Whether you are speaking about algorithms, algebra or actuarial science your presentation will only be as boring as you choose to make it.
When my son was a young boy despite being deluged with gadgets and toys one of his favourite sayings was ‘I’m bored’. I would often respond by telling him that he wasn’t bored he was simply boring; harsh I know.
In our presentation workshops today one of the most common complaints we here from professionals is that they really want to connect with their audience but their topic is just so boring. I acknowledge their gripe in the same way that I did my son’s all those years ago.
In fact, I go on to explain that whilst some topics will naturally be more inherently interesting than others every presenter has the same two choices:
1. To find what is of interest and value to their audience and your own personal passion for the topic.
2. To reconsider the type of work you are engaged in if you really cannot find anything of interest or value to your audience or you lack passion for the topic.
You have to look for the gold
The oldest method of gold mining is ‘panning’; it’s a simple process which can yield lucrative results and a similar process can be used by presenters. To get to nuggets of genuine interest and value to your audience the operation has to begin by removing the large rocks and other debris from your dirt.
In a recent article I wrote ‘Most presentations are far too long’ I went as far as to say that I believe that when it comes to presenting in business most of the content is ‘superfluous noise’.
In other words, all your audience wants from you is the gold, they don’t want or need the rocks and the dirt and it’s your job to do the sifting for them.
Here is how you begin the ‘panning’ process:
1. Don’t start by typing
That’s the first mistake boring presenters make. They cut off their creativity and consciousness the very moment they hit the keyboard. Paralyzed by the first blank slide their mind by default switches to ‘autopilot’ and regurgitates the same old templates, images and information it recognizes.
Instead of settling into the safety and sameness doing what you always do try something else.
– Go for a long walk
– Play some inspirational music
– Have a workout
– Sit under a tree
– Doodle on a flip chart
– Play with post it notes
Do anything but turn on the laptop and immediately start typing.
Your first priority is to clear your mind and ponder on the reason you are preparing to speak in the first place, what you want your audience to do and how you want them to feel.
Where is the ‘gold’ in your topic?
2. Think like a Tweet
Your mind is open, calm and watchful. You know what’s important to your audience, how you can help them and why they should listen to you. Unless you can now express it to yourself in the comfort of your own mind with the clarity and brevity of a tweet you are likely to say too much and press the ‘boredom button’ yourself.
Once you can articulate your entire message to yourself in 140 characters or less you are ready to begin. Remember the late Steve Jobs:
“Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”
If I were to begin crafting a presentation explaining the concept of Mindful Presenting my clarity would be:
“Connecting is everything and that means presenting in a way that is calm, creative and compelling.”
The idea behind thinking like a tweet is to remind you that everything you say to your audience has to be completely relevant and contributes significantly to bringing your message to life.
Make your presentation short.
3. Create an experience
I don’t know too many people who enjoy being ‘presented to’ but I do know many including myself who appreciate memorable experiences.
Listening on its own can be very tedious rather than experiential and there are many ways to create an experience:
– Involve your audience; ask them questions
– Get them to think, talk and do something, use activities and exercises
– Use them to help you learn, create or problem solve
– Use humour; at lest make them mile
– Make it unusual or different
– Tell them stories
4. Paint Pictures
Even the most fascinating topic can be turned into a deck of painfully boring slides which sadly is all too often the case in business presentations.
The reason the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is such an overused cliché is because it is just so true.
Rather than supporting the naysayers who continually rebuff the use of PowerPoint, embrace the power it offers.
Colourful, creative and well-chosen images can go a long way to adding life to any topic if used mindfully.
Rememeber that you can paint pictures with the words you use too. Choose decriptive language that help your audience to see and feel what you are saying as well as simply hearing it.
5. Presenting is about people not topics
If your topic is so boring that you really don’t have an important message which will make a difference to the lives of your audience then a presentation probably doesn’t need to be made.
You may still need to share the information but then I’d suggest you owe it to your audience to do so through an email, document or report. If there is a spoken message to be shared then what your audience wants to see more than anything is the real you.
You don’t have to an extrovert or rock star for them to like or connect with you but you do have to be passionate and enthusiastic about your subject.
They will see and feel your personal interest and belief through every verbal and non-verbal expression so regardless of your content give them the very best of yourself.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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