The mindful way to a brilliant presentation

Giving a brilliant presentation at work does not involve reading slides, speaking in a monotone voice or dumping data on fellow professionals.  As obvious as that may sound it is still happening everyday in businesses all of the world.

In an age where we are all overwhelmed with information the only way we can truly connect with each other both in and out of the workplace is mindfully.

Back in 2012 Bloomberg Businessweek suggested there were around 350 PowerPoint presentations made every second across the planet.

Well that was 2012 (a lifetime ago already) and that was just PowerPoint!

Can you imagine what that number looks like in 2018?

If you consider all of the other types of software used today and of course all of those presentations that aren’t supported by any visual aids it’s likely to be at least treble that number today.

The reality is no matter who you are, what you do or where you are, it’s getting harder by the day to avoid either being called on to make a presentation or to having to sit through one.

For those called on to give a presentation I would encourage you to seize the opportunity with both hands and see it as a means of making a difference to your audience and a name for yourself. It’s a calling you should embrace as a privilege and an honour to stand in front of a group of fellow human beings and have your own voice on a topic close to your heart.  After all, how many other opportunities are you given in an average week to have the undivided attention of an audience to be heard?

For many people their entire week is nothing but a battle to be heard and make their point so don’t waste these precious moments to have your voice and connect.

Here are few key thoughts to help you mindfully make your presentation count.

Surprise your audience

It seems to me that when it comes to surprises the world is pretty much divided, some of us love them and some of us hate them. Although, if you are sitting in an audience expecting to be bored to tears then you will love the surprise of having that expectation shattered at the outset. You have no more than the first 60 seconds to launch that surprise; so say or do something you are certain they won’t expect.

I don’t mean juggling or sword swallowing unless it’s relevant to your message of course.

If your’e using slides then ditch the bullet points and think like a designer.

Tell them something big, powerful and relevant that they don’t know.

Reveal a truth, fact or statement that will get them thinking.

Make them smile

Don’t make assumptions

Don’t open your presentation under the assumption that your audience already knows why they are there.  I can’t tell you how many presentations I’ve sat through where I thought I knew why I was there and what I could expect only to find out 20 minutes later I’d had it all wrong. Make sure you make it explicitly clear what you are going to talk about, why you’re going to talk about it, and why it’s important for them to listen.

Allow your listeners to take a stop check to see if they are in the right room.

If someone yawns, looks at their phone or watch or even whispers something to the person sitting next to them don’t assume that they are bored or that you’ve lost them. Human beings yawn, are addicted to their phones and love to whisper, its quite normal.

If however everyone is yawning you need to either open a window or raise your game.

Give them permission to stay

We live in an information age where people are bombarded with data, ideas and suggestions of different and better ways to think and live. People are busier now than at any other time in history; time is precious and life is short so let’s respect each others time.

Once you’ve opened your presentation and grabbed their attention make a bold statement offering the opportunity to leave anytime they choose if they decide that what you have to share is of little perceived value to them.

You may wish to add the caveat that they may miss out if they leave prematurely!

Give them permission to stay and also to leave with the promise that you won’t hold it against them.

That may sound outrageous but then why wouldn’t you?

If you’re at home watching TV and weren’t getting anything from it you’d switch channels or leave the room to make a cup of tea. You can’t suddenly switch channels during a boring or irrelevant presentation so why wouldn’t you just leave the room. Of course you wouldn’t want to hurt the speaker’s feelings or appear disruptive or rude so convention says you stay put, grin and bear it. After all you’re not at home in your PJ’s and this is business.

Give them permission to stay or leave.

That means you have to get to the point quickly.

Get to the point!

Your audience really don’t care how many offices you have, how many widgets you make and what all the letters after your name stand for until they are certain you can help them.

Get straight to the point instead.

If you have something to say that doesn’t support your message or help your audience in anyway then don’t say it. Put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself what they need to know and why they need to know it, then tell them.

Far too many professionals present their ideas as though they are comedians and I don’t mean they think they are funny. A comedian makes her living and achieves success by saving the punchline for the end.

Professionals need to deliver the punchline up front and get to the point. Your audience won’t thank you for making them wait.

Keep it short

If you are given 30 minutes to speak try to finish in 20; your listeners will love you.

Brevity and focus is paramount when it comes to presenting.  Once you’ve prepared your message be mercenary with it and cut it down to only what needs to be said. You will have experienced for yourself that most presentations can actually be given in half the time allocated if prepared mindfully, especially when it comes to using slides.

Do your audience a favour and use as few slides as possible and make sure they are ‘clutter free’, simple and compelling enough to support the point you are trying to make.

The key to success is to make your presentation short, relevant, compelling and memorable.

A presentation without stories is a lecture

Regardless of how complex the message or data is that you have to share if you don’t communicate it using stories then you are lecturing.

Unless you are at college or university most people don’t like to be lectured. In fact, I’m not convinced that students at college or university like it either.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO or the call centre agent we are all hardwired to connect and respond to stories. Help your audience to relate to you and your message by sharing your personal experiences and use pictures to help bring those experiences to life.

Help them to feel as well as think

Most presentations need to be supported with some form or data or facts to achieve credence but every presentation needs to make an emotional connection too. Your audience is always listening with two minds; their conscious mind and subconscious mind.

The conscious mind is the here and now thinking mind and the subconscious is the emotional mind. You can give a perfect presentation where your audience nod and smile in agreement with their thinking mind but unless they feel something they are unlikely to act on your message. Decide in advance how you want them to feel and prepare and deliver your presentation with that in mind.

Most presentation blogs focus on creating the all- important first impression which is sound advice but let’s not forget the equally important need to create the lasting impression we wish to leave our audience with.

How do you want them to feel as they walk out of that door?

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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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