, I gained a lot of experience working on the Cable ACE Awards as well as with Nickelodeon and finally with a main title and end crawl production company for feature films.

Then, something else started to pull on me. I love hard work, but I craved a well-balanced life. To get to the level I desired in my journalism career, I'd have to be married to the 19-hour days it required. So, I started to reflect on what I truly wanted.

As luck would have it, I decided to go to work for a small, boutique event company in Santa Monica, thinking it would give me time to figure out what I really wanted to do. But, I quickly realized it was corporate production, and I knew how to do it! Next, the owner asked me if I could sell. Now, here's the interesting part. As a kid, I could sell anything - whether it was jewelry, candy. . . anything. I hadn't chosen this path before, because I though it was too easy! Live and learn! I loved to sell and jumped on it and brought in millions annually.

Again, luck or fate intervened. Industry professionals told me about Extraordinary Events and encouraged me to talk to Andrea Michaels. We met eight years ago, and I've never looked back! It's clear to me now that my backgrounds in journalism and live production were simply my post-graduate work in preparation for special events. Journalism required me to be very detailed, accurate and personable. If you need to extract information from someone, it's a must that you hone in on the important points. Live production requires putting in the time to get the job done right, often involving do-or-die situations and, yes, some but not all 18-hour days. Does that sound familiar? Journalism, live production and live events all have the same objectives. All my targeted markets have the same needs. It's just how we get there that makes them different.

What does all of this have to do with making successful presentations? If you have a dream, persevere. Keep going until you get it. That's what I did. Definitely not the easy road but a highly educational and exciting one.

Tips on How to Make a Fabulous Presentation

At this point, you're saying, "Give me some concrete tips, Jenna. How do I make a fabulous presentation?" Here's what I do.
  1. Imagine a presentation like a first date. Take your time getting ready. Look and feel confident.
  2. Be EARLY and take some time to set the room exactly how  you want it. Adjust the lights, move the chairs around. Create the experience you want the people in the presentation to have.
  3. Do your homework and know your audience. Not only the company but its corporate environment and mission.
  4. Make sure you do a lot of listening to the client prior to presenting the proposal. It's critical that you give them what they want, not what you want.
  5. Be professional, compassionate, and realize that you must communicate differently to a variety of companies. For instance, I would communicate differently to an automobile company as opposed to a pharmaceutical company. It's imperative that before you present that you gauge what you need to do. This is where being a chameleon really rings true.
  6. When I am presenting, I play with the levels of my voice. Sometimes I use a strong and commanding tone. At other times, I modulate it to be much softer. . . then, I go to almost a whisper. Initially, I stand in front of the group and then make my way closer to the individuals, making close eye contact. I walk all the way around the group, stopping next to some of the key people or decision makers and often saying something directly to that person, as appropriate, while making eye contact. I take my time and punctuate my presentation with pauses and yes some laughter, but again you must be able to recognize when it is the right time. Timing is everything. So play with your voice to accentuate important points.
  7.  Make no mistake, I get nervous every time. However, when you look and feel confident, have done your homework and have intertwined it into your presentation and believe in what you are presenting, you have done all you can to win. No regrets.
  8. In a presentation, the last thing you want to do is talk about your company. Talk about them. The presentation is about them, not you. Even if they want you to come in and talk about your company. . . provide case studies that illustrate how your company can solve problems, their problems.
  9. If they want to know more about us at the end of our presentation, I show them beauty shots of events we've done. In addition, I always have two great stories prepared to share at the end of my presentation that illustrates a problem, solution and a takeaway.
  10. Most  presentations fail because the presenter doesn't understand or communicate effectively what the client truly wants. This is a very creative, complex process but a fulfilling one. 
Jenna Linnekens is the Director of Business Development for Extraordinary Events. Her primary responsibility is to bring revenue to the company. She provides support for business development to her colleagues by helping them develop business from an internal database as well as attracting new clients. A strategic thinker and businesswoman, Jenna has vied for and won numerous multi-year contracts producing millions in business for Extraordinary Events. To contact Jenna Linnekens, email her at

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