Ridding The World Of Tedious Presentations

Sep 11, 2019

1. Audience Analysis
Ken Haemer had it right when he wrote, “Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.”Getting to know your audience builds the foundation of a healthy, albeit short-term relationship. You gain empathy and are therefore in a stronger position to deliver an influential presentation.

Have you asked the right questions to uncover pertinent information that can help you meet your presentation intention? Nancy Duarte http://duarte.com, a renowned PowerPoint storyteller, advises that we should develop a clear mental picture of our audience members as individuals and not simply a group of people in a boardroom or school hall. We need to ask simple questions like ‘what are they like’ and ‘why are they here?’ That will give you a good overall picture of the group demographics, age and experience with the topic. It also gives you insight into their willingness to be there. We also need to ask more strategic questions such as ‘What keeps them up at night?’ ‘How can you solve their problems, ‘What action do you want them to take?’ ‘What medium is best to reach them’ and ‘How might they resist?’ With this insight comes empathy and this in turn helps to clarify your message and call to action.

2. Crafting your presentation
Let’s think of the overall intention. Why am I doing this pitch? What’s the reason for this speech? That usually gives you some idea the order of what you’ll be saying. For example, if you’re presenting on the importance of safety in the workplace, cause and effect may be the easiest structure to use. If you’re presenting to a group about a new process, it may be best to use chronological order. Another great method to ensure that you’re driving home the key message is to break down the information into the ‘must knows’, ‘could knows’ and ‘nice to knows’. That way, I know what to focus on if the audience wants to digress or if time is cut just before you take the microphone.

Now here’s a clever trick-the human brain holds certain information in long-term memory and some information in short-term memory. This is known as the primacy and recency effect. What does this mean for presenters? We hope that the audience won’t only remember the first and last things that you say. We need to create multiple beginnings and endings. At the beginning of each key point, set the tone with wording about how this particular point ties into your overall message. For example, “The second major activity that will ensure growth in market share next year is customer service training.” Then we need to repeat that at the end of the key point. You’ll be embedding the vital data repeatedly without sounding like a voice recorder on loop.

3. Maintaining Energy

I’ve always believed in keeping things brief and I’m glad that Daniel Pink http://danpink.com agrees with me. In fact he goes a bit further to remind us that there are three keys to a good presentation: brevity, levity and repetition. Brevity-keep it brief as people are time poor. Please start and end on time. Cover your ‘must knows.’ Levity-keep it light and not too severe. Use your natural sense of humour and don’t try too hard to be funny. Repetition-Go over the important stuff over an over again. We’ve talked about it this in point 2.

 4. Professional Presence

The brutal fact is that people are judging how you look when you’re up there in the spotlight. So try to look your best. Women and men need to dress professionally. Hair should be away from your face and make-up light. Women should avoid sleeveless shirts unless you’ve got arms like Michelle Obama and avoid noisy jewellery.

A word on posture: Audience members can immediately sense your energy by the height of your sternum. It only needs to drop by 2mm for them to spot that you’ve lost confidence. Professor Amy Cuddy advises that women especially should practise power poses in a private space for two minutes (no less, no more) before they head into ‘socially threatening’ situations. This non-verbal behaviour sends a message to the brain to release more testosterone and reduce cortisol. The final product is a person who is feeling confident and not stress reactive. Here’s a link to her incredibly powerful and useful TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.

5. Keep it Fresh

The barometer of audience engagement is whether or not people are constantly checking their devices. So it’s our job to keep them enthralled visually, aurally and kinaesthetically. We need to create visually appealing slides using some of Nancy Duarte’s advice. Be open to using video clips or sound bites. We need to polish our vocal skills. Try always to warm up your voice and the muscles in your face and mouth. You can check out Julien Treaure for some practical tips on speaking so that others listen https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_how_to_speak_so_that_people_want_to_listen. Lastly, be brave and ask the audience to do things. Call for a volunteer, ask for a show of hands, ask somebody to Google something. If you plan to try something that’s a bit adventurous, test it on a pilot group to ensure it’s a hit.

 6. Go Eau Naturale

There’s no better way to influence people than not trying to influence them at all. Just play your own tune. Be yourself. Exude authenticity. Audiences respond better to warmth initially than strength and bravado. Earn your credibility by first exuding warmth and then demonstrate your knowledge and skill to maximise your influencing efforts. Women especially, who exude warmth……Not surprisingly a smile can earn you points quickly. Mind you, in must be a Duchenne smile. This is a true smile that uses the muscles in your eyes.