Anyone who has been in the workforce for more than a few months has probably endured the phenomenon of ‘death by PowerPoint’.
It’s a peculiar form of torture where audiences are held captive (often in a darkened room) by one of their own colleagues or another person with links to the organisation.
Once all available exits have been secured, the ‘presenter’ begins to talk and exhibit slides crammed with too much information, tiny fonts and bad clip art. On an on it goes, until all eyes have glazed over and collectively, the audience has lost the will to live.
Although speaking in front of others is a well-known source of anxiety, the ability to prepare and deliver a high quality presentation is undoubtedly a direct reflection on your professionalism. How you prepare, how you communicate and engage others are all important factors in creating a positive impression from the opportunity.
So how can we break this cycle of cruelty and avoid causing unnecessary suffering to others?
Here are our best tips for giving an unforgettable presentation – for all the right reasons!
1. Know your audience.
Who’s going to be there and why? Are there any ‘hot button’ issues you need to know about and either directly acknowledge or avoid it (eg major IT system failures, a new CEO etc). What motivates this crowd? What do they care about? Focus on how the presentation is relevant to them.
2. Know your topic.
Is your material current, relevant and useful to this audience? Anticipate what types of questions you might be asked, especially the hard ones, and think about how you will respond, before you’re under the spotlight.
3. Visit the room beforehand.
Confirm the size is right and lighting and ventilation works properly. What audio-visual equipment will you need?
4. Practise, practise, practise.
There’s nothing like a rambling speaker to put an audience off. And once that OFF switch has been flicked, good luck trying to get it back ON again. Practise what you want to say and do it out loud.
5. Get there early.
You are not Madonna. Allow for the possibility that you could get caught in traffic or that an unforeseen problem may delay you. The last thing you want is to be feeling panicked or flustered when it is your turn to speak.
6. Try not using PowerPoint.
Or use it in a very limited way. Other options can include: sending out content beforehand, photographs, short video clips, music, props, samples, brief handouts or get audience members involved in relevant demonstrations? You might even want to try new cloud-based software tools like Prezi. We all have shorter attention spans these days (that’s right, down from 12 minutes a decade ago to five minutes now) so get creative and mix up your media!
7. Think about your posture and body language.
Stand up straight and really ‘own’ the space around you. Don’t cling to the lectern like it’s a life raft. Move around and/or use props or hand gestures if you need to make a strong point.
8. Make eye contact with the audience.
You need to do this before, during and after your presentation. Remember to scan the room and smile, without staring at any one individual for too long.
9. Start with a good story.
Ideally it should be something your audience can relate to – and all the better if it is amusing. Barrack Obama is a master or the amusing anecdote. Many TED talk speakers also use this technique.
10. Speak at a normal pace and remember to pause.
Ifyouspeaktoofastitmakesitharderforthe audiencetounderstandwhatyou’resaying! The average speaking speed is is between 110 and 150 words per minute. Time yourself when you are practising out loud and remember to pause periodically, e.g. before a particularly salient point.
11. Use case studies.
Real examples are infinitely more memorable than concepts and theories. If you are proposing a new way of approaching something, find out where else this has been tried. Did it work? Why or why not? Remember that even negative results can be illuminating and relevant.
12. Acknowledge and include opposing views.
People want and deserve to be given a balanced view of important news and issues. Your presentation will have more credibility if you can show that you have analysed your subject thoroughly and looked at it from different angles. One-sided presentations are just propaganda.
13. Repeat your key message three times during your presentation.
Try to do this in one sentence or less (i.e. three to ten words). We live and work in a digital age where we are all bombarded with information, 24/7. Never assume your message will sink in the first time people hear it.
14. Use a memorable closing story and image.
Your closing words and graphics are just as important as your opening ones, so make the effort to find ones that relate to your message or sums up the subject. 90 per cent of information transmitted to the brain is visual? Visual information is also processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than written words. Pictures are often remembered long after words and statistics have been forgotten.
15. Stick to your time limit.
Speaking overtime is rude to your audience, the host of the event and the presenter who follows you. Keep an eye on the clock during your talk and pace yourself so you can finish on time.
If you would like to know more about advanced communication, leadership skills or other training opportunities for yourself or your organisation, please contact us.
- <http://executivespeechcoach.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/superior-presentations-71-how-many.html> 30 March 2016<http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/10-tips-on-giving-a-killer-presentation.html> viewed 30 March 2016
viewed 30 March 2016
- <http://fortune.com/2013/07/10/giving-a-speech-conquer-the-five-minute-attention-span/>viewed 30 March 2016
- <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/if-these-extraordinarily-powerful-images-of-a-dead-syrian-child-washed-up-on-a-beach-don-t-change-10482757.html> viewed 30 March 2016