Whether you are presenting to a handful of colleagues, or your whole company, or at a large seminar in front of hundreds of people, the following tips will help you get your message across.
1) Be clear on what you want to achieve through your presentation before you start designing it. This will ensure you build it with purpose and clarity.
2) Be clear on who you audience is going to be. Research and profile where possible. Networking sites like LinkedIn are ideal for this if you do not already know them.
If you are presenting to a large group ask your sponsor about the audience make-up- what they do, any observable demographics etc. Design your presentation on what suits your audience.
Large groups and non-decision makers will typically want you to dominate the presentation, whereas smaller groups and key decision-makers may prefer for you to take a more subservient approach.
3) Support material needs to be designed and built. Be aware of any technical requirements this may present- you don’t want to spend time building an animated video when you are only getting a flipchart on the day!
Also be conscious that support material should do just that- it should not detract or distract from your message.
Avoid giving people anything to read- they will stop listening and this will stop you controlling the presentation.
If you present graphs then make them as visually simple and obvious in their message. And make sure you have all the available numbers at your fingertips in case of probing questions!
4) Audience concentration will peak at 10 – 15 minutes and then rapidly fall after that – if they are being presented something they are interested in. If they are not interested then their concentration peak will occur much earlier. There are a few things to bear in mind if your presentation is going to exceed this time limit:
a) Be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm is infectious and will generate interest in your presentation.
b) Keep things simple. If you expect your audience to follow convoluted arguments, perform mental arithmetic or perform translation tasks (e.g. “condition X is true for computer engineers, but I work in accounts so for me condition X translates to X1”) you are going to mentally exhaust them, and their concentration will go much quicker.
c) Establish eye contact and occasional verbal interchanges with various members of the audience. Trying to keep a group of people engaged can often be like spinning plates so you need to provide a little attention to as many of them as is practical.
d) Provide mental breaks every 10 minutes. This can be done in the form of some off-topic quipping, or summarising the previous 10 minutes of presentation, or asking the audience if they are keeping up- anything that stops a train of thought and provides an opportunity to re-gather their focus.
If your presentation is going to exceed an hour you should think about introducing comfort breaks or suitable energisers- something more substantial in terms of a break.
5) Use examples and stories to illustrate your message. Stories help us assimilate new information into a useful framework which allows us to fully understand and position the new information. Psychologically a story should come immediately after presenting a new fact or snippet of information, and should be relevant and recognisable to the audience.
For example: Fact = 50% of all mobile phones in Europe are now smartphones. Story = “even my mum now has a smartphone”, or “4 years ago this figure was only 10%”, or “there are almost twice as many internet visits using a smartphone as there are from a laptop”.
It doesn’t need to be ‘War and Peace’. In many ways it’s probably better if it’s not ‘War and Peace’.
It’s worth remembering that facts have to be real but stories don’t. For example- “in Psychological tests 75% of test subjects knowingly gave an obviously incorrect response to a question when a room full of stooges also gave an incorrect response (this is Psychological
Conformity). We all know the story of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’…”
6) Don’t use a script. Scripts are a barrier to your audience because you stop concentrating on them, and people perceive script readers to lack confidence and knowledge in their material. Prompt notes are fine if used sparingly, but the real trick is to know your material inside out.
7) Be positive, energetic and enthusiastic. Not only does this keep peoples’ attention (see point 4.a.) but it encourages people to buy into your delivery.
Steer clear from jargon, technical terms and unfamiliar phrases as these alienate people.
8) Explain what you will be presenting at the start, explain what you are presenting along the way, and summarise what you have presented at the end. Repetition is a highly effective tool to reinforce your message when used effectively. Be decisive when you are doing your summary- don’t rush because of time pressures or allow your presentation to run out of steam.
People remember the start and end of things much better than the middle, so these need to be the strongest parts.
9) Practice your presentation repeatedly beforehand. Dress-rehearsals allow you to feel your way through the whole presentation, helping to familiarise yourself with the content but more importantly to experience some of the physical aspects. If you spend most of your day sitting at a desk it can feel quite unusual and exposed to talk while standing up.
It also helps your movements become more natural- for instance there is a fine line between talking expressively with your hands and waving your arms about!
Think about your delivery speed too- inexperienced presenters tend to talk really really fast, when a slight slowing and focus on proper pronunciation improves the clarity dramatically.
Think about voice projection too- always aim your projection at the person furthest away.
Don’t turn your back to the audience.
10) “No-one ever complained a speech was too short!” (Ira Hayes). No unnecessary waffle, no unnecessary content. You may be asked to do a 30 minute presentation, but if you can do it effectively in 20 minutes this should be your aim. Everyone will thank you for it.
Knowing the above points puts you in control, and this gives you confidence. Being confident is the best tip to giving a good presentation. Audiences respond positively to confident speakers, while nervy, stuttering and shy speakers make the audience switch off- either because it is difficult to understand a nervous speaker or because the audience becomes so sympathetic with the plight of the speaker they concentrate on the delivery rather than the message. Above all else: confidence is key.
Rob Quinlan has over 15 years of industry Data Analytics experience, and holds qualifications in both Psychology and Statistics. He specialises in Behaviourism, Customer Experience and Optimisation. Give us a call or e-mail to discuss how we at Prosperity 24.7 can help your business on+44 (0) 1534 877247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Training Team offer a two day course on Presentation Skills, which expands on the points mentioned here and includes many other ideas and observations to help you design and deliver professional and engaging presentations to any size audience.- Details of all our courses can be found here or you can e-mail the Training team for more details at email@example.com.