Creativity, eloquence, and authenticity are by far the top 3 attributes in highest demand when it comes to presenting your ideas at work. We live in an age of unprecedented information besieged by data in a knowledge-based society where simply reading your PowerPoint slides to a busy audience is becoming a mortal sin, and thankfully so.
We are entering a new frontier of public speaking and presenting which demands that speakers do a great deal more than just impart information. Whether you are giving your regular quarterly update, briefing your team, or making a sales pitch, you need to capture and hold your audience’s attention in a way that is memorable, compelling, and even entertaining.
If presenting isn’t one of your natural gifts, then how on earth do you satisfy the merciless insistence of your audience to be different, to stand out from the crowd and keep them awake?
1. Think like a “tweet”
Think back to the last time you prepared for a presentation. Did you start by opening up your laptop and heading straight for a PowerPoint deck you have used before? Did you then re-order the bullet points with your new content, change the background, and throw in a few new pictures for good measure?
If you did, then essentially you handcuffed, gagged, and blindfolded your creative genius, and despite what you think, we all have one that is waiting to be unleashed.
Ironically, the future of high-impact presenting is analogue rather than digital.
With a packet of large coloured post-it notes and a few Sharpie pens, begin crafting your own storyboard with a series of “tweets.”
On each post-it note, write down in less than 140 characters:
- Your message
- What you want your audience to think about your message
- What you want them to feel about it
- What you want them to do when you finish speaking
Now you have absolute clarity of what your objective and intention is, you can use the remaining post-it notes to creatively craft your story.
2. Billboards are best
Imagine you are driving down the street and your entire presentation unfolds before your very eyes in the form of a series of billboards which are each 48-feet long and 14-feet high. Each board contains a colourful and compelling image supported by a very short headline as your story gradually but powerfully unfolds step by step.
Each billboard grabs your attention and makes you want to know more.
Now, take your post-it notes and create your mini-series of billboards by filling them with simple hand-drawn images and headlines. Don’t worry about how well you can draw, it’s not important. Simply sketch what comes to mind, however basic it may look.
3. Contrast is King
As your billboards begin to take shape, give some thought as to how you are going to build contrast into your presentation. As you craft each post-it note with an image or a headline, ask yourself what could help you to bring it to life even more:
- A story
- A prop
- A short video or soundbite
- A question
- An exercise involving the audience
4. Take 7 steps
- Set the scene – What’s so important that you couldn’t send an email?
- Begin the journey – What’s the message, where are you taking them?
- Encounter the obstacle – Why do they really need to go there?
- Overcome the obstacle – How are you going to get them there?
- Resolve the story – Now they are here, what does it look and feel like?
- Make the point – Why is it so important?
- Call to action – What do you want them to do now?
5. Give them their 3 F’s
Your listeners only want 3 things from you, so make sure you include them on your billboards.
Facts – features, benefits, data, logical argument, examples, case studies
Feeling – stories, metaphor, anecdotes, suspense, shock, humour, surprise
Future – 30 years ago, an old boss of mind gave me a piece of leadership advice which had a profound effect on my career. He said, “The only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see the future; your job is to help them to see the future.”
6. Shout, sing, scream, and sigh
Your voice is your greatest asset as a presenter, and when stretched, challenged, and tuned like the incredible instrument it is, it can help you to breathe life into your presentation.
It takes effort, discipline, and practice to unlock the enormous potential and range of your voice and the way to do so is to exercise it.
Find a few random paragraphs from your favourite book and practice reading it out loud to yourself in as many different ways as you can; passionate, angry, sad, excited, etc.
7. Focus on their SHIFT
Every presentation is designed to create some form of shift in the audience. It may be a change of attitude, understanding, beliefs, or behaviour but at the heart of every speech is a desire to influence others in some way.
It is one thing knowing the direction you wish to take them in, but what is far more important is in understanding the SHIFT they would like to experience from listening to you.
Success – In crafting your presentation, ensure it’s designed to help them achieve some level of improvement in their personal or professional lives.
Happiness – Your audience wants to feel good and everything you say, show, and do should have that in mind.
Insight – You are the expert on the subject and they want you to translate your knowledge in a way that they can really understand as well.
Freedom – Professionals are facing increasingly high-pressured demands at work and if you can free them in any way from some of that stress they will be very grateful.
Time – The one thing we all long for more of than anything is time. How does what you have to say help them to get more?
When it comes to presenting and speaking in public, many professionals live in a constant state of self-criticism.
Each of us has a presentation genius inside of us just waiting to be unleashed and to be heard. These 7 suggestions offer the key to unlocking that creative presentation genius and helping you to find your true voice.
Featured photo credit: Columbia GSAPP via flickr.com