Presentations are powerful and efficient methods of addressing an audience, from showcasing projects to winning sales deals. Developing high-calibre, engaging presentation skills is an essential part of the professional world.
Recently I presented ‘Impact and Presentation’ — a presentation about presenting, exploring tips and tricks to make you better presenters. I did this by sharing a blend of what I have learnt from my professional training in presenting and, more importantly, what I’ve learned from my experiences along the way. Here’s the full breakdown…
For any presentation to work effectively, prerequisites and research must be undertaken to ensure it is valid and that benefits can be realised. The first question is ‘should I present?’
• Is your message newsworthy to warrant using people’s time in a presentation?
• Is a presentation the best channel to communicate my message?
Time is precious. Don’t waste 30 minutes of your colleagues/clients’ time presenting on a topic which could have easily been a simple email, but on the flipside (and more commonly), ensure that you don’t undersell yourself by not presenting! When conducted appropriately, presentations have 10x more impact and engagement over other methods such as email. The key is knowing when/when not to use them.
Audience analysis means asking these five important questions that you can then draw conclusions from to help set you up for success. Here is a real-life example from my Dyson days. I presented to contact centre agents around the importance of writing high quality call notes that helped my team analyse the quality and reliability of Dyson products. The first time I did it I had minimal impact, so I did the presentations again, except this time with some audience analysis before doing so:
From the results above, I drew the following conclusions:
- Explain the importance of writing high quality call notes and how it benefits them, as well as my team and the wider business.
- Counter the information overload and stress by keeping the presentation light-hearted and interactive.
The comparison from my first and second presentation? Huge improvement.
Structure and content
A good presentation must tell a story that flows with a beginning, middle and end in a logical order.
Outlining the topics of the presentation and the desired outcomes can create a solid foundation for both you and your audience. It’s also highly recommended that you outline what the audience needs to do, eg “please save your questions for the end”. The body of the presentation is where the detail and core of your message should fit into. Finally, the close-out should contain a review of the topics/outcomes and conclusion with thanks at the end.
If you are using a screen, eg Keynote or PowerPoint, it’s also important to consider the layout of your presentation. You want the audience to be listening to you with the slide deck supporting, not the other way around. Too much text will distract the audience from what you are saying, and you will lose their interest. Instead, keep things light with images, graphs and only use text as key headlines — the detail can come from your mouth!
Crunch time! The previous topics we have gone through are crucial in setting you up for success, but it does not guarantee it. Everything now rests on the delivery of your presentation. It’s time to perform.
Before a gig, a band needs to practise to iron out any potential issues and tighten their set up. The same principles apply to presenting. The more comfortable you are with your presentation, the better you will perform. Dry run throughs are helpful to start as you can provide yourself with feedback. Then look to perform your presentation in front of peers to obtain feedback and refine if necessary. Repeat this process as many times as you see fit, especially if it’s an important presentation in front of a big audience!
Here are some key techniques that help deliver impact in your presentation.
- Body language — Ensure you have good posture, you’re smiling, not pacing around too much etc
- Pace — Ensure you are not speaking too slowly/quickly. Talking at an accelerated rate is more common due to nerves/excitement — actively attempting to speak slowly can compensate for this
- Volume — Speak at an appropriate volume for the venue you are in
- Language — Adjust your language to tailor your audience, eg a best man’s speech would be very different to presenting financials to the CEO (you would hope!)
- Eye contact — Humanises presentations and helps create a bond between you and your listener, resulting in higher engagement
- Pauses — Putting in pauses not only helps the listener digest info, it also provides massive impact when applied correctly
- Metaphors — Help bring stories to life. If your presentation is very technical, a metaphor can help some less technical people relate and understand you better
- Rapport — Build trust and a connection with your listener
- Control — Demonstrate control in your presentation, for example stating that questions are for the end only, or ensuring that timeboxed events are adhered to
- Empathy — Show empathy with your audience. If a question is asked that gives a different point of view, don’t shut them down, show empathy and understanding
- Engagement — Making the audience feel part of the presentation. eg ask a question to the group
- Adapt — The ability to adapt and change if things aren’t going to plan. For example, you may notice your audience energy levels are low, perhaps throw in a question or task for them to raise energy
There we have it, a whistle-stop tour of some tips and techniques I hope you will find useful.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com