You have a presentation to deliver? Here are five simple tips to make it amazing and, I promise, it will reduce your stress and engage your audience.
1. Who are you? What are you doing here?
No, I am not an amnesiac, but in over thirty years of presentations I am still amazed how many speakers don’t seem to follow the simple principle of answering these questions. Presenters who do not know their audience (or more importantly what they want from the presentation) and who plough on churning out a message which is at odds with what people want or need.
So, step one: Understand your audience – what do they know and how much do they understand. Ensure you get your language and content right.
2. The 3 P’s
Before any presentation remember the 3 P’s
Yes, it’s boring to take time to create and then rehearse your presentation, but it is time well spent. You don’t need to have the whole script memorised like a Shakespearean actor but don’t spend your time reading your script during your presentation.
You need to know what you are talking about to be able to hold your audience’s attention, if you are clearly looking down, failing to give eye contact and reading a piece of paper you will lose your audience. Take a bit of time to read through the content you have written (when you speak it aloud you will find the bits that make you stumble or that just don’t read right).
3. Be the Alpha Presenter
Just like a pack of dogs there needs to be one pack member who is in charge and commands the respect of the others. You need to be the Alpha – that is you need to have control of your audience. There are a few simple ways to achieve this…
- Set the atmosphere, forget presentation and think show (see the next tip.)
- Be prepared – be slick, professional and not fumbling through papers or lost in your own content.
- Maintain eye contact – look at your audience, engage visually with people in different areas of the the room to give the impression that you are delivering to each individual in the room.
- Use open body language – there are whole books about body language, simply put avoid crossed arms, gripping the lectern or a stance which closes you off to your audience, instead adopt an open posture.
4. Forget ‘presentation’ think ‘show’
If I said ‘presentation’ what would you think? – possibly text laden slides, something which will not be engaging, a mind dump of data. This is why you should think of your presentations as ‘shows’, use storytelling techniques to make them engaging and present them more like theatre.
Storytelling – we have centuries of experience in storytelling techniques, ensure that your presentation follows a story arc with a beginning, middle and end. A story arc moves a character from one state to another through a period of change. So your beginning should set the scene, ‘where are we? What needs to be done?’, the middle should take the audience on the journey ‘what are we going to do? How will we resolve the issues?’ and the end should reiterate the journey ‘where are we now? Where will we be?’
This format creates an intuitive structure and brings your audience on a shared journey. Make your presentation more like theatre. I don’t ever remember a film or play which started with the speaker struggling with a projector, walking onto stage in silence and expecting the audience to know they are there.
Set up early, use music to set the scene ‘pre-flight’ background music as the audience come into the room, however use music with increased tempo to create excitement or slower classical to calm an audience. Also, you should have a walk-on sting – a short burst of music which makes it clear that something is starting, the equivalent of the title music before a movie, use this to top and tail your presentation marking the beginning and end, setting the scene and making sure you immediately have the audience’s attention.
5. What if it goes wrong? Carry on…
Things will go wrong when you present, that’s life – get over it! I have had a speaker collapse on stage and have had to deliver their presentation (knowing nothing of the content) in front of two thousand people while paramedics worked on them in the wings, (they were fine, thank goodness!) If things do happen you need to be ready to carry on regardless. If your projector stops or the sound system fails you have two options:
- Flail, complain, bitch about it and look flustered at the least and stupid at worst.
- Carry on and impress your audience.
The audience doesn’t really care that you have had a technical breakdown, but the moment you fluster you will lose your alpha speaker position. Be prepared enough to just keep going and deliver your content, if you remain calm you will impress your audience (if they even notice there has been a problem!) Remember, the show must go on!
Featured photo credit: Michael Thoeny via upload.wikimedia.org