5 things I’ve learnt about presenting

I’m by no means an expert on presenting and communication but I have had some experiences that have allowed me to gather my top 5 Golden Rules for presenting. Since a young age I have always enjoyed taking part in plays and productions, and in 2009 I achieved Grade 8 in LAMDA Speech and Drama. However, during my first few years at university I really lost my confidence as the times I was required to present in a seminar or assessment were few and far between. Now, as a consultant, I constantly need to present information, feedback, and I’m always evaluating my skills. So, the below rules are my way of ensuring I am always feeling confident for a presentation and ready to deliver it brilliantly.

They’re actually being hypnotised not asleep…but if your
audience look like this and you’re not a hypnotist
this may be an issue! 😉
Source:  Nazareth_College_Hypnotist

1. Know your objective, and tell your audience. 

A while ago, I was in an induction day when starting a new job. The day really was Death By Powerpoint. By the time the resource manager came to talk to us, one of my fellow colleagues had already been spotted twice having a ‘long blink’. The whole room was lethargic and unable to absorb more information. We’d had countless presentations where the presenter left us more confused than at the start!

Finally 4.30pm rolled round and the final speaker of the day. She started with ‘My aim for this last 30 mins is for none of you to fall asleep, and if you do, I will have to do a forfeit.” BAM! Suddenly we all woke up. This sounded interesting! The topic was around filling in some necessary forms for approvals (boring) but if her aim was to make sure we didn’t nod off then I was immediately more intrigued.

Engaging your audience through your objective is invaluable, and I’ve got a sure-fire way to make sure you always have a clear objective.

There are 3, and only 3, objectives for presentations. Sure, you may have some sub-objectives but I guarantee that the aim of your presentation will fall under at least 1 of the following:

you want to educate your audience on a new campaign, tool, project, whatever it might be the aim is that they leave the room with more knowledge than they left. 
this often can go hand in hand with ‘inform’ but the aim is that you want your audience to be engaged and enthusiastic about your idea and ready to hear more. 
you want some sort of outcome, a decision, some next steps; you need your audience to take some action as a result of your presentation. 

As I said, these 3 objectives apply to pretty much every single presentation. So, when you have an objective, tell your audience! This will set their expectations of what you want them to come away with and ensure they are engaged from the start.

For example…
“My aim today is to share some information with you that will help you better understand xyz new procedure/product/campaign.”
“Today, I’m going to inspire you about the benefits of xyz and get you as excited as I am about the next few months!”
“By the end of this session, I’d like you to go and promote xyz throughout your networks so we can achieve xyz by the end of the week.”

Then, restate this at the end to close the loop and make sure the audience understand the point of your talk.

2. Match your music, words and dance. 

In 1967 Albert Mehabrian conducted a study on communication styles that stated that only 7% of communication is verbal (i.e. the words you say), 38% is your tone (i.e. the music) and a whopping 55% is your body language (i.e. the dance).

Whilst these exact proportions have been disputed, the rough ratios still stand fast.

Body language is SO important. Likewise, the tone of your voice can be incredibly impactful.

Try this exercise now, putting the emphasis on the word in bold and see how the meaning changes:

I didn’t steal his money. 
I didn’t steal his money. 
I didn’t steal his money. 
I didn’t steal his money
I didn’t steal his money. 

Clever, right? A useful way to remember about your tone is MAPS

Modulation – avoid the dreaded monotone!
Articulation – enunciate every word and don’t mumble!
Projection – does your voice reach the back of the room?
Speed – is your pace just right?

Also, a drama teacher once taught me a great trick for presenting to a big audience. If you have a little voice in your head saying you’re speaking TOO SLOW and TOO LOUD then you’ve got it just about right 🙂

3. Your audience is king. 


Source: Digital Moz’s great blog post on Content Marketing


Your presentation is not yours, it’s your audience’s. You need to treat their time with respect and be present for your presentation.

By ‘being present’ I obviously I don’t just mean you need to turn up (although that would be a good start). In fact, being present is about bringing your whole self to the room and not being distracted by external factors. Turn your phone off, log out of your instant messenger, engage and talk to the audience and they are there to see YOU, not your 158 slides, the back of your head or your laptop lid.

4. Tell a story. 

Nancy Duarte is the queen of storytelling. There’s not much that I can add to her short video below other than summarising it for those of you who don’t have 4 mins to spare to have a watch.

Stories are how we learn as they can touch all senses.
Often in work we are required to write heavy, fact-based reports.
Presentations are the mid-point between stories and reports. They are explanatory and should contain evidence-based stories to engage your audience.

5. Paint the right picture. 


Source: unsplash.com


My final point is, for those who have worked with me, the one I am a bit of a stickler about. At a course the other day, the presenter talked about how there word is PowerPOINT, not PowerDETAIL.

I’ll repeat that: it’s PowerPOINT, not PowerDETAIL.

So, why do we constantly try to cram slides with so much content? Your visual aids should support your verbal presentation, not take away from it. Just imagine if your laptop died, would you still be able to get up and speak or are you so reliant on the slides you would crumble?

If it’s the latter then take a minute to see your presentation from another angle. Imagine you are explaining your topic to a child. Draw out the diagrams you may use, look up some powerful images and simplify the language.

There, now you’re ready to go and deliver a KILLER presentation, good luck!!

Writing this post made me realise there’s so many other presentation topics to cover so over the next few weeks I’ll be covering ‘Can you Prepare Too Much for a Presentation?’, ‘They Don’t Bite: Ways to Engage/Interact with your Audience’ and ‘Find Your Style: 5 Different Presenting Media to Try’. If you have a suggestion, or a question, please leave a comment below!


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