Every once in a while, we are entrusted with the task of presentation. It may be to demo a new product, to present a plan or to explain a new process that you’ve helped create. Whatever the reason and however many presentations you’ve given before, it’s something that not everyone is comfortable doing.
Here are some of the presentation techniques that I’ve learnt in my experience to help you conduct an effective presentation.
Setting the stage
Always start with an intro. Take half a minute to introduce yourself to all the attendees. If the demo is between 2 teams, your team has to be introduced as well, in which case it is better to let everyone introduce themselves. I say a half a minute for each person attending. Same goes for the other team in the room or on the phone or on the screen (video conferencing). This way you set the stage for a collaborative, interactive meeting. I will talk more about this later in this post.
Do a brief intro on the subject of the demo. If you are doing a demo of a new product or an updated version of the product, take a few minutes to talk about the product, its purpose, the business need, etc. Take 3 minutes tops.
Reserve a minute to explain the structure of your presentation. Obviously, you have thought through the topics you will cover, the depth to which you will go, etc. So, don’t keep it a secret; provide a “roadmap”. You don’t want anyone getting lost. It is a good habit to give handouts of this “roadmap” to everyone – a one pager.
Setting the stage should take you around 5 to 10 mins, depending on the number of people attending. I say keep the audience to around 10 people to have an effective presentation, unless of course you are Martin Luther King or Obama.
Force a pause
When you dive into the meat of your presentation, do not talk away as if there is no end. It may sound like you are rambling. You do this maybe because you are fast talker by nature or maybe you’re just plain nervous. In any case, a presentation needs “forced pauses”. To be effective, you have to cultivate this habit. You want to give an opportunity for the audience to digest all the information and think through it for a minute or two. A good practice is to plan your “forced pauses” out such that you can invite questions from your audience.
In the beginning, I know it will be tough to implement this but trust me: you will get used to it.
Don’t do all the talking
Make it interactive. Pass the ball around whenever you can. Let everyone participate. Remember when you attended a demo meeting and hoped no one will notice you dozing off. Well, you did that because you were bored. It is not (always) your fault. I say the presenter made it boring. He or she did not invoke your thoughts and make it interesting enough for you. So, when you are the presenter, please don’t make the same mistake. Let everyone participate. Think of it as a few moments you introduce to help you relax and refocus.
The most effective presentations or meetings that I’ve attended were those that were informative and enjoyable at the same time. These are meetings where the presenter or an attendee sneaks in some witty remarks – the ice-breakers.
How many, how often and what kind of jokes you introduce will matter here and if you push it too far over the limit, it can kill your presentation and most likely you would never present again. So, I must warn you that this technique is not for everyone. Its success is very dependent on your wits, the timing, the audience and most importantly your presentation style, which will differ from person to person. But if you can work it, you have a powerful presentation tool.
These are some of the many techniques that will make you an effective presenter. You may already be one or you maybe one in the making. Do send in your comments and share your tips and tricks with the rest of the world. Don’t keep it a secret.