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ATD Blog

5 Steps to Earning a 5-Star Review for Your Executive Presenter

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

How can you ensure that your audience will get the very best from your executive speakers and that they’ll give off-the-chart ratings and reviews?

Perhaps you’re familiar with this common scenario. Your executive is confirmed as a speaker for your hybrid global sales kickoff (SKO) or has been selected as a keynote speaker at a top industry conference. They’re enthusiastic about the event, and their intentions are good; in fact, together you set a high bar for the objectives of the session along with a detailed project plan. However, as the event gets closer, they get pressed for time.

Here’s the risky part: They may assume they can cut prep meetings and still be ready because they’ve presented so many times before.

They’re wrong.

Your executive is on the path to being dangerously underprepared. Without a focused effort on delivering an outstanding presentation, the audience is bound to notice, and the session risks falling flat.

Even the most sought-after presenters on the international circuit know that thorough preparation and practice are essential to a successful event. Focus on these five areas to help your executive deliver a stellar session:

1. Know your audience. Knowing your audience can be a complex analysis. It comes down to speaking to your audience’s “care abouts.” What problems are they trying to solve? What value do you want them to leave with?


In a large conference, it’s likely that there will be multiple persona groups. While you should focus the message on the needs of the top two or three, look for ways to engage every persona group.

2. Tell a story they’ll remember. A well-crafted story gives power to ideas. When told with authenticity and enthusiasm, it connects the audience on an emotional level. It can make the idea more memorable, encouraging people to share it.

Push your speaker to tell a story that grabs the audience’s attention. Then, by weaving that story throughout the session, they’ll paint a picture of a future that the audience can see themselves in.

3. Grab their attention visually. If your speaker uses slides (most do), professionally designed slides are expected. But remember: The slides are for the audience, not for the speaker.


The imagery on the slide, combined with the speaker’s phrasing, word choice, and physical movement should evoke the desired emotion. They are a matched set that draws the audience in.

4. Make the most of your time. At Mandel, we know how important the first two minutes of any meeting or presentation are. Nail the first two minutes, and the audience is yours. Engineer an opening that speaks directly to the audience’s “care abouts.” Set the tone that this is a can’t-miss session.

This engaging opening should be reinforced throughout the session. One technique is to invite the audience to complete an action at different periods in the talk, even something as simple as taking a picture of a particular slide. Or ask them to participate in a show of hands (or an online poll where the results display dynamically). A well-constructed experience keeps the audience focused.

5. Ace the Q&A. Many talks, both in person and virtual, have a built-in Q&A period. Your speaker will need to maintain their composure, energy, and authority as they transition from one-way communication to a more open, two-way format.

Practice for a wide range of questions, from tough questions that challenge the premise of the talk to softball questions that seem so easy they may catch the speaker unprepared. Consider ways to weave in key messages that weren’t within the scope of the presentation.

Whether you are leading the speaker prep or you hire an outside executive speaker coach, this focused approach to preparation can set up your leader’s high-stakes presentations for success. Follow these tips to make sure your executive is ready to shine, from the opening to the Q&A.

About the Author

As vice president of marketing, Heather Muir directs Mandel’s marketing, branding, and communications strategies in collaboration with the Executive Team. In addition, Heather leads Mandel’s public- and industry-relations activities. Prior to joining Mandel in 2010, Heather held several marketing and communications roles within the learning and training industry. Heather holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Davis, and has completed graduate courses in business and entrepreneurship at the University of Washington.

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