In a recent and completely fictional survey 98% of all business people said that they would prefer to have their eye-lids stapled to their desk rather than give a presentation, and in the same fictional survey, that I just made up, 97% of fictional respondents said that they would sell their hair to a rogue wig making syndicate for the ability to present just a little bit better.
I think you’ll agree that those entirely fictional figures are quite startling.
The thing is, you don’t have to get the shears out to be a better presenter, you just need to think about 10 simple things.*
Talk to your friends. They are the ones who know your verbal ticks. They won’t tell you until they’re pressed, but after the flood gates open you’ll know whether you twiddle your hair, over use the word ‘basically’, or have an alarmingly sarcastic tone of voice. If you don’t know your issues you can never address them.
Serve your audience. Do you know what your presentation is about? Yes, you do. Now frame that for the audience you’re presenting to; what do they want? What do they need? What do you want them to think? For example if you’re working in IT giving a pitch to users will be different to pitching to purchasers even if the ‘meat’ of your presentation is the same.
Tell a story. We look for stories, we make them up when they’re not there, we impose them on random acts… our brains love stories, so have a narrative to help brains.
Give them some feels. Part of the process of getting memory from short term to long term storage is through emotion. Make them cry, laugh, pink with anger, make them want to take on the world, just give them some feels.
Size doesn’t matter. If you’ve said all you can in 5 minutes, if you’ve streamlined the information down to what they need, if they know what they need to know and they’ve had some feelings too… get off the stage. No one will thank you for padding.
Prepare, Prepare, Pre… Learn what you have to say, but never by heart. As soon as you’re reciting your brain prioritises ‘getting it right’ not communicating the information. If you know the shape, the feel and the flow you’ll use your mental power to communicate not to remember.
Dress for the tone not your job. I don’t wear ties. I have a sensitive gag reflex and I’ve been known to dry heave when wearing a tie… no one wants to see that. The tone of the events I speak at is generally ‘relaxed but business-like’ the tie is optional… however it’s different when you cross national boarders, when working in the Middle East I’ll begin formally dressed on the first day and slowly undress; on the last day I’ll be without a tie, jacket and with my sleeves rolled up.
Avoid flimflam and Tommyrot. I won’t go on about my hatred of the word ‘passion’ when applied to business; I’ve blogged about that before. Use the grandmother rule, if I don’t think my grandmother would understand it I don’t say it… she’d ask me to explain and then I’d get embarrassed that all I wanted to say was ‘it will be faster’, rather than it would ‘increase the through-put of units’.
Look at people. Eye contact gives the impression that you’re talking to a person not an audience. Always scan the room, letting your eyes fall on those who are nodding, those who are smiling, those who are giving you facial feedback, even if it’s not the feedback you wanted.
Body language lies. Everyone knows what certain body language means; folded arms means unresponsive and hostile, leaning forwards is engaged, crossed legs? Look for where the leading foot is pointing as that’s the real focus of their attention. I used to look at that when I was in my 20’s. Now that I’m in my 40’s I understand that folding my arms means is the only way I can sit comfortably after dislocating my shoulder a couple of years ago, leaning forwards means my bum doesn’t go numb on office chairs, and if I’ve crossed my legs it’s because my knees feel like they’re full of ball bearings… Bodies hurt… it has nothing to do with what I think of a presentation.
* let’s face it, you probably only need 4 of these tips, but you don’t know which 4 they are.