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5 Tips That Will Make Your Next Presentation Amazing

5 Tips That Will Make Your Next Presentation Amazing

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.

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2. The 3 P’s

Before any presentation remember the 3 P’s

  • Preparation
  • Preparation
  • Preparation

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).

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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?’

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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:

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  • 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

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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