Have you ever been to a meeting and felt like running away from the room 2 minutes after the presentation had started because it was so boring? Or worse, is that time of the year again and it’s you who has to create a presentation! Now you are the one who has to make sure to get your message across in a compelling and engaging way! How do you make sure your presentation is not deadly boring and you are not putting your audience to sleep? The fact that we get so bored in a meeting room doesn’t have to do with how interesting or appealing is the subject matter, but it has more to do with the way in which the subject is presented to the audience. Of course, presenting the budget for the new fiscal year of your department and keep the meeting interesting and appealing might be a little bit more challenging than presenting the new Marvel super hero at the comic exhibition. But in this case, the target audience won’t be the same, so our approach when creating the presentation should not be the same either. 😉
So, why do we want to learn to deliver a great presentation? Let’s analyze the presentation scenario. Why people attend to a presentation? Well, to learn about a topic as it is explained by another person. And why you create a presentation for? You have something to say to a group of people and you want them to react in some way to your message, right? You want to engage them beyond your presentation to act, to do something with the information you’re giving them. Maybe you’re delivering a training course, a post project analysis for a client, an internal kick off meeting, presenting a new strategy to the company. You want them to UNDERSTAND what you are saying. You want them to be interested in what you’re saying. You want to persuade them on acting on YOUR ideas. For that reason, our presentation (as a whole, I don’t mean just the power point you prepared in a mighty rush) must be focused, clear and engaging…So how do we do it? Here are a few pointers that can help you get there:
You must first define the objective of your presentation.
What do you want to achieve with your presentation? What do you want the audience to do with it? How do you want them to react? Once you have a clear objective you will be able to think better about what to say and how to say it.
Then you need to understand the audience
You want to create a connection between your presentation and your audience and in order to do so you need to understand them better. Who are they? What is their relationship with the subject you are presenting? How much do they know about it? This is the only way in which you can tailor your presentation to suit your audience needs.
Off course, you must then decide what to say
We may know what we want to accomplish but we may have problems to putting it down into words or ideas. But to make it easier, you can break down the task in three parts: define your key message (this message should derive from your objective), identify the arguments that support your message and identify at which point you need the audience participation, agreement or buy-in.
And better get organized!
A well-organized presentation will make the listening job of the audience easier, making it, at the same time, easier for you to accomplish your objective. Try to tell the audience a good story! You can cut it down to four parts: opening, need, solution, action steps. Don’t forget to engage the audience by making them participate, add humor, and vary your tone, speed and body language…
When creating your visuals, remember that PowerPoint is just a support tool
…Same as any other presentation software or poster for that matter. Don’t let your aid become the protagonist of your presentation. Don’t put all the information you want to say in a few (or a lot!) of bullet points in a slide. Arguably, the most annoying characteristic of most power point presentations are the bullet points! We’ve seen them invading thousands of presentations, making them monotonous, wordy and predictable. Off course, bullet points are easy to write and they make creating slides a breeze! Boom! I’ve got it ready in two hours for tomorrow’s meeting! But bullet points don’t always make it easy for our audience to understand our point. More often than not, they dumb down our discourse and we can easily commit the sin of reading them down and talk to the screen or to a sheet of paper rather than to the audience. Your slides are just a visual aid that complements your message but it is not the message itself. Putting too much on your slides will force the audience to focus on them and will take their attention away from you and your message. Use them wisely.
Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse!!!
Learn your lines, practice them. Practice your movements and your timing. Remember that presentations are somewhat theatrical and that while you are presenting you are on the spotlight.
It’s show time! So, focus on speaking effectively
Don’t talk from your script. Face the audience. Speak casually and don’t use jargon. Self-confidence is ok, but don’t overact it, be natural. The audience expects a presenter and not TV host on crack. Breathe between pauses and avoid fillers like um, uh, I mean, and you know… Most people are not even aware that they use these words, but they are really distracting and should be avoided at all times.
And finally, and most importantly, keep your audience engaged!
Create a dialog with them; ask questions, make polls (how many of you think this is a good idea? Please raise your hand). Make them feel like they are participating on the presentation. Add humor…this resource is particularly effective with large audiences and sometimes not necessary with small audiences. Adjust as needed. Remember that stage fright is a regular companion of most public speakers. It may be controlled by solid preparation, knowledge of the audience and practice. If you make use of all the resources at hand, commit to deliver and practice a lot, your presentations are bound to succeed. Now go get them tiger!
Cartoon credit: “Death by presentation” by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig