Magna Powertrain Presents their Approach to Presentations

By, David J Roman


In a heroic effort to share the importance of flexibility during presentations, Joe Shanbaum from Magna Powertrain tried again to get his PowerPoint slide deck’s embedded video to play. A strange audio feedback interference had disrupted his hitherto-flawless run through his content, and he did his best to improvise while sticking to his guns on that video. He had just finished introducing himself, Magna Powertrain, and a large collection of concise thoughts on personal effectiveness called Little Big Things by Tom Peters.

Joe proceeded to stress the valuable of this simple question: “What do you think?” He explained how most people are what he described as “18-second listeners”, those who cannot actively listen for more than 18 seconds. Mr. Shanbaum shared how strategic listening is critical to delivering the message you wish to communicate, because it helps the speaker understand their audience and develop a bond of trust.

Several quick tips Joe listed were for the speaker to ensure they:

  •   Understand to whom they are presenting
  •  Select carefully what medium the presentation will use
  • Determine the appropriate meeting length to effect the desired outcome
  • Anticipate questions which may be asked by those in attendance

When asked by a participating student how questions might be brainstormed, Joe shared that he usually asks for others at all levels the organization to help him think of them. He said that the “Who? What? When? Where? How?” questions were a good framework when preparing comprehensive responsive. He proceeded to underscore the importance of sending an agenda with ample lead time so initial questions and participant preparation is practical.

By this time it was clear that the Magna Powertrain session on executive presentations (it was listed on the PD Week schedule as An Inside Look at Executive Presentations), was more accurately entitled An Inside Look at Magna Powertrain’s Corporate Presentations. Not only did Joe deflect questions more specifically target at presenting to the C-suite, but he also made clear that he (and perhaps Magna Powertrain in general) conducts presentations much in the same way regardless of the audience’s band level. He further speculated that his recommendations would hold true across any company or industry.

In a general note on efficiency, Joe upheld the value of content reuse. Whether the corporate standard deck format or even prior presentations on similar topics, he encouraged people to find a fitting proportion between time spent crafting a slide deck and that time’s marginal value to the communication from the company’s perspective. Using a metaphor of the “shelf”, he described how potentially useful content from prior presentations can be stored away for future use, and -should the opportunity arise- the presenter might save time by selecting and refreshing the content for the new purpose.

Courtesy: David J Roman
Courtesy: David J Roman

A strong word of caution Joe shared related to the use of animation, graphics, and embedded sub-presentations. He encouraged us to ensure we consider the potential reactions to the saturation of such elements in slides, while equally acknowledging their effectiveness when used properly. Too elaborate and the audience may be distracted, perhaps raising the question of whether such extents were a good use of the company’s resources. By contrast, a word-heavy slide simply numbs the audience’s minds, so speaking simply through appropriate illustration is an art worth developing.

Joe compared the virtues of effective presentations to various baseball terms. His “home run” concept was that good presenters are known to be confident, concise, and flexible. Returning to his admonishment for timely agendas, Joe introduced the concept “Predictive Index” mastery, referring to a grasp on each audience member’s personality to know what type of decision maker they are and what will motivate them toward the desired outcome.

Following on the heels of a successful presentation session, Joe reminded, comes the critical closure to that meeting transaction: the outcomes recap note (often referred to as meeting minutes). Mr. Shanbaum described how presenters have significant control over the audience if they do not forfeit that control by failing to take the lead toward desired outcomes or being confident where that destination is.

Bottom Line: CARE!

That’s right, if you care genuinely about the topic, people, and progress at stake, you will thrive in your presentation and the rest will follow. Joe Shanbaum closed his session on presentations with a word of advice around company culture. Dressing toward the message you wish to convey, using non-verbals to their full power, and navigating the risks of virtual meeting environments are all vital aspects to consider, and were the topics of participating student inquiries at the end of this PD Week session.