If presenting at work or speaking in public is a source of anxiety for you then you are not alone. The very idea of sitting in on a business presentation makes great number of professionals uncomfortable too.
It’s disturbing that the anticipation of attending a presentation at work can be similar to the anxiety you feel just before calling your telecoms provider to tell them that your broadband doesn’t work.
Something inside you tells you it’s probably not going to be a great experience.
We’ve all been there. In the audience furtively glancing at our watch as we stifle a yawn. Most of us have also felt that loss of the will to live listening to the perfectly affable call centre agent who is thousands of miles away politely read us a script that has nothing to do with our broadband problem.
Whether you’re pitching a product, presenting at a staff or board meeting or speaking at a conference here are some tips you won’t hear from your typical presentation skills coach. We believe these are some of the most important things you need to know about presenting today.
1. Don’t be yourself
I mean it.
Let’s face it when some speakers take to the podium we witness an interesting but strange phenomenon; in the office they are charismatic, creative and fun to be around yet their ‘presentation self’ is corporately dull.
Like everything in life there are exceptions to every rule but it seems to me that being yourself in a typical work presentation often means being boring. I guess it’s probably nerves that trigger the momentary multiple personality disorder.
We suggest that you don’t be yourself but that you be your best self; the very best of you, we all have one.
Remember that person?
It’s the 6 year old inside of you that was so excited on Christmas Eve all those years ago. You couldn’t wait to get to bed and sleep all night with one eye open desperate to get a glimpse of Santa.
It’s that person who felt that euphoria the moment their parent let go of their bike and they realised they were cycling on their very own.
It’s that person who was just told they passed their driving test or succeeded at an important job interview and suddenly felt unstoppable.
The mindful presenter isn’t themself when they take to the platform they are their best self. This means they call on all of the great and good they have within them to let their audience see who they really are.
How do they do that?
It’s called visualisation. They take themselves back in their mind to some of best and most powerful moments in their life. We all have many and if we tune back into them the positive impact on our emotional state brings out the very best in us.
Try it and see for yourself.
2. Use PowerPoint
At Mindful Presenter we are tired of hearing coaches and trainers tell presenters to avoid using PowerPoint, Key note, Prezi or any other visual aids. We use PowerPoint in all our presentation skills workshops and it adds enormous value to our delegates learning experience when used wisely, creatively and effectively.
Studies suggest that 65 percent of the population are visual learners, that the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and that visual aids in the classroom improve learning by up to 400 percent.
I don’t know how accurate or valid those statistics are but even if the second two numbers were only half true it seems to us that you would be doing your audience a disservice not using some form of visual aid. I believe that the reason PowerPoint and its other chums have received such bad press for so long is simply because they have been misused. Over the years many presenters have mistakenly used PowerPoint and they’ve done so largely for their own benefit rather than their audiences. In short they’ve used it as their notes or script, it’s sad but true, we still see it every day.
Used creatively visual aids can help us to greatly increase the impact of our message, the imagination of our audience and the likelihood of more of our message being remembered and acted upon.
Use pictures, colour, contrast, headlines rather than too much text and kill the bullet points.
3. Make friends
Remember when you were a child and you went out to play with your friends, often the last words you heard from your mother were ‘play nicely’.
Well we believe that even though we’re all grown up now and no longer in the park, a presentation is a wonderful opportunity to ‘play nicely’ and make friends.
How do you make friends?
You find things you have in common with them and talk about them.
You tell them great stories.
You smile, empathise with them and show them you care.
You pay them compliments.
You listen to them.
You ask them questions.
You add value to their lives.
Great presenters make it their business to make friends with their audience, they have a conversation rather than give a lecture and they connect with people rather than just tell them things.
4. If you don’t care, don’t do it!
Intellectually it makes sense that if we don’t really care about the message we are presenting then it’s very unlikely that our audience will; and why should they?
While that may be the case it’s another one of those mysterious things that happens every day in meeting rooms right across the world; people presenting ideas to audiences that they really don’t care much for themselves.
If I could only ever share one critical ingredient for a highly effective and memorable presentation it would have to be passion.
Can you fake passion?
Of course, just like you can fake most things in life. The trouble is that when you do it’s often unsustainable and more importantly visible. In other words your audience can tell, they’re not stupid people.
So our advice is simple, if you really don’t care then don’t speak about it. If you absolutely have to because it’s your job then you have two choices:
– Find something in your content that you really can care about
– Find another job
5. Play with post it notes
Don’t make the mistake most presenters do which is to turn on the Laptop, call up the last PowerPoint slides you used and start to write your new content over the old.
All that does is stifle creativity and creates a recipe for linear thinking and a monotonous presentation in terms of both content and delivery.
Forget the laptop and play with large colourful ‘post it’ notes and marker pens instead. Here’s what you do:
Start with 3 ‘post it’ notes and write down your message, what you want your listeners to feel and what you want them to do at the end. Put those 3 ‘post it’ notes up on the centre of a wall together and really take a close look at them.
Brainstorm and write down on new notes everything you can possibly think that will support, influence and add power to those 3 notes in the centre; your message, how you want them to feel and what you want them to do. Let your mind go wild and free and write down the crazy ideas too.
Use one ‘post it’ note for each idea and then stick them up on the wall around your centre piece.
Leave them up on the wall for a few hours (preferably 24) and go and get on with your life.
Go back to your wall, take a good look at what you’ve written and have another go adding anything new that comes to mind.
Now group your ideas into the themes that are emerging.
Write down each theme that totally supports your message, what you want them to feel and do. Be mercenary, less is more and you need only what supports your 3 central ‘post it’ notes.
From those themes you have selected you can now create slides using post it notes. One point per ‘post it’ supported by your own personal little drawing on each.
Ok, now you can turn on the laptop.
6. Watch TED talks
One of the greatest resources for speakers today is available for free 24/7 and is accessible in the comfort of our own home, office and at the touch of a screen or click of a key. It’s even on your phone!
TED(Technology, Entertainment and Design) began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged and today covers almost all topic – from science to business to global issues.
It’s an amazing learning resource for presenters where you can watch hundreds of fascinating talks that are no longer than 18 minutes each. From these you can take whatever you feel that you really like and that could work for you in terms of style and delivery and adapt and integrate those principles into your own key strengths.
Whilst most of the talks on there are content rich, some of the speakers aren’t great so watch out for them too. Learn what doesn’t work so well and make a point of avoiding those.
Don’t try to become your favourite speaker, just take what you like and use it to be the best version of you.
7. Ask ‘so what?’
As a presentation coach when I’m sitting in the audience myself that’s the question I find myself asking the most. In other words I’m trying to work out the relevance and value to me of what the presenter is saying, showing or doing.
As you prepare your presentation ask yourself that question before your audience does. Put yourself in their shoes; everything you plan to say, show them or do with and for them ask yourself what’s the relevance and value. Then make sure you have really good answers.
If you don’t then be sure to leave it out as it’s superfluous.
8. Don’t sell to them
That’s it, really.
People hate being sold to by presenters so just don’t do it.
9. Choose your coach wisely
If you Google the term ‘Presentation Coach’ you are likely to get a return of over 12 million results.
Everyone seems to be a presentation coach!
Like every profession on the planet there are some brilliant ones and those you may wish to avoid. Anyone can learn to give a great presentation, it’s a learnable skill.
When your objective is to become highly effective in any new skill it pays well to have a great coach.
There are plenty of presentation coaches and trainers out there who are extremely competent yet have never personally given an important or high stakes presentation in their life. In fact we meet many who teach people to present but have never actually presented anything outside of their own training room. Avoid those coaches.
Many of these coaches and trainers have been trained to train but really don’t know what it feels like to do what you are about to do so watch out for them.
If they’re not one of the above then they are likely to be former actors. Again there are some really good ex-actors who make first class presentation coaches.
Remember to choose wisely though as some of those ex-actors are the ones who didn’t have what it took to make a living at it because they weren’t very good at it themselves yet now they want to teach you.
In our experience the best presentation coaches and trainers are those that have presented extensively themselves to a wide range of audiences in a variety of settings. They have presented successfully in difficult and challenging speaking situations and have presented very successfully where there is a great deal at stake.
These people are likely to be acknowledged presenters and business people who have turned to training and coaching the skill because they’ve demonstrated they are good at it and it’s their passion to teach it.
They’re the ones you want.
Whichever category they fall under there will always be the great ones and the not so great. Be sure to choose wisely.
The practice of meditation has been proven to help people to:
That’s why every time I give an important presentation I spend 5 to 10 minutes before I speak meditating myself, even if I have to lock myself in the toilet to find the solitude.
It’s extremely powerful so find a method you’re comfortable with and try it.
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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.
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com