I have had a great interest in presentations, the good, the bad and the ugly, for many years now.
This is partly a result of having to overcome a phobia of public speaking. I know you are going to say that no one enjoys standing in front of an audience. And that many people have trouble sleeping the night before, and some are even physically sick before going on stage. However my fear of presenting used to take the form of insomnia and panic attacks beginning up to four months before, and building up as the big day approached.
Also, fairly early in my career, my job including producing and presentations for senior managers within my company. I remember spending much time reducing overly numerous and wordy sets of slides down to something digestible and attractive, only have the managers revert to their original slides minutes before the presentation. One classic example involved our Economist who was asked to present on the tricky topic of Stock Futures and Options to our trustees. As I watched him lose his audience due to his ‘killer’ slides I wanted to to ask him if he had ever wondered why he was being asked to present on this topic for the third year in a row to the same audience.
I also remember attending a conference in which the speaker tried, and failed, to get through 120 detailed slides in 45 minutes. It was an incredibly stressful experience as an observer, and goodness knows what it was like for the presenter.
Yesterday I attended a one day training course aimed at improving the presentation skills of the Business & IP Centre team, and wanted to pass on a few key learnings from the day:
1. Engage your audience – and in order to do so you need to understand who they are, what they want and what you want to communicate to them. Don’t just churn out the same presentation each time. Tailor it to each audience.
2. Ditch the; tell ’em what you’re going to say – tell ’em – tell ’em what you said, approach. Instead jump straight in with some kind, such as a powerful story, example or anecdote in order to ‘hook’ your audience from the start.
4. Get rid of all of your PowerPoint slides that don’t explain or illustrate a point. How many times have you seen presenters simply reading their bullet points out?