Ah, presenting. It can be a real ball ache.
When it comes up we often lack confidence in our ability to deliver it faultlessly (1), to make it interesting (2) and to get our message across (3).
What doesn’t help is that we’ve watched lots of our colleagues screw it up. We’ve been battered and bored by stats, slides crammed full of words, static monotone presenters who didn’t prepare themselves properly and take a moment to review and remind themselves of the basics before wasting our time.
That’s the bottom line with presentations – time. You are taking up other people’s time, so it’s vital to make the most of it. To be efficient (1), clear (2), and then let people get on with their day (3).
This post contains the only solid and practical tips that you will ever need in order to build your confidence and take you from ‘I’m not sure what to do’ to ‘yeehah – I nailed it, when is the next one!’.
It’s easier than you think and as with anything in life, you improve with practise (1), but you have to start somewhere (2), and a good place is at the beginning, with the fundamentals (3). Here they are.
3 is the magic number
Wondered what’s going on with the (1), (2), (3) that keep appearing in this post?
Politicians use this technique all the time. Although most of them are tits, there is a sensible reason for this.
It’s explained really well by public speaker Lisa B. Marshall here, but in summary information is easier to digest (1), more interesting (2) and more memorable (3) when using patterns of threes. See?!
If you’ve got a significant point to get across in your presentation that you want to have an impact on the audience you can; mention it at three different points (1); use three words to describe it (2); present it in 3 different ways (3) i.e. talk about it, show a slide about it, provide a hand-out on it.
This is incredibly easy to implement and you’d be crazy not to use it.
There are several more patterns of 3 in this post. See if you can spot them as you read on.
Structure is critical
Give your presentation a clear beginning, middle and end and you are on to a winner.
Here’s an analogy – Your kids are sitting quietly and content watching the TV, but you want to take them away from that to go on a short journey so you can show them something you think it’s important for them to see.
Their first question is going to be ‘Why?’ and if you tut and say ‘Oh just get up and come with me’ you going to get resistance.
You have to give them context. You have to tell them what’s in it for them. You may even need to bribe them a little. Once they understand where you want to take them and the benefit of it (or what they are going to get in return) they’ll be happy(ish) to come along.
You can then briefly explain the journey you are going to take (a secret short cut, or the longer but beautifully scenic route).
They will probably ask ‘Why?’ so be ready to explain your choice.
You then need to put on the right number of layers for the journey. Not enough and they will get cold and snappy en-route, too many and they may fall asleep before you reach the destination.
You point things out along the way.
They will be interested in bright colours, really big stuff, fast moving objects, unusual things, new information. But if you point out that the grass is green and the tree at the end of the road is still there. They will be thinking ‘Why?’.
If you stop before you get to the agreed destination they will ask ‘Why?’.
If you reach the destination but keep going past it, they will ask ‘Why?’ (Yeah – kids are pretty one dimensional at times.)
If you stop in the correct place you can say ‘we’re here!’ and recap on what they can now see / do / or what they now know given that you’ve arrived and your journey has come to an end. It will be smiles and excited faces all round.
Apply this to your presentation. Throughout your preparation be clear on why you are taking them on the journey, why you are taking a certain route to get from a – b, and why you are pointing out specific things along the way.
Attention spans are short
People get bored really frickin easily so you need to employ a variety of tactics to hold their attention.
Move around. Get them to look at the wall behind them, out of the window, at the whiteboard, at the hand outs. Talk quickly, slowly, whisper, and shout. You’re voice alone, when used in the right way, gives you the ability to add colour, clarity and conviction to your content.
If you as the presenter are getting bored, Christ, imagine what the audience are thinking…
The audience is on your side.
Most of them have been in your shoes at some point. They know presenting is a pain in the ass, so they want you to win. They will gladly be your cheerleaders. They are urging you to do well, to succeed.
So what are you waiting for?
Give them what they want.
You may be thinking – ‘is that it?’, and yes, that’s it.
Like your next solid, convincing and confident presentation will be, it’s short, fluff free, with clearly identified key points (presented in different ways), for you to take away and remember more easily.
Let me know how you get on putting this into practice, but don’t worry – you’re gonna nail it.
The next and final post in the series takes this topic to an entire new level as I share the 7 ultimate tips for delivering an unforgettable, unbelievable, killer presentation. Prepare yourself.