There are presenters out there who seem to have it all. They speak, the audience listens. They make a joke, the audience laughs. They don’t umm, they don’t ahhh, and they speak clearly, sharing their message and reinforcing it just enough throughout. By the end of the presentation, their audience is informed, educated and leaves the room with all their questions answered. How? This blog shares 4 simple tips and includes 4 extremely useful presentation eBooks.
Know your whats and whys
This is incredibly obvious, perhaps even to inexperienced presenters – but it probably the most overlooked element during the design stage. When you ask them, experienced presenters tell you that the very first thing they do is crystallize what they want to achieve with the presentation.
These questions will help you get started:
- What do I want to achieve?
- Why should people listen to me?
- What do I want the audience to know after the presentation?
An excellent tip is to write down in a single sentence what your presentation is about and why you are presenting. If you can’t do it in 14 words or less, rewrite it – and one of the 14 words needs to be the powerful “so”. e.g. “I’m sharing how experienced presenters do it, so you can improve your presentations.” That sentence then gives you a very simple framework and clear criteria for what I want to put in and take out.
“Designing your presentation well lays the foundations for your success.”
Powerpoint doesn’t make the presentation
Perhaps the comedic writers Steve Lowe and Brendan McArthur best summed it up – “PowerPoint: The Microsoft tool that encourages people to think and talk like ********s.” You make the presentation. Powerpoint is a supporting tool. We’ve all done it. We find a set of existing slides and copy and paste our way to a new presentation. We think in slides and we build what we say around what’s on the slides. Experienced presenters build the presentation slides after they have planned the presentation, when they know what they are going to say and have a clear structure in mind. They use as few slides as possible because they want the focus on them and their message. This way, the presentation has a better chance of becoming a visual aid, rather than the main feature.
Have you noticed it? The best presenters are in control and entirely comfortable with what they’re doing. Wow. How do they do it? They practice. Out loud, probably. Practicing is not thinking to yourself what you will say – it’s actually saying it. Recording yourself and practicing in front of a mirror will tell you exactly what your audience will see and hear as you present your content. When you come across as unsure of yourself or uncertain of your content you are creating barriers to success. And don’t focus on “learning it by heart” – focus on the big messages and the important bridges.
“Practice your presentation a day before you hold it -if you start practising an hour before you run the risk of deciding to change things around which makes things harder.
Don’t lose yourself, but if you do…
Your mind draws a blank. You’ve forgotten to make an important point. You just realized you’re babbling away. You don’t know the answer to the question. The audience looks at you like they don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say. Now what?
We all make mistakes and “owning your mistakes” helps build credibility . Smile. Don’t wind yourself up. Move forward. Say it later. Focus on the next point. Say that you’ll find out the answer but you don’t have it right now. Ask the audience – what have you understood so far? – and take it from there.
Moments when things go wrong happen – so remember they are only moments. Even the most experienced presenters draw a blank sometimes. If you look carefully, you’ll see that they have developed techniques that work for them (they take a sip of water while gathering their thoughts, they make a joke out of it, etc.). Experience taught them that.
If you’d like to benefit from practical training then take a look at our training solutions for presenting across cultures, presenting in a virtual environment and our challenging Presenting with IMPACT
 Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?: Insanely Annoying Modern Things – By Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur with Brendan Hay (Grand Central Publishing)