Back in May, mm* Account Manager Steph attended a day long course designed to help delegates improve their presentation skills. The course cast this necessary activity in a new light, altering some perceptions.
In this and other industries, presenting proposals, ideas, concepts and strategies is part and parcel of getting things done. We’d like to share a few of these insights with you, so here are Steph’s most useful take away tips:
Decide on your desired response
Don’t set an objective for the presentation that centres on what you have to do: ‘I want to show the client a new engagement idea’. Instead, think about your audience, and focus on the response you would like to them to have. You want them to:
‘Understand the premise of the idea, think it will work well within the current framework, feel excited at the prospect’.
These intellectual, rational and emotional triggers, when properly targeted, are the most effective route to gaining your desired response.
Separate your content
One document does not fit every application. Rather than loading everything into one set of slides, and printing them out to leave behind, break up your content.
- Visual aids are for others: to help them understand and remember what you say. Put these into slides or an other visual format to use during the presentation. The audience shouldn’t spend the presentation reading your slides.
- Memory aids are for you: to keep your presentation on track. Write brief, clear bullet points in a notebook you would normally take to meetings. This way, you don’t spend the presentation reading aloud from your slides.
- Post-presentation material is for reference: to be looked at by others afterwards. It’s good to let your audience know in advance that you will be leaving material behind. It should be written and annotated so that anyone who wasn’t in the presentation can understand. It won’t just be a case of reading your slides (see a pattern here?).
Do a reccy
You can’t always see the presenting room much in advance, so get as much information you can:
- how many people will be there? This dictates…
- where you will be. You place or theirs, big room or small, tables or lecture style? This in turn decides…
- what you will need in terms of equipment.
Let your personality come out in your presenting style. It feels much more natural than trying to create a scripted persona, which in turn will leave you more relaxed.
It’s very easy to talk too fast, particularly if you’re excited and passionate about your presentation topic. Allow time for your audience to process the information and any visuals you use.
Let your audience know where you are in the presentation as you go along, like an audible progress-bar. It’s easier for an audience to maintain concentration with these landmarks in place.
Wear shoes you can move in, and clothing that allows you to carry everything you need comfortably. Work to the same degree of formality as your audience, with something slightly different – brighter colours, for instance.
And finally, a word about nerves…
They are universal, you are not alone! Generally, they are invisible, and unless you tell them, people won’t know. Nerves are beneficial: the adrenaline helps you to concentrate. It’s possible to control your nerves – here are some ways to alleviate them:
- Be prepared. It sounds obvious because it’s true.
- Concentrate on your audience, and not how you’re feeling. You are not the star of your presentation. In fact, you are the least important person in the room.
- Smile. When you smile at people who you know a little bit, they will tend to smile back. A room full of smiling faces makes you feel more confident and relaxed. Instant positive feedback!
As the course presenter Shan Preddy says, ‘good presenters are made, not born.’ It’s possible for anyone to be a good presenter, but it takes a lot of practice. So the more you practise, the better you’ll be.
By Steph Derby