Presentation Skills

Death by Powerpoint has entered the language. It’s a shame really because it makes people self-conscious about using PP and even more self conscious about presenting in general.

Here are eight quick steps to help you structure your presentations for effectiveness. They will help increase your confidence as well.

1. What’s the desired outcome..?

What are you trying to achieve? Is it simply information transfer? Or are you trying to initiate debate and reach a consensual conclusion? Or maybe even trying to persuade the listeners to your point of view.

What’s your call to action? What do you want the audience to do after listening to you? Surely not – “well thanks for that Mark, we’ll discuss it internally and get back to you…”

2. Identify the audience…

Who are you speaking to? Remember – most of them may be unimportant – not as people, but in terms of you achieving your desired outcome. Who are the decision makers? What do they already think they know?

3. Is a presentation the best way to communicate? This step is a reality check. Surprisingly, a presentation is often not the best means of communication. Maybe write a paper instead? Unless you need the audience to debate the issue, or to have the facility to ask the presenter questions, you don’t need a presenter and you don’t need a presentation.

4. Collect Your Information…

What do you need to put in the presentation to achieve your desired outcome? Use that and that only. This is not a brain dump. I used to work with a man whose mind was like a fact retrieval system – he would listen for keywords in your question and when he heard one he had data on, he would give you all the data he had…control-alt-delete…

5. Select a structure for your presentation.

This is an old one, but here’s the best structure: tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you’ve told them. That’s it.

The middle bit – the telling them – do it in chunks. The audience will stay more engaged if you talk for 30 minutes on three discrete chunks – one after the other, 10 minutes each, rather than if you ramble for 30 minutes covering all three points at the same time.

A point on endings – tell them what you’ve told them. This is fine if you’ve been conveying information. But if you’ve been doing more, you need to put more into the ending. If you’ve been trying to solve a problem or renew effort or if you’ve been trying to generate agreement, and have managed it, issue a challenge, a call to action – “Go back to your offices and pick up those phones!”

6. Prepare a script…

Not a transcript, unless you’ve got an autocue, but maybe notes or prompt cards. Number them, and don’t leave them in the office. The script allows you to rehearse and check your timing.

And remember – communication occurs on three levels – visual (images), auditory (sounds) and kinaesthetic (feelings).

Which are you? Here’s the test –

Please close your eyes and imagine relaxing on a beautiful sandy beach.

Take particular note of the first thing that comes to mind…is it an image, a sound or a feeling. That’s your answer.

Try to communicate in all three ways (you can usually only get to kinaesthetic through visual and auditory unless you’ve got a huge budget).

7. Design and create your visual aids…

Let’s assume we are using Powerpoint. Pictures are best. If you use words – make it very few. No sentences. And make each slide consumable in 6 seconds or less. Why? Because when you flip the slide up your audience will process it and whilst doing so they will not be listening to you…

8. Rehearse…

Out loud; in front of a test audience; alone. Whatever works for you. I rehearse lying on my bed, eyes shut and silently. Works every time.

This allows you to check your timing and it builds confidence and makes the real event seem like a re-run.

Don’t overdo it though…I wouldn’t rehearse the day before and certainly not on the day itself.

I hope there’s something in here that helped you. Why not leave a comment?

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